|Location||Orange line EL tracks on the north, 59th Street on the south, railroad tracks on the east, railroad tracks on the west|
This area was first settled in the 1840s by German immigrants that built their farm houses in the area. In the year 1850 this area became a part of Lake Township and when the Union Stock Yards opened in 1865 this area became a part of the town of “Lake.” In the year 1873 Chicago commissioner and president of the Chicago White Stockings professional baseball team (now known today as the Chicago Cubs) George W. Gage laid out a plan to build a park at the intersection of Western Avenue and Garfield Boulevard, after his death in 1875 the park was named after him as “Gage Park.”
The area still remained very barren farmland even by the time annexation into Chicago came in 1889. In the 1900s decade the electric trolley line extended services to Western Avenue and Kedzie Street which brought Bohemian and Polish immigrants to settle in the community that mainly worked at the Union Stock Yards.
Nearby “Marquette Manor” subdivision was laid out in 1911 in the neighborhood next to Gage Park which brought more settlers to this area. Western Avenue and Garfield Boulevard (then known as 55th Street) were paved and by 1919 the area was ready for a boom in population as the area was named “Gage Park” after George W. Gage’s family that resided in the neighborhood.
In the 1920s Slavic and Lithuanians migrated to Gage Park especially after Central Steel And Wire moved its headquarters to Western Avenue in 1924. Royal Crown Bottling Company and World’s Finest Chocolate provided more employment opportunities in the 1930s and 1940s in Gage Park and the community prospered.
The first gang elements came to Gage Park in the 1950s as white greaser gangs formed to battle other greaser clubs from Back of The Yards and Marquette Park. In the 1960s as African Americans and Mexicans moved into neighboring Marquette Park the greaser gangs were especially at the ready. The 1960s and 1970s saw the worse of racial tensions in Gage Park between whites and blacks as there was a city plan to move African Americans in between Marquette Park and Gage Park. The Gage Park community was outraged and the greaser gangs were ready to take violent action. The “Southside Head Inc” was especially one racist greaser group that operated from Gage Park all the way south to the Ashburn neighborhood; they fought to keep blacks out of the neighborhood. The Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party groups also came to Gage Park to protest and prevent blacks from moving in using methods of violence and burning crosses on lawns.
In 1966 Martin Luther King led a march of protest that came through Gage Park and Marquette Park against discrimination of housing, the Black P Stones escorted Dr. King and this is when white greasers fought the Black P Stones in the streets of Gage Park. African Americans were kept out of Gage Park for the most part in the 1960s and 1970s even though Gage Park High School now had to let in black students in 1972 which caused several brawls and protests.
Real estate block busting tactics were soon to come to Gage Park to move in blacks and move out whites; however, this tactic would also turn this neighborhood into a slum due to ruining the local economy like what happened in several other Chicago neighborhoods. The goal of groups like Southwest Community Congress and Southwest Parish and Neighborhood Federation wanted to ease racial tensions so black families could move in but not under the terms of block busting; however, African Americans did not make Gage Park their home.
In the early 1980s white residents of Gage Park began heading to the suburbs especially after Crane Manufacturing closed in nearby Brighton Park, in their place came Mexican families. Gage Park soon ended up having some issues with poverty as lower classes of whites remained and lower income Mexican families moved in. With the Mexican community came Latino based street gangs like the Latin Kings, Two Six, Satan Disciples and the Party People.
The neighborhood erupted into gang violence especially in the 1990s which proved to be the worst decade. Mexican migration heavily increased in the 1990s as more white families fled to escape the gang violence and drugs in the neighborhood, Gage Park then became one of the tougher neighborhoods in Chicago. In the 21st century housing values have increased which has brought some more middle class families to the area which has helped curb some of the violence; however, Gage Park still remains one of the tougher neighborhoods in Chicago but is not a slum.
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