West Elsdon
West Elsdon

West Elsdon

Origins Annexed c. 1889
Area Southwest Side

53rd Street to Keeler to the railroad tracks on the north, 59th Street on the south, Central Park Ave on the east, Kenton Ave on the west

Gangs headquartered Maniac Latin Disciples, Latin Kings,

The West Elsdon neighborhood was nothing more than a marshy, swampy area before annexation in 1889.  Before annexation this area was part of the Town of Lake.  Only scattered insignificant farms sparsely dotted this landscape consisting of German and Irish railroad workers.  The Grand Trunk Railroad, built in 1880, served as an employment source for these few scattered farmers.  The railroad workers were known as “Elsdon”, and this is how the name was adopted.  After annexation the area slowly grew for the next few decades but was still a mostly unlivable area due to the swampy marshlands.  (Fact source, http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1336.html#:~:text=Before%20the%20early%20twentieth%20century,mers%20and%20Irish%20railroad%20workers.)

It was not until nearby industrial jobs became available and the opening on Midway Airport in the 1920s that West Elsdon would experience true growth.  The migrants to this area were mainly Polish and Czech.  Italian, Lithuanian and Yugoslavians were among some other ethnic groups to settle here.  The streets were paved, sewers were installed, and two schools were built.  The Great Depression era of the 1930s put a halt to progress during that decade leaving much of the area still rural.  It was even said in 1938 one could still see cows grazing along 55th Street.  (Fact source, http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1336.html#:~:text=Before%20the%20early%20twentieth%20century,mers%20and%20Irish%20railroad%20workers.)

During the 1940s and 1950s West Elsdon would grow once again as the population grew turning this neighborhood into more of a Chicago neighborhood as the rural elements left the area.  West Elsdon became a perceived haven for white flighters from other south side neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s.  When the Airport projects were built in the year 1946 West Elsdon residents joined West Lawn residents to protest these projects that were going to allow black families to move in. Even though the projects were situated in West Lawn, West Elsdon residents didn’t want to be near it.  This showed how West Elsdon felt about racial migration at the time.  According to the 1960 census only five people of color lived in this community.  The West Elsdon Civic Association and the No-CHA coalition were two groups out of West Elsdon that actively opposed any public housing near their streets and this fight went all the way into the 1970s.  (Fact source, http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1336.html#:~:text=Before%20the%20early%20twentieth%20century,mers%20and%20Irish%20railroad%20workers.)

West Elsdon was heavily populated with working class homeowners that worked hard to preserve the value of their homes and community making West Elsdon one of the safer neighborhoods in the city heading into the 1990s.  West Elsdon was rather gang free and mostly crime free community until the 1990s.  Beginning in the late 1980s Hispanic migration came to West Elsdon and many Hispanic people experienced discrimination on the streets as many in this neighborhood were not accepting of people of color living in this community.  There were also concerns that the area would depreciate due to this Hispanic migration.  The fact was many whites began moving out of this community primarily due to aging residents moving out of the area.  This has been the case of the decades since the later 1980s, but white flight was never a major factor, just long-time residents ready to move on and leave city life.  When they left their homes were mostly occupied by primarily Mexican middle-class families.  Some of the apartments became occupied by lower income Hispanic families and in many of those buildings and even some of the middle-class homes came the Latin Kings.  The Latin Kings felt the need to settle here to address issues with discrimination among the Hispanic population in 1990; however, Latin Kings mostly ended up engaging in violent gang wars with neighboring gangs.  The first corner for these Latin Kings was 55th and Pulaski.  Latin Kings would engage in violent gang wars with Two Six and Satan Disciples from West Lawn.  At some point later in the 1990s the Maniac Latin Disciples colonized this community settling near Strohacker (Howard) Park.  The Maniac Latin Disciples became very popular in the community among youths, and they engaged in violent gang wars with Latin Kings over these streets.

By the 21st century West Elsdon has become a majority Hispanic community rising to become 85% of the population according to the 2020 census results.  This neighborhood is still home to working-class homeowners interested in retaining the value of the community, the only difference from 20th century decades if these homeowners are Hispanic but the values remain the same.  Although gang conflict can get intense at times, West Elsdon remains one of the safer communities in Chicago.

West Elsdon in the location of the Super Mall at 52rd and Pulaski.  I do not know when it opened.

In the 1990s and later Latin Kings and Maniac Latin Disciples are the dominating gangs in this neighborhood.

There are only two significant gangs that have walked these streets over time, this is the details:

Latin Kings Established 1990-present years

55th to 59th, Pulaski to Central Park

Maniac Latin Disciples 1990s-present years

53rd to 55th, Kostner to Kildare (5-3, West Elsdon section)