West Town: River West

Origins Settled in 1837 and annexed c. 1837
Area West Side
Boundaries

Division Street on the north, the railroad tracks by Kinzie Avenue on the south, Chicago River on the east, Dan Ryan Expressway on the west.

This area is bounded by Division Street on the north, the railroad tracks by Kinzie Avenue on the south, Chicago River on the east, Dan Ryan Expressway on the west.

This area was known about and settled as far back as 1837 due to it being so close to the Chicago River.  The area was immediately annexed into Chicago in 1837 due to the ability to set up industry near the river.  River West became a part of the oldest settled area of all of West Town.

In the 1960s the far eastern part of this community that is on the east side of the Kennedy Expressway lost property value likely because of its close location to the Cabrini Green public housing projects.  African American families moved into this area as some of the rents were much cheaper in this small area of the neighborhood.  The expressway indeed cut off this part of the community away from everyone else, therefore, this area was closer to the Cabrini Green area and many that lived here often crossed the Chicago Avenue bridge to meet with others in Cabrini and vice versa.

By the year 1968, a Vice Lord faction known as the “Ebony Vice Lords” began in this area and became prominent drug dealers in this area as they transported drugs to Cabrini Green.  The Ebony Vice Lords were ran by the Clay family which was a family of Italian mafia connected dealers that brought the business into the Vice Lord organization.  The Ebony Vice Lords ran this area entirely and were headquartered on Willard Court until the early 2000s.  On this block they sold so much drugs they used walkie talkies and owned entire buildings in this area where they moved drugs.  In the early 2000s the Clay family became incarcerated and the properties became renovated and bought up by yuppies.  This area is now 100% gentrified and became more so once the nearby Cabrini Green projects were removed.  As for the rest of River West that is west of the expressway I am not aware of any past or present gang activity there.

River West is the possible founding area of the Ebony Vice Lords.