Stateway Gardens
Stateway Gardens

Stateway Gardens

Hood(s) Douglas;

35th Street on the north, Pershing Road on the south, State Street on the east, Federal Street on the west

Lifecycle 1955 – 1958, Construction; 2000 – 2007, Demolition;
Controlling gangs Gangster Disciples; Black Disciples;

A quick note to the reader:  This is the set of projects that could be seen directly across the Dan Ryan Expressway from the White Sox ball park, you were not seeing the Robert Taylor Homes you were seeing the Stateway Gardens, the Robert Taylors started at Pershing Road then went south.

On August 19, 1955 the new Stateway Gardens housing project was going to start being built around 35th Street and State Street was given its new name by the Chicago Housing Authority, named after the street they were built on, soon after construction began for this new cluster of 8 high rise buildings, 6 of them would stand seventeen stories high and the other 2 buildings would stand ten stories high, combined, all buildings would have 1,644 dwellings and each building would be equipped with an elevator system.

When the Stateway Gardens were first built they were an ideal place to live in Bronzeville just like most other projects around the city.  In the mid-1960s the Stateway Gardens began to experience issues with vandalism from teenage gang members and also transient drunks and drug addicts that were wondering in from nearby bars, sleeping in the hallways and harassing female residents. In 1966 Marin Luther King requested more security at these buildings and at the Robert Taylor Homes to curb this problem.

In the mid-1960s a new more violent breed of gang activity was spreading in the Douglas neighborhood and this brought gang activity into the Stateway Gardens as the Del Vikings took over these projects.  The Stateway Gardens were one of the first projects to start going bad in the second half of the 1960s as graffiti and deterioration set in early on.

As the 1970s progressed these projects would became worse and by the late 1970s drugs, gangs and addiction ran rampant in these buildings as they severely decayed. At this point in time the Del Vikings became a part of the Black Disciples.  By 1981, most of the Del Vikings had joined the more powerful Black Disciples organization while other Del Vikings assimilated into the Black Gangster Disciples.  The Black Gangster Disciples became quite powerful in these buildings beginning in 1981.  Both Black Disciples and Black Gangster Disciples opened up a very lucrative drug ring in 1981 that often resulted in blood shed between the two gangs.

The 1980s saw increased crime and violence in these projects as elevators became non-functional and the hallways were poorly lit, making way for increased gang activity.  These projects also experienced several sexual assaults and rapes, especially at the hands of serial rapist Johnnie Lee Evans who raped women violently in the elevators in the Stateway Gardens from 1973 to 1983 until he stabbed a pregnant 16 year old girl 22 times, and Evans was even a resident of these buildings but still was able to get away with attacking women in his own surroundings, this clearly showed the breakdown in social control in these buildings as lawlessness now prevailed.

By the 1990s decade both Gangster Disciples and Black Disciples were embarking upon a major drug trade in these buildings as they viciously gunned at each other in a bloody gang war.  Both gangs overrode the hired security that stood guard in these buildings, when GDs and BDs entered armed to the teeth security looked the other way because if they did not they would be killed by the gangs.  Security guards already endured several stabbings and attacks; therefore, they knew the GDs and BDs were the true security in the building as the gang security stopped every resident that entered and asked them questions especially if they brought guests while hired security could only look on and do nothing.  The security force was removed in 1996 but it made little to no difference in the criminal activity and it became clear to the city that Stateway Gardens was one of the worse off project complexes and needed to come down.

These projects were known for having one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation and were also one of the most violent and dangerous projects in the city and the nation; therefore, in the year 2000 the first residents were vacated and the first buildings were torn down, by the year 2006 the last residents were sent away from these projects and in 2007 the last building was torn down.