|Origins||Settled c. 1849 and annexed in 1889|
Garfield Boulevard on the north, railroad tracks near 75th Street on the south, Racine Avenue on the east, Western Avenue on the west
This area was first settled right after the Illinois & Michigan Canal construction was finished in 1848 as German and Swedish farmers came to this area of swamps and Oak trees. In the year 1850 this area became a part of Lake Township.
In the year 1852 the German and Swedish were joined by Irish and more German immigrants that settled here because the railroad lines were completed as they became railroad workers and the area became known as “Junction Grove.”
In the year 1865 this area was annexed in to the town of “Lake” and experienced more migration from Irish and German workers when the Union Stock Yards opened in the town of Lake. The area was named after Henry B. Lewis after Englewood New Jersey.
After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 many Chicagoans settled here to create “West Englewood” which started out as a subdivision of Englewood but evolved into its own community especially by the time of annexation into Chicago in 1889. It was also in the 1880s that a very small settlement of 26 African Americans settled by where 63rd and Loomis Boulevard currently is. The area near Ogden Park was an Underground Railroad stop in the slavery days making this area known to African Americans.
After annexation public transportation was created along with roads being paved, this brought easier commuting for residents to other communities and soon the population increased and several more homes were built.
In the 1920s the area boomed as Italian immigrants settled in this neighborhood and a transit bus barn opened at the intersection of 74th Street and Ashland Avenue in the 1920s that provided many jobs, there was also a massive strip of retail businesses that stretched down Ashland Avenue from 63rd Street to 75th Street which provided employment and generated revenue for the community.
This neighborhood did not suffer badly during the Great Depression years of the 1930s and African Americans settled in the community slowly in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The settlement of blacks was slow and there was no shock and disinvestment to the community like there was in neighboring Englewood.
This neighborhood was still prospering by the 1950s decade; however, Italian greaser gangs formed in this neighborhood to battle blacks from Englewood, and greaser clubs from the Back of The Yards and Marquette Park. The greaser clubs and other groups of white adults worked to keep blacks out of their sections of West Englewood in a form of discriminatory living but by the 1960s African Americans began living all over the neighborhood and not just in the north east section by 63rd and Loomis to Racine, this brought about racial tensions but most of all it resulted in white flight which brought the neighborhood to become 48% African American by 1970.
In the mid-1970s years of 1974 to 1976 Nazi leader Frank Collin gathered up his Nazis that operated at the headquarters in nearby Marquette Park and they tore through the streets of West Englewood seeking out blacks and violently beating them and terrorizing their homes, in response groups of blacks attacked white residential areas in the neighborhood which sparked a racial war. African American gangs like the Black P Stones and Black Gangster Disciples had migrated to this neighborhood by the 1970s and were clashing with the Nazis and the Italian greaser gangs of the neighborhood this was the beginning of gang problems in the neighborhood.
By 1980 almost all white residents had fled West Englewood as the community was now 98% African American. West Englewood became as hard up as Englewood in the 1980s and later as drugs, gangs and violent crime took over the community. The buildings and homes have fallen into a severe state of deterioration and this neighborhood has had an extremely high rate of poverty. Much of the commercial strip on Ashland has closed down and the bus barn on 74th closed down taking away many jobs.
West Englewood had also fallen into a slum just like neighboring Englewood. Disinvestment and redlining became major issues in this neighborhood that led to many of these socioeconomic problems. Many deteriorated buildings were torn down into vacant lots in the 1980s; however, there has not been much more urban renewal plans or economic relief programs.
West Englewood has been considered one of the most violent and dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago and often is considered to be one of the top 10 most violent and many times one of the top 3 most violent.
West Englewood is one of the most blighted neighborhoods in Chicago as most blocks had several abandoned homes, some homes and buildings have been vacant for several decades and suffer extreme deterioration. The area south of 71st Street down to 75th is a more well kept area of West Englewood that has a stronger community watch and far less abandoned homes, if any are abandoned the dwelling has not been abandoned long. The far northern part of the neighborhood north of 59th Street is also not severely blighted with less shuttered homes and buildings, the hardest area is between 59th Street and 71st Street.
All images below are of vacant buildings at the time of the photo. All images are courtesy of Google Maps