|Origins||Settled in 1849 and annexed in 1892|
|Area||Far Southeast Side|
87th Street (87th and Holland mainly) going down to 91st Street to Burnside Avenue on the north, 115th Street on the south, South Cottage Grove Avenue on the east, railroad tracks just east of Eggleston Avenue to 103rd Street to Halsted Street on the west
This area was first settled in the year 1849 as Dutch immigrants came here to settle this prairie land for the purpose of farming. The area soon became a truck farm town known as “High Prairie” as stores were built along present day Michigan Avenue.
In the year 1873 James H. Bowen discussed the town as he was preparing to construct his ironworks company in nearby South Chicago and during these discussions he came up with the name “Roseland” because of the many beautiful flowers in the community. Bowen also owned acres of land in Roseland and he sold a portion of it to George M. Pullman in 1880 so Pullman could build his car factory in the nearby Pullman neighborhood.
As Pullman and nearby Kensington were built up, the stores on Michigan Avenue served as the shopping district for the area and so began the tight relationship between residents of Roseland, Pullman, Burnside, Riverdale and West Pullman.
In the year 1883 the subdivision of “Fernwood” was built up in west Roseland that extended into nearby Washington Heights, this was more of an upper middle class to upper class neighborhood and once had a beautiful garden parkway.
In the year 1892 Roseland was officially annexed into the city of Chicago and by this decade the neighborhood was well known for its many retail stores that served communities all around them. The Dutch were the first settlers in the area and made up the dominating ethnic group but now in the 1890s Roseland was a mix of many different ethnic groups with no real dominating group.
By the time World War I came around residents began to leave the older parts of Roseland between 91st Street and 95th Street from State Street to the railroad tracks which consisted of older and less valued homes and also vacant lots, this area began being settled by a small enclave of African Americans that numbered more than 1,200, this community became known as “Lilydale.” The South End Businessmen’s Association tried to push sociologists at the University Of Chicago to redraw the Roseland boundaries to exclude the Lilydale neighborhood and make it a part of Chatham but it did not pass because white residents of Chatham would surely be upset. The next attempt to segregate African Americans came in that same decade of the 1920s when real estate agents, homeowners that were looking to sell their homes and new housing developers were all strongly urged to not sell to African Americans because they were not wanted in the community as the white community did have a restrictive covenant in place.
This neighborhood got its first brush with crime when many residents began home brewing illegal alcohol for Al Capone; however, this operation generated lots of revenue for the community and began one of the economic lifelines for the community, in the early 1930s this was the most sustainable income for the community as the early days of the Great Depression era which caused many workers in the community to lose their jobs and community banks and business closed down, but then in 1934 when alcohol was made fully legal the bootlegging business in the community collapsed as well and Roseland was hit hard economically in the latter half of the 1930s.
The 1940s era brought positive and negative to the Roseland community. The outbreak of World War II by 1942 made for many war industry jobs in Chicago which meant many Roseland residents got back on their feet and back to work. The employment opportunities also brought more south side African Americans work and also blacks moving from the southern United States now could take advantage of the thriving war industry in Chicago.
In 1942 African American contractors Matthew Goodwin and Duke Hodges began the construction of low cost houses in the Lilydale community, these homes were low cost but made well of solid brick. In the same year of 1942 the Chicago Housing Authority began construction of the Lowden Homes housing project between 91st Street and 95th Street and Wentworth Avenue to Eggleston Avenue which offered housing to impoverished black families that moved from the south to work in the war industry, the construction of these projects came under heavy protest from the white residents in the community, regardless, the projects were completed in 1943. In this same area where the Lowden Homes were being built Donald O’Toole constructed the Princeton Park subdivision that was built all around the projects with affordable low cost homes for African Americans and was only sold to African Americans; however, whites had no interest in moving to Princeton Park, in fact, they were rapidly moving out of their older homes in Princeton Park due to real estate agents using the block busting tactics to scare them out of their homes and more African Americans arrived during and right after the war.
