For all of the talk of Englewood on the South Side being Chicago's being so viscious, by most accounts it is not Chicago's most violent neighborhood. That dishonor goes to West Garfield Park on the West Side.
And yesterday afternoon I dropped by for a visit.
Those abandoned apartment buildings are on the 4200 W. Van Buren Street.
Records only go back to 1930 for Chicago's designated neighborhoods--and that is when the population of West Garfield Park peaked at 50,018. In 2010 only 18,001 people resided there.
Across the street is the former Genevieve Melody Public School--it was one of fifty schools closed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Board of Education in 2013. The school name was transferred to the onetime Edward C. Delano Elementary School about a mile northeast of here.
Notice the upturned points on the wrought-iron fence on the second floor.
Last week the Chicago Sun-Times and the Better Government Association revealed that Chicago Public Schools doesn't know what happened to much of the desks, computers, and books from Melody and the other shuttered 49 schools. My guess is that it was stolen by so-called civil servants.
West Garfield Park has a dazzling array of home styles--including Dutch Colonials such as this one at 922 S. Karlov.
Madison Street east of Pulaski. This was the epicenter of the West Side Riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. Stores and businesses were looted and burned for a 28-block stretch of Madison. There were also riots in North Lawndale--also on the West Side--and in Woodlawn on the South Side. White-owned shops were singled out during the riots--most of the stores that I saw yesterday were owned by Pakistanis and Indians.
It was during that urban upheaval when Mayor Richard J. Daley issued his infamous "shoot to kill" arsonists order.
Surprisingly, unlike in Englewood, there is a lot of commercial activity in West Garfield Park and that retail hum might explain why the latter has a higher violent crime rate than the former. The stores attract gang members too--and gangbangers who may not normally see each other on their own turf do so on Madison and other busy streets.
Detroit has many 1920s-vintage abandoned hotel gems such as the Lee Plaza. Chicago not so much.
But at 4000 W. Washington Streets stands--at least for now--the Guyon Hotel, Moorish Revival structure designed by Jens J. Jensen. After the '68 riots the Guyon, which became a single-room occupancy hotel. A Lutheran social services group turned the property into low-income apartments in the 1980s which is when Jimmy Carter visited while he was working on a Habitat for Humanity project. Crain's Chicago Business reported that the former presidents "stayed overnight in a roach-infested room, furnished with only a couch and a milk crate."
The "Carter buildings" became rundown and were later razed.
Jack McGurn, an enforcer for Al Capone, kept an apartment at the Guyon--which the police raided in 1928.
Four years ago the Guyon was named as one of Illinois' Ten Most Endangered Historic Places.
I have a fondness for stores with animal statues on the roof, which the Springfield Food Mart on Madison proudly displays. "Soon" the grocery store--look closely at the signage--will accept Illinois Link (food stamps) and it will be selling Illinois Lottery tickets.
I wanted to get more photos of the stores on Madison but I was getting scowls from passerbys there. Unlike the people of Detroit's blighted neighborhoods, the Chicago have-nots are not friendly. Seriously, that is something Detroit can build on.
Because 4139 W. 5th Street is not as prime of a location as Madison Street, Quality Groceries was not able to survive.
For some people the world is their trash can.
An abandoned graystone on Van Buren.
Much of West Garfield Park lies in Chicago's 28th Ward. In 2012 Mitt Romney received no votes in two precincts in the 28th. Overall in the ward Romney's Democratic counterpart, Chicagoan Barack Obama, won ninety-five percent of the presidential vote that year.
You'll find a red "X" on this apartment building at 4122 W. Arthington Street, which means Chicago officials have designated that this abandoned eyesore as structurally unsound and that firefighters should show extra caution if they enter it to put out a blaze.
(Photos) The abandoned homes of Chicago's violent Englewood neighborhood