Chicago Gang History

Status: Demolished

Henry Horner Homes

LocationLake Street on the north, Washington Boulevard to Adams Street on the south, Hermitage Avenue on the east, Oakley Boulevard...
NeighborhoodNear West Side
Constructed1957-1969
Demolished1996-2010

 

The Henry Horner projects were named after the first Jewish governor of Illinois Henry Horner that served from 1933 to 1940, he died in office in 1940.  Construction began on these projects that contained seven, 7 story tall buildings and four 16 story tall high rise buildings all with 920 units and was complete in 1957 by Skidmore, Owens and Merill a prestigious architectural firm that managed to get this all done on a very cheap budget, making these projects the cheapest built among other projects built between the late 1950s and all throughout the 1960s. 

In the year 1961 the extensions were built by Quinn and Christiansen which had seven new buildings, four of them were 14 story high rises and the other three were 8 stories high, this extension consisted of 736 more units making Henry Horner to have a total of 1,656 units and a total of 18 buildings.  The final stage was the Horner Annex which had 109 more units within one 7 story building and two more 3 story row houses which was completed in 1969. 

In the early years the Henry Horner projects were an ideal place to live and were very well maintained, while the nearby ABLA projects began facing deterioration and gang activity in the 1960s and 1970s, the Horner complex fared very well staying rather low on crime and the facilities were very clean and functional.  It was not until the year 1981 that hell broke loose in this complex as the CHA was no longer able to fund most renovations leading longtime residents to move out of the complex and in their place came gangs and criminal elements especially since more vacant apartments were turning up that could be easily taken over by criminals and addicts. 

Henry Horner went downhill very fast and by the mid-1980s this project complex was already one of the most dangerous complexes in the city.  Gangs began fighting vicious and bloody wars over drugs in this complex by the 1980s as Gangster Disciples, Four Corner Hustlers, Traveling Vice Lords and Gangster Stones took over all the buildings.  The Black P Stone nation even blessed the Gangster Stone chapter with control over the 150 Lake Street buildings leaving notorious gang leader Henry “June Bug” Brown in charge until 1998 when he was convicted of kidnapping and torturing a man to death in this complex. 

Not only were the gang and drug wars spinning out of control the conditions of the buildings were also in a state of disarray as elevators became barely functional, trash shoots became jam packed and obstructed with trash leading to fires, the hallways reeked of urine and feces as they were lined with rotting trash and human and animal excrement, the complex was filled with roaches and rats that could not be pushed out of an apartment even by living cleanly, windows were broken and window frames leaked water and worst of all the medicine cabinets provided access from one apartment to another by simply pushing the cabinet out which made residents nervous if they shared a wall with a vacant apartment. 

These projects became dangerous and a hazard to human health as bullets whizzed into apartments from outside shootings between drug rivals, children were often struck down by gunfire even if they were inside the apartment they lived in.  There were a number of sexual assaults and rapes, one such case occurred on June 10, 1985 when 18 year old Johnny Freeman (who did not reside at the complex) sexually assaulted 5 year old Shavanna McCann in a vacant 13th floor apartment at 2111 W. Lake St.  Freeman lured her to the vacant apartment with candy, then when he was finished with his disgusting act he tried to throw her from the window; however, she struggled and clung to the ledge screaming out “Mama! Mama!” but Freeman managed to pry her from the ledge and she plunged to her death (Chicago Tribune Linnet Myers, June 28, 1986).  This is just one of many heinous acts and also violent crimes that happened in this housing project giving it the nickname “The Hornetz.” 

In the year 1991 residents were fed up and sued the Chicago Housing Authority for basically leaving them to rot in this hellhole as a result of the law suit residents would be placed in better housing if they chose to once the agreement was fully ironed out by 1995 and by then the city had earned the Hope IV grant which meshed in with the lawsuit.

In 1996 the first buildings were demolished which was a part of the first phase of demolition that carried on until the year 2000 that razed 466 of the 1,765 original units.  Phase II started in 2001 and carried on until 2010 which brought the demolition of the rest of the old complex.  Residents that chose to be a part of Henry Horner moved into the mixed income units that were built in place of the old complex.

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