Monday, January 04, 2016

(Photos) The abandoned homes of Chicago's violent Englewood neighborhood

Yesterday I visited Chicago's notorious Englewood neighborhood on the South Side. Synonymous with violence, Englewood is where Spike Lee's latest film, Chiraq is set. But according the to Chicago Tribune, for the thirty day period from November 19-December 19, of Chicago's 77 designated neighborhoods, the crime rate in Englewood was only the second worst in the city--tied with Washington Park and behind West Garfield Park.

During that period there were six murders in Englewood.

While the Chicago Bungalow is quite common in much of the city, they are rare in Englewood. This one can be found on Emerald Avenue north of 71st Street.

Four years ago on the Chicago NPR station's web site, John R. Schmitt described Englewood as "a mini-Detroit."  While there were never any automobile plants there, Englewood's 69th [correction: 63rd]and Halsted was a Chicago retail hub that was only exceeded by State Street--that Great Street--downtown. Not much is left there, although there is an Aldi grocery and a Walgreens. Kennedy-King College, a city junior college, was moved to 69th and Halsted in 2007.

Aluminum siding on abandoned homes, such as this one near 68th and Green, is prone to theft. And often under older homes you'll find asphalt brick.

The ornate Southown Theater stood where that Aldi now operates. It was my mother's favorite movie palace. In the lobby swans swam in a pool. My mother told me that when she was a child, "I was more interested in those swans than some of the movies on the screen." The Southtown closed in 1958, then it became a discount store. The building was razed in 1991.

This abandoned home on 5909 S. Eggleston is one of four standing structures remaining on this block between 59th Street and 60th. The other four are occupied. The purple paint--there's more on the opposite side--is a recent addition. It was not on the house when Google Maps passed through in 2014.

The view across from the purple home.

Englewood's population peaked at 97,000 in 1960--only 30,000 live there now. Originally Englewood was dominated by people of German and Irish descent. It was one of the first "white flight" neighborhoods in Chicago.

Is someone making an artistic statement? This house is around the corner on Stewart.

While Englewood doesn't sprawling urban ruins such as Detroit's Packard Plant or even Dixmoor, Illinois' Wyman-Gordon power station, it does have the the South Side Masonic Temple at 64th and Green. The Classical Revival Style seven-story building opened in 1921. It has been vacant for thirty years or so and Preservation Chicago listed it as one of its seven most endangered buildings last year.

Nothing says to me, Alderman Willie B. Cochran, that we're not "getting things done" as much as a political sign in a vacant lot.

Chicago greystones, a common architectural style in Chicago's inner neighborhoods, are coveted dwellings in much of the city. But not this boarded-up home at 6422 S. Peoria Street.

Sure, call me a cynic, but I don't believe these Chicago Public School Safe Passages--such as this one on Princeton--are going to deter crime at all.

I noticed many cars on Englewood's streets with a man inside and the engine running and presumably with the heat blasting--including right behind me when I took this photograph. Drug dealers?

Man oh man, this massive Queen Anne home at 61st and Normal must have been a beauty in its heyday.
[According to a commentator, Illinois' 23rd governor, Charles S. Deneen, who was also a U.S. senator, lived here.]

Across the street is another faded beauty.

There is a Barack Obama connection to Englewood. In 2000, while serving in the state Senate, Obama was attempted to unseat incumbent congressman Bobby Rush. The future president procured a state $100,000 grant to build a botanical garden at 61st and Princeton. The recipient of the grant was an Obama campaign contributor. He never built the garden. Five years ago a neighborhood group finished the job. Above is the finished result--although to be fair, most gardens don't look very appealing in winter.

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Levois said...

I'd have to find the article but a woman is going around painting vacant property in solid colors around the Englewood community. I believe some of the lots you're going through is going to be razed for a railyard in the near future.

Bill Baar said...

Great stuff... I was doing similar exploration of Chicago once and a guy stopped and asked what I was doing and if I were a real estate developer. I said no, and then asked, "ok, if I were, what's the next hot neigborhood?" He responded "Englewood". I think Chicago's going to need to get a handle on taxes, schools, and the CPD first, but the potential is sure there.

Unknown said...

Artist Amanda Williams

Gerry said...

The mansion shown at 61st and Normal Blvd. Was a beauty in its day and for good reason: it was the home to Illinois's 23rd governor, Charles Deneen, who served from 1905 to 1913. He also was a U.S. senator representing Illinois.

Anonymous said...

Gerry, that is really interesting about the house on 61st andNormal Blvd. My mother grew up near 66th and Marshfield, in a family home. She lived there through the Great Depression until sometime in the 50’s.

Jerome M. Wysocki said...

Great documentary series. One minor correction is that your reference to the commerce center as 69th and Halsted was really 63rd and Halsted. Supposedly, that location and nearby blocks along 63rd street and Halsted Street had retail business levels that were exceeded only by the downtown Chicago area itself. Also, I've read that as recently as the late 1940s, the Englewood area had more Evangelical Christian churches within its area, than were located in any other community in the world.

Mike Ligue said...

John , the theater became Carrs department store , I spent about twenty five of my thirty years on CFD in Englewood . Nothing much has changed since 1980 .

Gerry said...

To Anonymous (who's mother lived at 66th & Marshafield:

When my mother and father were getting married (in the middle of the Great Depression), she lived with her family in a two-flat at 62nd & Marshfield. It was directly in back of Saint Theodore's Catholic Church. They were married at Saint Theodore's.

She said they could look out their kitchen window and see the priest putting on his vestments for Mass.