Chicago Gang History

Humboldt Park West Humboldt Park

NameHumboldt Park (West Humboldt Park)
LocationBloomingdale Avenue on the north, railroad tracks just north of Kinzie Street on the south, Humboldt Boulevard wrapping around the park North Avenue to Kedzie Avenue then running into Augusta Boulevard around the park to Sacramento Boulevard then dipping down Grand Avenue and Rockwell all on the east, Kenton Avenue on the west
Year annexed1869

Not much is known about this piece of land prior to 1869, other than it was a beautiful conservation land that was converted into a park.  There were possibly a few settlers in the years prior to 1869, but the story really starts in that year when it was officially annexed into the city of Chicago as a neighborhood that would offer beautiful landscapes outside the hustle and bustle of the inner city.  The neighborhood was named after naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt in 1869.  In the 1870s this neighborhood experienced a boom as many houses were built and Norwegian, Danish and Swedish immigrants made their way to reside within these boundaries.  Within a decade or two German immigrants joined the Scandinavians as the population grew.  Industrialization did not come to this community in order to conserve the beauty of the area instead workers commuted to and from work while enjoying the prairie landscapes from their Humboldt Park homes.  In the 1920s Italian, Russian, Polish and Jewish residents moved into this neighborhood as the Scandinavians moved out and by the 1930s this community was still being enjoyed in the same way by the new migrants as was enjoyed by the Scandinavians.  In the year 1952 the Humboldt Park neighborhood experienced the first arrivals of Puerto Rican migrants coming from the Loop neighborhood and a few years later by the mid-1950s more Puerto Ricans arrived.  When the Puerto Ricans started coming over in slightly larger numbers in the mid-1950s many Humboldt Park residents objected to this especially the youths.  There was also the migration of more African Americans in neighboring communities like East and West Garfield Park and the Near West Side neighborhood.  Some youths felt threatened by this and started greaser street gangs such as the notorious “Simon City Gang,” “Royals,” the “Jokers,” and the “Drakers” that reacted to this migration.  Since migration was minimal before 1960 these greaser gangs battled each other for the most part.  In the year 1962 Puerto Rican youths now felt they needed to defend themselves against white greaser clubs in the area like Simon City, Royals and the Gaylords, this is when the Latin Kings and Young Lords came to Humboldt Park with the increased migration wave of 1962.  The Latin Kings were especially a violent Latino gang that set up their main base at the intersection of Beach and Spaulding.  As the 1960s would progress the street gangs grew larger and more Puerto Ricans arrived in higher volumes especially after 1965.  In the 1960s the white population mainly consisted of Italians and many did not appreciate how foreign born Puerto Ricans were changing the culture of the community, this all led to a police shooting of a young Puerto Rican male that sparked the Division Street Riots in June of 1966.  The riot extended mostly through West Town and many Puerto Ricans from Humboldt Park participated.  In the later 1960s as the Puerto Rican community grew larger, the Latin Kings were no longer the only dominating club in the neighborhood as the Spanish Cobras began to multiply in number, another rival that was birthed in this neighborhood were the Insane Unknowns that battled both gangs.  The white gangs fought their last battles against the Puerto Rican gangs in the first half of the 1970s but by the second half of the decade the white population had almost completely evacuated. The neighborhood became heavily deteriorated and fell into becoming a slum as crime, gangs, drugs and poverty became the harsh realities of these streets as disinvestment in the community set in.  Impoverished African Americans soon migrated to the area starting in the 1970s due to the neighborhood appeal of cheap housing and rent costs, with the African American community came black street gangs that clashed with the Puerto Rican gangs.  Humboldt Park became one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods in the decades to come especially in the 1980s and 1990s when murder rates often scored on the top list year after year.  Humboldt Park is the motherland neighborhood of the Simon City Royals, Insane Unknowns and Latin Pachucos.  It also became the headquarters for the Latin Kings.  This area still struggles with heavy gang wars, drug wars and poverty and still remains as one of the hardest neighborhoods in Chicago.  Just to clarify, this neighborhood is west of the actual Humboldt Park, the other side of the park is technically West Town.

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