West Town: East Village

Origins
Area West Side
Boundaries

Division Street on the north, Chicago Avenue on the south, Ashland Avenue on the east, Damen Avenue on the west.

Gangs founded Ashland Vikings, Playboys Ventures, Pulaski Park, Rice Boys,
Gangs headquartered Ashland Vikings, Harrison Gents,

This area is bounded by Division Street on the north, Chicago Avenue on the south, Ashland Avenue on the east, Damen Avenue on the west.

The area was first settled by German immigrants in the 19th century, and then in the 1890s Polish immigrants joined them and continued to flood the neighborhood.  Once World War II started for Poland in 1939 Polish migration to East Village greatly increased to the point where they were the dominating ethnic group.  The neighborhood was completely filled with Polish businesses, churches etc…  The area was also given the name the “Polish Ghetto” because the area was mainly settled by Polish lower income classes and it was a neighborhood where gambling dens and rougher saloons were prevalent.

In the late 1950s, Puerto Rican families began to settle in this area and lived among the impoverished Polish families.  Families in this area were very poor and mainly co-existed between Polish and Puerto Ricans, however, there was some resentment from some Polish groups and this brought about the creation of the Playboys that bullied Puerto Rican youths badly.  Playboys and other white greaser clubs became very territorial and were concerned that blacks would move into the area from the public housing developments south of them.

In 1964 the Latin Kings arrived in this neighborhood The Latin Kings opened one of the first chapters of the Latin Kings at Ashland and Cortez.  In 1967, the Ashland Vikings formed in this neighborhood and befriended the Harrison Gents that migrated to this area.  All three Puerto Rican gangs battled against the Playboys causing them to bring in their allies such as the Taylor Jousters from Wicker Park and the C-Notes from southern West Town.  This turned this neighborhood into a hardened battle ground in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Gang activity continued to be vicious in the 1980s and 1990s as high crime, drugs and violent crime became a major issue in this community.

In the 21st century much of East Village was bought up by yuppies and hipsters that dramatically drove up the value of the neighborhood as they paid higher rents and brought about renovations.  Trendy businesses and refined restaurants also added appeal to the neighborhood which squashed the vast majority of gang activity.

East Village is still the motherland of the Ashland Vikings street gang and the new motherland of the Harrison Gents which has caused major gang wars between these two since the mid-1990s.