Chicago Gang History

Englewood

NameEnglewood
LocationGarfield Boulevard on the north, 75th Street to 76th Street on the south, railroad tracks to La Salle Street to Wentworth Avenue to Yale Street to Harvard Avenue to Stewart Avenue to Eggleston Avenue to the tracks on the east (in a staircase shape bordering the jagged boundaries of Greater Grand Crossing), Racine Avenue of the west
Settled1840
FounderWilcox
Year annexed1889

 

In the year 1840 this land which comprised of swampy lands and oak forests was officially discovered and documented by the Land Office of the City Of Chicago as a settler named “Wilcox” charted the area over by where Vincennes Avenue presently is situated, after the charting of the area settlement by Irish and German canal workers happened but they did not stay in the area. 

In 1850 this area became a part of Lake Township and by 1852 railroad tracks were laid in the area to form a junction of tracks that gave the area the name “Junction Grove.”  Up until 1865 this area was the sight of scattered truck farms where Irish and German laborers worked on them, it remained a rural area, then in 1865 the area was annexed into the town of “Lake” and German and Irish immigrant settlers began employment at the Union Stock Yards in the town of Lake which is presently known as the Back of The Yards community. 

In the year 1868 Henry B. Lewis came to the area and wanted it to have a name of its own apart from Lake, that is when he came up with the name “Englewood” that he got from Englewood New Jersey, also in 1868 L. W. Beck donated a tract of 10 acres to make way for Cook County Normal School which opened in 1869 as a college mainly for teachers.  This college prompted a middle class subdivision to be platted near the school.  Scottish immigrants then arrived in the neighborhood after the college opened and after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 as several more Chicagoans came to this neighborhood after their homes were destroyed. 

In the 1880s the population of Englewood grew and this brought about more public transportation and also annexation in the year 1889. 

The darker history of Englewood would start in 1886 when Henry W. Howard moved to this neighborhood in August of 1886.  H.H. Holmes as he was more referred to in history took up employment at “Elizabeth S. Holton’s Drugstore” at the intersection of 63rd Street and Wallace, shortly after Elizabeth’s husband died and H.H. Holmes bought the store from her and she disappeared after that.  From there Holmes purchased a large three story hotel across the street that locals nicknamed “The Castle” because it was so big.  He then moved the drug store into the first floor of the building and then hired workers to redo the upper two floors to make it into a confusing labyrinth of rooms and hallways that would often lead nowhere or connected in unconventional ways. 

Holmes had a sinister grand vision for something evil in the near future and he needed to create a maze of confusion that he would be the only one to understand.  If workers complained or tried to construct it to make sense he fired them instantly as he took no objection or curbing of his plan, finally he discovered a carpenter Benjamin Pitezel who was a carpenter many did not want to hire because of his criminal record; however, a skilled carpenter with a past was perfect for Holmes as he could lay out why he needed this hotel designed in such a devious way.  He created sound proof rooms and torture chambers for his would be victims. 

By the time the Columbian Exposition Fair came to Chicago in 1893, Holmes was ready to carry out his diabolical plans of murder he had been plotting since 1889.  He advertised his hotel as a place to lodge fair goers, but he especially wanted females to frequent his establishment.  He then led them into this maze of death into rooms with gas chambers, hanging nooses, and suffocation chambers.  He would kill his victims through the various methods of torture or instant death then dump their bodies down a chute that led into the basement, there he would carve the bodies up ripping off limbs, incinerating bodies in ovens or acid, removing skeletons to sell to universities for research or even chain some live victims up on stretching racks to torture them as their limbs were slowly pulled off while they were alive. 

Shortly after the fair ended in 1894 Holmes was arrested and then hanged in 1896, the murder castle was torn down in 1938.  This was the first part of Englewood’s dark history and would not be the first time and not the last time this neighborhood would deal with murder. 

In the 1900s decade Polish and other Eastern European immigrants came to this community and by the 1910s and 1920s several apartment buildings were constructed in the neighborhood.  More Irish migrated here to escape the harshness of the Back of The Yards and Bridgeport as they achieved upward mobility. 

The 1930s did see a boom in the neighborhood as the 63rd Street and Halsted shopping center was constructed and became a very busy retail district that was the second busiest shopping area in the entire city.  The Sears store built in the neighborhood generated lots of employment and revenue for the community by 1934. 

