Dearborn Homes
Dearborn Homes

Dearborn Homes

Hood(s) Douglas;

27th Street on the north, 30th Street on the south, State Street on the east, Federal Street on the west

Lifecycle 1949 – 1950, Construction;
Controlling gangs Gangster Disciples; Mickey Cobras; New Breeds;

By 1949 Chicago was facing an even more severe housing crisis for the African American community than ever, even though restrictive covenants were now deemed unconstitutional and African Americans were free to live in any community, many of the impoverished black southerners that were arriving in the 1940s were unable to afford housing in these middle class white neighborhoods; therefore the Chicago Housing Authority answered this major problem by adding more public housing complexes in the city, CHA put together a few plans, one of those earlier post war plans was for the Dearborn Homes to be built in the Douglas neighborhood right in the heart of Bronzeville and in 1949 construction began.  At the end of the year there was pressure to get these projects complete and by the summer of 1950 the projects were all finished and boasted to have the first elevator system.

African American residents moving into these projects loved their new living quarters and many more were lined up to get in to these impressive brick buildings that had 800 units within 16 buildings that were 6 stories high each.  Despite the growing crime in the neighborhood in the 1950s life was fairly good for Dearborn projects residents.

In the mid-1960s CHA screening of potential residents became extremely lax as residents with no income or with criminal records were able to move into this complex then soon violent street gangs began moving into the buildings as they viciously fought each other in this complex.  The strongest of the gangs were the Cobra Stones (Formerly known as Egyptian Cobras, presently known as Mickey Cobras) and the Black Gangster Disciples.

By the 1970s the Dearborn projects began suffering deterioration and CHA was not generating enough revenue to make repairs. Street gangs began firing high powered rifles at the police if they came to the projects, in one incident in 1975 a 17 year old fired 35 bullets at two police cars that came to investigate a dead body in the hallway (Chicago Tribune page 3, May 21, 1975).

The dominating gangs eventually became the Mickey Cobras and the Black Gangster Disciples as the Mickey Cobras controlled 11 out of 16 buildings on the southern part of the complex while Gangster Disciples controlled 4 of the 16 buildings in the northern buildings, the other one was a war between both gangs.

The courtyard between all the buildings was the sight of sniper fire and several gang shootouts between Cobras and Disciples that left many dead bodies.  By the 1990s these gangs were engaged in a $20,000 to $30,000 a day drug business as dope fiends were lined up to get into the buildings to get their fix.  The hottest commodity was crack cocaine and GDs and MCs were willing to kill each other over it and many times innocent bystanders and children were stuck down by gun fire, it was so bad that children did not play in the courtyard since the 1960s.

The buildings were spray painted full of graffiti and rotten trash lined the hallways as addicts and vagrants urinated freely in the hallways.  The Dearborn Homes that were once a solid brick complex with innovative elevators and happy residents were now a depressing and bombed out slum.  Many units were shuttered and windows were boarded up with an old fire stains were above many window frames.

In the 2000s decade as several south side housing projects were torn down many residents from those projects were relocated to these buildings which brought about several more criminal elements and the crime rate increased as living condition quality decreased.  The Mickey Cobras were now able to boast that they were peddling several different strains of heroin, activity like this caused many residents to pack up and leave in the 2000s decade as more than half of the law abiding Dearborn residents left leaving run down boarded up vacant apartments.  In the year 2009 the residents were vacated from these projects and by March HPZS Architects came in and renovated these projects up through 2010 and by 2011 residents were moving back into these buildings.  The crime and violence has been greatly deterred in these projects since the renovation especially since the whole Douglas community has been on a mission to renovate the entire neighborhood.