During all the construction for African American housing in 1943 many white Roseland residents joined white Riverdale residents, white Pullman residents and white West Pullman residents to protest against the construction of the Altgeld Gardens housing project in Riverdale. The petition against it collected 11,000 signatures but the petition was still thrown out, then in August of 1947 the white residents in these communities stormed the area of 98th and Halsted and 111th and Halsted to massively protest a new housing project built around 104th and Halsted called the Fernwood Park housing project which was meant for returning African American World War II veterans and their families. White residents violently rioted and beat down several African Americans as they even violently attacked the police, this became one of the worst race riots in history and the African Americans were the victims, it was especially upsetting that the blacks that were targeted in these projects were veterans that served our country. The CPD did not do much to stop the riots because they more than likely sympathized with the white protesters until over 1,000 police officers were ordered to put down the riot and make several arrests. One of the biggest reasons for the riot was that it was expected that the African American community stay to the north of 95th Street, taking up only the northern portion on the neighborhood.
In the 1950s Roseland began to see the start of various white greaser gangs but many did not appear until the 1960s as they fought against groups of African Americans in the neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods.
In the 1960s the entire white communities of Burnside, Roseland and Pullman banded together to attempt to stop the spread of African Americans and this resulted in several acts of violence against blacks in Roseland but some residents reacted by simply moving out of the neighborhood especially since many whites were being suckered by real estate block busting tactics.
Between the years of 1965 and 1975 white flight took off in much higher volumes while some community leaders tried to ease the transition from white to black in the community to prevent economic disparity and this worked for quite some time as the community even still had upper class residents living here as far as the mid-1970s accompanied by several working class white families.
The fight between black and white was still a real thing as white street gangs battled against blacks in the neighborhood which eventually led to black street gangs from other neighborhoods coming in to help fight the racist white gangs; however, when the police came to break up the fights they only arrested the blacks because many police in this neighborhood also wanted to keep the community mostly white.
The entire struggle between black and white would come to a grinding halt when several steel mills and the Pullman Car Factory laid off several thousands of workers on the south side which devastated all the communities that relied on them in the late 1970s.
As the later 1970s ushered in the rest of white flight ran its course and white greaser gangs left the area. The nearby industries continued their mass layoffs leaving many in Roseland unemployed and unable to find other work, by the year 1980 the last round of layoffs took place as the steel mills closed down. Roseland then fell into a state of deterioration and high poverty. Gangs and drugs took over this community by the early 1980s as gangs like Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples, Black P Stones, Vice Lords, Four Corner Hustlers and Mickey Cobras migrated into Roseland. Massive gang and drug wars ripped through this community making it become one of the more violent and deadly communities in Chicago. This neighborhood developed a bad reputation and many on the streets began referring to the neighborhood as the “Wild 100s” as many consider just Roseland to be within the Wild 100s, but many others say the Wild 100s extends down to 130th Street in Riverdale, regardless, the Wild 100s is mainly in reference to Roseland because of the massive gang wars and high murder rate that happen here.
Ever since the mid-1980s Roseland has experienced a high amount of repossessed and foreclosed homes. The Lowden projects became very violent and deteriorated in the 1980s after police and the CHA neglected them, in recent years they had been rehabbed and still stand.
In recent years Roseland has seen some rehab and new shopping strips have been put in making the community a better place. In western Roseland, northern Roseland and southern Roseland houses tend to be better taken care of and there are very few shuttered homes. The blighted area of Roseland is in the central and eastern part of the neighborhood within an area bounded by 102nd Street on the north, 111th Street on the south, Wentworth Avenue on the west and Martin Luther King Drive on the east, this where you will see a more blighted part of Roseland with several abandoned buildings and shuttered homes, the rest of Roseland is not a slum.
This neighborhood still remains as one of the hardest and most violent neighborhoods of Chicago. Roseland is also considered one of the deadliest communities in the city.
All images below are of vacant building at the time of the photo. All images are courtesy of Google Maps.