South Lawndale: Little Village

Origins Settled c. 1827 and annexed c. 1889
Area West Side
Boundaries

Ogden Avenue on the north, railroad tracked along 33rd Street on the south, Western Avenue on the east, railroad tracks on the west; Little Village: Ogden Avenue on the north, railroad tracked along 33rd Street on the south, Kedzie Avenue on the east, railroad tracks on the west.

Gangs founded Two Six, Sin City Boys, Ridgeway Lords, Latin Kings, Gaylords, Ridgeway Boys,
Gangs headquartered Two Six, Latin Kings, Ridgeway Boys,

This area was first settled in 1827 as the largest part of the Lawndale-Crawford settlement; from there many farms were built in the area.

In the year 1863 the expansion of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroads caused Lawndale and Crawford to become separate communities with Lawndale on the north and this area became Crawford.  After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 many German, Irish, Dutch and Scottish immigrants fled to this area to start a new life far outside from the woes of the inner city.

In 1873 McCormick Reaper Works built their brand new facility in South Lawndale right after the fire of 1871 and this made the area even more attractive to immigrants looking for housing near employment.  The area was annexed in 1889 during the major annexation plan of 1889 and the area was renamed “South Lawndale.”

The area remained mostly farmland until the 1900s decade when Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works was built in nearby Cicero and the Sears Roebuck tower was constructed in neighboring North Lawndale.  Now new subdivisions were laid out while Czechoslovakians began moving in large numbers to the community as Irish, Dutch and Scottish began moving out.

In the 1940s decade the Czechs were joined by a large influx of Polish immigrants that were lured in by the many manufacturing jobs in the area and now Germans, Czechs and Polish dominated the area.

In the year 1942 the Chicago Housing Authority built the Lawndale Gardens public housing project in order to house impoverished white residents that were employed to help with the war effort but too poor to afford housing.  These projects were built between 25th and 26th Streets and between California Avenue and Washtenaw Avenue.

In the early 1950s a smaller influx of African Americans moved into the neighborhood especially in the Lawndale Gardens projects which sparked some outrage in the community.

In the year 1950 the Outlaws Motorcycle Club that we know of today, opened their notorious club house/garage in Little Village at 25th and Rockwell.  I don’t know the whole exact story but some young men in the neighborhood were bothered by this and formed their own club to battle the Outlaws called the “Gaylords” in that same year of 1950 at 24th and Whipple.

One brawl between the Outlaws and Gaylords made the newspaper in March of 1954.  The Gay lords eventually dominated a very large area from about 21st Street to 26th Street and also in Harrison High School by the late 1950s.  The Outlaws MC did not claim territory they just roamed wherever they pleased and did not care about any Gay Lord turf which caused more animosity.

In the 1950s decade the Outlaws and Gaylords ran Little Village and the two gangs clashed bitterly.  Any other gangs were just small greaser clubs in comparison to these two larger forces.

In the early 1960s, Mexican families began to settle in Little Village especially by 1962.  As the families arrived there was heavy objection to their arrival and since Gaylords and Outlaws were successful in keeping blacks out of Little Village in the 50s they figured they would be successful in keeping Mexican people out.  Mexican families and youths were bullied and beaten by greasers to the point where Mexican youths stood up to it and the first Mexican gang in Little Village was created.  In 1962, “White Sal” created the “Markings.”  This gang of Mexican youths fought white greaser clubs tooth and nail and soon spread into popularity as they claimed territory at 24th and Marshall Boulevard “The Boulevards.”  This territory was right outside Harrison High School and the Elementary School across the street which helped young Mexican youths get to and from school safely, especially since the Gaylords ran Harrison High School

In the year 1964, the Imperials street gang leader from Wicker Park visited the MarKings and discovered they had something in common.  They had the same symbols and both groups dealt with bullies.  The leader of the Imperials proposed a merger at Humboldt Park.  The meeting took place and the Latin Kings were born, now all MarKings became Latin Kings and they ran the Boulevards.

The Gaylord left this neighborhood by the mid-1960s as members joined the military as soon as the Vietnam war started, many other partook in white flight and moved out of the area.  After the Gaylords left Little Village was mostly dominated by Latin Kings and Ridgeway Lords but the two gangs were not rivals at the time.

The Outlaws Motorcycle Club changed direction and became a club for older men and took their focus away from brawling with street gangs in the streets.

By the end of the decade “white flight” increased rapidly as more Mexican families moved into the area.  Lack of employment at local manufacturing jobs made the area less attractive to middle class whites and Czechs, Polish and German residents began to evacuate to the suburbs.  As the white residents left the meaning behind Little Village changed into a new identity as “La Villita” or Little Village.  The loss of manufacturing jobs only became worse in the 1970s as many Mexicans in the area fell into poverty.

The Latin Kings and Ridgeway Lords dominated Little Village in the second half of the 60s and almost all of the 70s.  There were several smaller gangs in the neighborhood at the time but these two were, by far, the largest.

New gangs would form in Little Village like the Latin Counts, Ambrose and Villa Lobos in the 1970s but none would come close to equaling the size of the Latin Kings.  Latin Count gang members moved into the Lawndale Homes as many Mexican families were living in these projects as well.  Eventually Latin Counts left the projects and Latin Kings, Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples had full control, but the surrounding area was completely controlled by Latin Kings.  It wasn’t until the Two Six organization took form in the 1970s that the Latin Kings would meet their most ferocious rival.

As the 1970s progressed, Two Sixs would gain more and more popularity in western Little Village, mainly in the K-Town section.  As Two Six grew they gunned for drug territory and attempted to mow down as many Latin Kings as possible, this sparked a vicious and very violent war.

By the late 1970s Two Six was emerging as a larger gang and this is when Satan Disciples, Two Six, Ambrose, Two Two Boys and Ridgeway Lords became allies.  Ridgeway Lords now were at war with Latin Kings.

By the early 1980s, the Ridgeway Lords began shrinking in number and Two Six was exploding in popularity, this is when Two Six became the dominating rival gang to the Latin Kings, and now the big war of Little Village was Latin Kings versus Two Six.

The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s saw the most violent years on the streets of Little Village mostly due to the back and forth violence between Two Six and Latin Kings as they continued to hit each other back again and again.  Little Village would often be regarded as one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago.  In the 21st century the violence has toned down some but this is still an area plagued with crime and is the poorest Mexican community in the city.  Eventually Two Sixs and Latin Kings suppressed other gangs to the point where they really can’t claim any ownership of territory on these streets.  Villa Lobos, Ridgeway Lords, Sin City Boys and Gaylords had been pushed out from this area, mainly because members have flipped to Two Six or Latin Kings.

Little Village is the hub of Chicago Mexican culture and is proud of their heritage.  It is a neighborhood with great restaurants and hard working people even though gang violence is heavy in these streets.  There is no need to fear passing through or shopping in this community because gang members are not trying to cause trouble with law abiding citizens for the most part.  Mainly it is just gang against gang violence.

Little Village is the birthplace of the south side Latin Kings, Two Six, Sin City Boys and Ridgeway Lords.