Chicago Gang History

Status: Demolished

Leclaire Courts

Location43rd Street on the north, 45th Street on the south, Cicero Avenue on the east, Lavergne Avenue on the west...
NeighborhoodGarfield Ridge
Constructed1949-1950, 1953-1954
Demolished2009-2011

 

The Leclaire Courts were the most unique public housing projects in Chicago history because these were the first projects that were built on the outer edge of the city and also within an all-white neighborhood with a fairly higher population.  Most of the projects built before and after the Leclaire Courts were built in the inner city and the ones in the outer areas of the city were being built in racially changing neighborhoods.  There were only two projects in history that were built in the outskirts in white neighborhoods that were not racially changing that was the Leclaire Courts of Garfield Ridge and the Altgeld Gardens/Phillip Murray Homes of Riverdale; however, the Altgeld Gardens/Phillip Murray Homes were built in a highly vacant neighborhood that only had 1,500 residents, making the projects turn Riverdale into a majority black neighborhood, but the Leclaire Courts were coming to a white area. 

The 316 unit 2 story row houses were scheduled to be built in 1949 and Midway area residents of Garfield Ridge and nearby Archer Heights were furious and gravely concerned these projects would depreciate the neighborhood.  Many of the white residents of this community did not want to live near black people.  Private developers were pulling back the reins on building new houses in the area especially after the projects were complete in 1950 as they said they would not be able to sell homes near public housing. There were massive fears that taxes would suffer and the neighborhood would not be able to improve as much of the neighborhood was still barren land.  The biggest reason for all the griping was that it was already known that Leclaire Courts were going to get an extension built near the first complex and developers were furious and would refuse to develop in the area if that extension was to be built, not only that, private lenders made the threat that they would not lend to anyone in the area white or black if the development was put up because of the depreciation of the area (Chicago Tribune page 5 May 18, 1950). The Chicago Housing Authority did not listen to these demands and instead built the extensions which consisted of another 300 units in 1953 and was complete in 1954. 

The projects were ideal living for African Americans as these were the most desired projects in the city at the time and even after others were built.  In the 1960s African Americans tried to make the whole Leclaire Courts area their own tight knit community and starting in 1965 African Americans began buying the homes of white residents that fled the immediate area as they sold their homes at rock bottom rates. 

Anger towards African Americans continued into the 1970s as one article in the Chicago Tribune in 1970 interviewing whites quoted residents saying “There are some who said they would never live next door to a nigger” (Chicago Tribune Page 2 November 1, 1970). 

White street gangs formed in the 1970s in the surrounding area such as the “Mad Lads” and “Insane Popes” that would storm the projects fighting black gangs like the “Black Gents” from the projects. 

By the 1980s and 1990s drugs and gangs took over the projects and crime in the area greatly increased as Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples waged a bloody war over drugs, and gangs like the Black Gents assimilated with the GDs

Despite the crime and problems in the projects this community had a successful day care center ran by residents and also a computer lab.  Residents also did all repairs and modifications and tended to the greenery and not relying on CHA that neglected to do it.

In the 2000s decade many residents of torn down south side projects relocated to these projects which brought about more of a criminal element and soon open air drug trafficking began making Leclaire worse than in previous decades, this caused more than half of the law abiding residents of these projects to flee which posed a danger to this community not only due to a lack of income to the development but also for neighborhood watch programs.  Now that there were more vacant apartments criminals were able to take advantage of these vacant areas by either sneaking in or dealing drugs near them. 

In the year 2009 CHA vacated everyone out of the projects promising them the complex would be torn down and rebuilt with a newer facility; however, even after all the demolition was complete in 2011 there have been no solid plans to rebuild these projects.

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