East Garfield Park
East Garfield Park

East Garfield Park

Origins Annexed in 1869
Area West Side

Railroad tracks on the north, Taylor Street on the south, Tallman Avenue and the railroad tracks on the east, Central Park Avenue on the west

Gangs founded Black Souls,
Gangs headquartered Black Souls, Vice Lords,

East Garfield Park has been a struggling community since the start in 1869.  After Chicago annexed this area in 1869 developers struggled to lay out subdivisions in this area and it took until 1905 for any kind of society in this barren part of Chicago to develop.  The area was named “East Garfield Park” in 1881 after the assassination of President James A. Garfield.

Starting in 1905 apartment complexes and houses were at last laid out as German and Irish immigrants moved into the area.  Many residents took jobs at the Sears Roebuck building that was built in neighboring North Lawndale in 1906.  The community struggled with proper planning for public transportation which brought about further disorganization and a lack of further development.

When the great black migration wave began in 1916 East Garfield Park experienced the first black families moving into this community.  These black families were middle class pioneers as they made history as the first black families to move into a white middle class community in Chicago.  This was made possible because East Garfield Park as a whole was not very well settled by 1916 as real settlement didn’t even begin until 1905 making this area up for grabs for any race to move in.  The white community was also accepting because these black families were of the middle class and not part of the struggling lower income classes.  Many blacks around Chicago referred to black residents of East Garfield Park as “Well offs.”  This was the only part of the city where black middle classes could settle in a white neighborhood for many years to come.

It was not until the 1920s that the neighborhood finally experienced prosperity, and now Italians and Russian Jews began to settle in the neighborhood.

The 1930s would prove to be hard times for East Garfield Park as poverty caused by the Great Depression era caused many homes and apartments to be subdivided into smaller units to house more impoverished families, these buildings were then left to deteriorate, the community also stopped growing.

The 1940s brought some prosperity back to the neighborhood right after World War II as a shopping district was built up in neighboring West Garfield Park neighborhood.  The prosperity was not real strong; in fact, the neighborhood still had major issues with poverty and deterioration that never went resolved by the time African Americans and Puerto Ricans began moving in by the early 1950s.

Puerto Ricans settled along the Madison Avenue strip in a small enclave that was an extension of the “La Madison” settlement.

Beginning in 1948, more middle class blacks ventured into this community but whites were moving out at the same time allowing this neighborhood to fall victim to redlining practices.

White flight soon took its toll on the neighborhood as many white residents began to experience upward mobility while impoverished African Americans had no such luck and now less tax revenues were coming into the community because lower income residents could not pay those higher tax revenues, this would all lead to disinvestment.

By the year 1958 more African Americans poured into the neighborhood that were displaced from the Near West neighborhood due to the various construction projects that forced residents to leave their homes.  In exchange for the relocation of the African Americans in the Near West Side the Chicago Housing Authority constructed the Harrison Courts public housing projects bounded by Harrison Street, Congress Parkway, Sacramento Boulevard and Francisco Avenue.  Right away these projects were being taken over by African American street gangs mainly the Vice Lords that came from the North Lawndale neighborhood.

White flight became much more rapid in the late 1950s as black migration took over the old homes and apartments.  Landlords took advantage of African Americans by not fixing up the buildings they rented and let them go into horrible states of decay while still charging the same or higher rent.

Significant gangs first took to these streets in the 1950s.  By the very late 1950s there were Imperial Chaplains and Eyptian Cobras. By the end of the year 1960, the Vice Lords came to these streets.

The 1960s saw the last of white flight in the early to mid-1960s.  Since Garfield Park was an impoverished area, there was no desire to fix it up after the damage and the neighborhood further fell into a slum and there was not enough revenue generated by this neighborhood to bring renovations and develop all the empty land.

Gangs took over the streets of East Garfield Park over the next several decades and into the present.  Gangs like the Black Souls, Four Corner Hustlers, New Breeds and of course Vice Lords dominate these streets and have since the 1960s and 1970s.

East Garfield Park still struggles with drugs, crime, vacant lots, deteriorated buildings and poverty.  This neighborhood is also known to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago and often scores on the top 5 or at least top 10 most dangerous Chicago neighborhoods lists over the years.

All images below are photos of vacant buildings.  All photos are courtesy of Google Maps.