Lower West Side: Heart of Chicago
Lower West Side: Heart of Chicago

Lower West Side: Heart of Chicago

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,
Gangs headquartered Bishops, Satan Disciples,

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 1960 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 who became the first significant gang in the Heart of Chicago area.  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.

In the year 1966 a batch of Puerto Rican families displaced from the urban renewal programs in Lincoln Park moved into some apartments at 18th and Damen.  In these families came members of the Villa Lobos gang which established the Villa Lobos in the Pilsen area all the way into the 1980s.  Villa Lobos and Satan Disciples clashed over this area.

In the year 1968 a gang operating at Coulter and Damen known as the Coulter Kings flipped to becoming Latin Kings which caused a fierce rivalry between these Latin Kings and Satan Disciples.

In the year 1970 a branch of Gaylords also started at 18th and Western in 1970 that fought Satan Disciples and Latin Kings.

Gangs kept trying to fight their way into this area but SDs stood strong and fought off all invaders viciously.  The only gang that put up enough of fight among the invaders were the Bishops that ended up settling at 18th and Wood.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Satan Disciples and Bishops waged violent gang wars with each other for control of 18th street while each gang fought off several invaders viciously making each of them some of the toughest gangs in Chicago.

The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s became the most violent years in this community.  By the 21st century much of the violence and gang activity decreased, however, it is still rather high.  The Bishops and Satan Disciples continue to dominate this area.