Calumet Heights
Calumet Heights

Calumet Heights

Origins Settled c. 1865 and annexed in 1889
Area Far Southeast Side

87th Street on the north, 95th Street to the south, South Chicago Avenue on the east, New York, Chicago & St. Louis railroad on the west

This area was a swampy region in the earlier part of the 19th century and there may or may not have been a few scattered settlers.  In the year 1861 this area was annexed into Hyde Park Township; however, this did not help settlement because the area was just too swampy for farmers so they did not stay long.  The earliest settlers that came through this area nicknamed the area “Stoney Island” because the present day Pill Hill area was shaped like an island of limestone that rose above the rest of the prairie.  Stoney Island Avenue is named after this island of raised lime stone.

In the year 1881 the New York, Chicago & St. Louis railroad yards were built up at the edge of the western border of this area and from there settlement began from steelworkers and quarry workers that worked at the 92nd Street quarry that opened in that decade.

In the year 1887 Samuel E. Gross platted out the Calumet Heights subdivision which attracted more settlement, mainly of which were Irish and Italian immigrants.

In the year 1889 this area was annexed into the city of Chicago and became the neighborhood of “Calumet Heights” which was named after the Calumet River and also the Calumet Heights subdivision.

In the first decades of the 20th century Polish, Yugoslavian and Hungarian immigrants came to the neighborhood, then in the 1920s apartments were built between 87th and Stoney Island and 91st and Stoney Island and more houses were built.

After World War II Calumet Heights experienced a boom in growth as a shopping strip around 87th and Stoney Island was put in and more houses were built even over the quarry on 92nd Street.  After the war many more middle classes began moving into the area and built up middle class homes especially in the Pill Hill area.

In the early 1960s African Americans began moving into the neighborhood and as the later 1960s ushered in more white residents began moving out; however, this neighborhood would not experience the same racial strife that surrounding neighborhoods would experience during white flight, whites just packed up and left the neighborhood and by 1970 45% of the neighborhood was African American.

In the 1970s decade more white residents packed up and left as middle class African Americans moved in.  White residents even began leaving Pill Hill and African American doctors moved into this area which gave the area the official name “Pill Hill.”

By the later 1970s the steel industries in the surrounding neighborhoods began to close down and lay off many workers and the working class white residents began leaving in larger numbers and by 1980 Calumet Heights was 86% African American.

The surrounding neighborhoods began to experience heavy gang activity in the early 1980s especially in the neighboring community of South Chicago, it would just be a matter of time before African American street gangs made their way into the Calumet Heights community and violent gang wars soon erupted that only worsened in the 1990s.  Black P Stones and Gangster Disciples made their way into this neighborhood and recruited among the small lower income class populations, they also turned out middle class black youths as well.  Even though Calumet Heights is not a deteriorated slum with high poverty it still is an area that experiences heavier gang activity and higher levels of violence; however, this community not only has been known to care about upkeep of the neighborhood they also shun gang violence and have been known to set up community watches.  Calumet Heights is one of the tougher and more violent neighborhoods in Chicago; however, it is also very middle class and is quite livable for many.