The 1930s was also hard on this community during these Great Depression years as businesses and banks closed down as other businesses like Sears opened.  The college now known as Chicago Normal College closed down in 1932 which ceased revenue and many jobs for the residents of Englewood. This neighborhood was now a cheaper place to rent or own property because of the Great Depression and the fact that World War II efforts caused a lack of materials needed to renovate deteriorating buildings, this attracted lower income African Americans to the neighborhood because of the affordability in the 1940s.

The arrival of African Americans sparked fears and hate from this all-white community mainly because of the financial panic which brought about redlining (when banking and lending institutions cut off lending) and a lack of investing in the neighborhood especially since black residents would pay into less taxes due to being forced to take lower incomes. Institutions felt that the neighborhood needed renovations but lacked the income to do so plus they were starting to see the arrival of impoverished African Americans from the black belt who were not ideal clients to lend to because their employment was not stable, but the problem is their employment was not stable because they were black, it was a never ending cycle.

In the year 1949 African Americans attended a union gathering at a Jewish families’ home at 5643 S. Peoria St (57th and Peoria) which fueled a rumor that the house was about to be sold to blacks in this middle class section which many viewed as the start of a takeover by blacks and communists, and a mob of 10,000 whites attacked several Jews and blacks and anyone they thought was a communist, this was a massive racial onslaught.

White flight in Englewood became highly prevalent in the 1950s as property values were plummeting and revenues to the community were shrinking.  The later 1950s saw another major influx of African Americans after the Dan Ryan construction displaced many south side blacks from other communities. 

Frustrated white youths in the neighborhood formed greaser gangs that fought groups of black youths and also other greaser clubs from West Englewood and Back of The Yards.  

In the 1960s the rest of the white population packed up and left Englewood and the last of the white greaser gangs were active in the early 1960s then they were replaced by African American street gangs like the Supreme Gangsters, Devil’s Disciples and Black Stone Rangers

By the later 1960s Englewood became another black ghetto full of gang activity from Disciples, Stones and Gangsters

By the 1970s the neighborhood fell into a slum and deterioration was a serious problem as this neighborhood became completely neglected by the city.  Much of the shopping strip on 63rd Street became abandoned and Sears closed its doors because of the decline in business since the late 1950s when the Dan Ryan Expressway was built.  In 1972 Normal College closed down and moved to 95th Street becoming Chicago State University, the reason for the move was for the accommodation of the majority white students that did not want to attend college in an all-black and struggling community.  The Roseland neighborhood at the time was ideal because it was a neighborhood of a mix of blacks and whites which could also cater to the African American population in the school. 

The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were extremely violent decades in Englewood as the neighborhood experienced several shootings and murders.  The neighborhood continued to deteriorate with crumbling buildings and vacant lots which bred more crime.  This neighborhood became forgotten and had an alarmingly high rate of poverty and murders. 

This neighborhood is still one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago and has had a reputation of that for many years.  The Black Disciples, Black P Stones and Gangster Disciples have been the ruling forces of these streets.  Englewood has been considered one of the top 5 most violent and dangerous neighborhood for several years and has often achieved the number 1 spot many times.

Englewood is indeed the most blighted neighborhood in the city of Chicago.  The landscape of Englewood is almost majority vacant land as old run down buildings were long ago torn down and nothing was built in place.  Many abandoned buildings and homes have been vacant for several decades including very large mansions that have been left vacant for nearly half a century.  The population of Englewood has plummeted over the decades since the 1960s because of high vacancy and several homes being torn down, making the area almost appear as a rural looking community.  On every block in Englewood there are several abandoned homes and vacant lots and on some blocks there is some times up to ten abandoned homes in a row.  Englewood is the poorest neighborhood in Chicago and the most dangerous, it is also the neighborhood to find the most vacant buildings in all of Chicago which can be a slum hunters wet dream as the deteriorated buildings are many times so large in size and vintage, wrapped with vines of leaves and moss that it is almost a marvelous site to those like me who have a keen eye for slums.  Old 19th century and early 20th century homes and mansions sit vacant without even boarded up windows or doors as forgotten pieces of history.

South of 71st Street is an area that has much less vacancies and abandoned homes, if homes are abandoned they have not been vacant for long.  This area is a little more well-kept and residents tend to have a tighter community watch which causes crime to be less between 71st and 75th Street.

I do not want to slam down on this neighborhood because many people still call this community home, but Englewood needs help!

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