Chicago Gang History

Kenwood

NameKenwood
Location43rd Street on the north, Hyde Park Boulevard on the south, Lake Michigan on the east, Cottage Grove Avenue on the west.
Settled1850s
FounderJohn A. Kennicott
Year annexed1889

 

This area was first settled sometime in the 1850s by John A. Kennicott as he built his home near the railroad tracks by present day 48th and Lake Park Avenue which he called “Kenwood,” and a short time later the whole area was named Kenwood.  Soon after Kennicott moved here, he was joined by wealthy elite Chicagoans that were looking to escape the woes of the city. 

In the year 1861 this area was annexed into the Hype Park Township area.  In the 1860s the population increased soon after the annexation into Hype Park Township as many Chicago elites moved to this suburban area and it was heavily praised as an ideal place to live.  The wealthy elites that continued to move in here in the 1880s and 1890s built elegant mansions and some luxury apartments were built in this neighborhood as well.  The area was annexed with Hyde Park Township into Chicago in the year 1889. 

In the 1910s and 1920s several smaller apartments were built in kitchenette style that housed white collar office workers that worked down town. 

The 1930s decade was not kind to this neighborhood as poverty sunk in and many wealthy elites began to pack up and leave especially in the northern part of Kenwood that began to house lower class poor transients.  Elegant luxury apartments in the northern part of the neighborhood were divided into kitchenette apartments for the poor and the area began deterioration. 

African Americans began moving into the northern half of this neighborhood in the 1930s and then in the 1940s they began moving into the southern half as the rest of the wealthy elite left the neighborhood. 

By the 1960s the area began to fall into becoming a rougher area.  In the year 1960 David Barksdale’sDevil’s Disciples” street gang formed at 49th and Dorchester in the southern part of the neighborhood and the gang soon took control of the whole neighborhood.  David Barksdale was from Hyde Park and started the Disciples in Hype Park at 53rd and Kimbark; however, that neighborhood went through major renovation and the black migration that started in the 1950s in Hype Park was soon run out by the mid-1960s and Barksdale set up the main base of the Disciples in Kenwood for a short time before moving it to Englewood

The next few decades were rough in Kenwood as gangs, crime and drug problems plagued this community; however, the wealthier Hype Park neighbors that were part of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference helped get Kenwood some renewal funds which brought about some renovation in the late 1970s but mainly to the southern part of the neighborhood south of 47th Street; however, the neighborhood still had crime and gang issues, mostly north of 47th Street. 

The 1980s and 1990s were some of the rougher decades in this neighborhood as Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples and Black P Stones exercised a strong presence here mainly between 43rd and 47th Streets.

Starting in the late 1990s urban renewal exploded and vacant lots were built over and deteriorated buildings were removed or fixed up.  The area once again became resided by middle class and upper middle classes and the crime rate and gang issues dramatically decreased, although the vast majority of the renovations and middle classes was occurring north of 47th Street. 

The Kenwood neighborhood has gone through such a strong change that it is almost a completely different community than from where it was in the 1990s and back; however, there are still issues with crime and there is gang activity but neither of these elements is very strong here, only moderate, even the northern part of the neighborhood has gone through renovations and there are only a few boarded up run down homes left.

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