Mckinley Park
Mckinley Park

Mckinley Park

Origins Settled in 1836 and annexed in 1863
Area Southwest Side

Stevenson Expressway on the north, Pershing Road on the south, Chicago River on the east, railroad tracks to Artesian Road on the west

The area was first settled in the year 1836 when Irish immigrants that came to the United States to work on the Illinois & Michigan Canal settled here unofficially once they started work in 1836.  The Irish workers were not allowed to live here and were in a way trespassing because they did not officially purchase this land.

In the year 1840 a group of farmers officially purchased the land and pushed out the Irish squatters and the area remained a barren farmland until the canal and railroad system was complete in 1857.  Settlement slowly came to this area then grew a little more once Union Rolling Mill opened during the Civil War.

In the year 1863 this area was annexed into the city of Chicago.  The main area of McKinley Park that was built up in the 1850s and up through the Civil War was an area known as “Mount Pleasant” which is where Ashland Avenue and Archer Avenue meet.  This area was swamp land that was infested with tons of mosquitos and the homes were subject to flooding if they did not build the homes on stilts.

The neighborhood had a problem with garbage early in history because residents asked scavenger passersbys to dump their ashes in the lower areas near the river to prevent more swampy conditions; however, the passerbys often dumped their trash instead.

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 Irish, German, Swedish and English immigrants settled in the area and began to build a community as they took up the many industrial jobs in the area and worked in the Union Stock Yards nearby.

Central Manufacturing District

This neighborhood became a thriving working class community and in the 1900s decade as Polish immigrants settled in the area especially after the Central Manufacturing District (pictured right) opened in 1905 and the Pepsi – Cola bottling plant was opened, there was also the Chicago Sun – Times that opened.

William McKinley

In 1902 the actual park in the neighborhood McKinley Park was opened and named after the recently assassinated president William McKinley (pictured left), from there the whole neighborhood was named “McKinley Park.” The area continued to thrive as a stable working class community.

In the 1980s decade Mexican migration came to McKinley Park as many of the white residents had experienced upward mobility and moved to the suburbs.  Many Mexican families moved into this neighborhood in the early 1980s to the point where the Mexican population took up nearly 40% of the neighborhood by 1990.  The Mexican population and the surrounding neighborhoods brought street gangs from other neighborhoods like the Latin Kings, Latin Counts, Two Six and Satan Disciples just to name some,  these Latino gangs recruited white youths as well, but the main gang for white youths were the South Side Insane Popes that arrived from Archer Heights.

The 1980s and 1990s were the worst decades for McKinley Park as gang violence became quite severe.

In the 21st century the neighborhood has experienced a decrease in gang activity and violence; however, the area still does have gang activity; however, this is not one of the more violent neighborhoods of the city despite to gang activity.  It is on the rougher side but not a dangerous community and very livable.