Heart of Chicago (Lower West Side)
Heart of Chicago (Lower West Side)

Heart of Chicago (Lower West Side)

Origins Annexed c. 1889
Area West Side

16th Street on the north, Chicago River on the south, Ashland Avenue on the east, Western Avenue on the west.

Gangs founded Two Ones, Spartans, Brazers,
Gangs headquartered Satan Disciples, Bishops, Ambrose,

This area was first settled in the 1840s when German and Irish immigrants settled in the area because of the Southwestern Plank Road that eased trade routes all the way up and down the Illinois Michigan Canal.  The early settlers also worked on the canal in the 1840s which was another reason for settling in the area.  The area experienced some small growth in the proceeding decades.

It was not until the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that immigrants from Czechoslovakia settled in the area looking for refuge from the destruction the fire caused; however, the bigger boom did not happen until after 1873 when McCormick Reaper Works opened in nearby South Lawndale which provided countless jobs to many west siders.  Most of the settlement happened around where 18th Street is, as several businesses were also opened along this strip starting in the 1870s.  One such business was a restaurant named “At the City Of Plzen” which paid tribute to the City Of Plzen in Bohemia which was the motherland of these early immigrant settlers.  The people in this community started calling the area “Pilsen” because of this popular restaurant.

Right next to Pilsen was an area settled by Germans and Irish in the 1860s then later some Italians in the 1880s that became known as the “Heart of Chicago” that had their own community which was actually a community better off economically.  If Pilsen residents experienced upward mobility, they moved to the Heart of Chicago neighborhood.

In the year 1889 the Lower West Side was annexed into the city of Chicago now the Lower West Side area would thrive even more as the city was able to pave roads and offer mass transit.

The Great Depression era was rough on this community in the 1930s as many lost their jobs and local industries closed their doors.  Many residents stayed in the Lower West Side until 1959 when Mexican families began moving in. Among the first Mexican families to this part of 18th Street came the Satan Disciples that settled 18th and California.  The gangs from neighboring Pilsen (east side of Ashland Avenue) began to invade this area and pick fights with SDs making this area a higher crime zone just like Pilsen to the point where many people rope in Pilsen gang issues with this area.  The Spartans also formed on these streets in 1959.  Ambrose, Rampants, Villa Lobos, Morgan Deuces and Latin Counts all took formation in the east Pilsen area and Spartans and Satan Disciples would fight heavily with these groups.

In the year 1964, the Latin Kings came to the streets of Heart of Chicago establishing one of their original branches at Coulter and Damen.  This group was made possible by Abel Torres as he connected with the Rampants and the Rampants invited the Latin Kings to settle Damen and Coulter.  This group of Latin Kings became known as the Counter Counts.

In the year 1966 the Villa Lobos from east of Ashland opened territory at Blue Island and Damen becoming the next significant gang to operate here.

In the year 1968 the Coulter Counts were renamed Coulter Kings as they flipped several members of the Rampants which pushed the Rampants east of Ashland and out of the Heart of Chicago neighborhood.  A former Rampant John Mendez became a Coulter King and made this flipping possible.

In the year 1970 the Two Ones formed in this neighborhood.

In the year 1971 a branch of Gaylords also started at 18th and Western that fought Satan Disciples and Latin Kings.  This group of Gaylords was for frustrated white youths who were upset about their neighborhood becoming majority Mexican.  This group lasted through the 1970s.

At some point in the 1970s Latin Counts and Ambrose settled on this side of the Lower West Side and Ambrose became a permanent group on this side of the neighborhood.  When Counts and Ambrose settled it heated up a rivalry with Satan Disciples.

In the year 1975 the Brazers formed on these streets recruiting among the freshly arrived Mexican population.  These youths were often bullied by Americanized gangs which caused the Brazers to gather together and fight back.

In the 1980s Bishops moved into this coveted west Pilsen area and soon had a dominating presence as they became very popular.  Now this area west of Ashland was heavily dominated by Satan Disciples, Ambrose and Bishops in the 80s.

Gang wars and violence escalated in the 1980s and got much worse in the 1990s as this was the worst decade.

In the 1990s, new gangs could not establish a foothold on these streets as Ambrose, Bishops and Satan Disciples continued to reign supreme.  The smaller gangs began to leave the area like Royal Cavaliers, Latin Counts and Two Ones.  Latin Kings would exit at the end of the 80s.

The Satan Disciples, Ambrose and Bishops would continue to be the dominating forces from the 1990s into present.

In the 21st century this area started gentrification especially by the 2010s decade.

During the 1960s Spartans and Satan Disciples then ruled these streets.

In the 1970s Satan Disciples, Gaylords, Latin Kings and Ambrose were the dominant forces on these streets west of Ashland.

In the 1980s and going forward into present years Satan Disciples, Ambrose and Bishops have been the dominating forces.

Heart of Chicago is the birthplace of Brazers, Two Ones and the Spartans.

These are the significant gangs that once walked the streets of Heart of Chicago:

Royal Cavaliers Established 1982-1990s

21st & Leavitt Established 1982-1990s

Brazers Established 1975-1980

19th from Marshfield to Ashland Established 1975-1980

Ambrose 70s-present years

19th to 23rd, Damen to Ashland (Wild Side) 70s, 90s-present years

Gaylords Established 1971 (70s)

18th & Western Established 1971 (70s)

25th & Oakley 70s

Bishops 80s-present years

16th 21st, Ashland to Damen (18th Street De La Bishops) 80s-present years

Latin Counts

25th & Western 70s, 80s, 90s

23rd & Oakley 70s, 80s

Satan Disciples Established 1960-present years

18th to 24th, Western to Damen (Oakk Town, Oakley SDs) Established 1960-present years

18th & Western 80s-present years

25th & Western 2000s-present years

Two Ones Established 1970-2000

21st & Paulina Established 1970-1986

21st to Cermak, Western to Damen Established 1984-2000

Spartans 60s, 70s

18th to 19th, Damen to Wood (Harrison Park) 60s, 70s

Latin Kings Established 1964-1987

Coulter & Damen (Coulter Kings) Established 1964-1987

Villa Lobos Established 1966

Damen & Blue Island Established 1966

19th & Wood 70s

18th & Damen

Rampants Established 1959-1968

Damen to Ashland, 18th to Cermak Established 1959-1968