Chicago Lawn is one of the 77 community areas of Chicago, Illinois. It is located on the southwest side of the city. Its community neighbors include Gage Park, West Englewood, Ashburn, and West Lawn. It is bounded by Bell Avenue on the east, Central Park Avenue on the west, 59th Street on the north, and 75th Street on the south. This puts it 13 km (8.1 mi) southwest of the Loop. Local citizens refer to the area as "Marquette Park," after the park in its center.
The city of Chicago Lawn was founded by John F. Eberhart in 1871. Although it was annexed by the city of Chicago in 1889, it remained mostly farmland with some scattered settlements until the 1920s. Between 1920 and 1930 the population increased from 14,000 to 47,000. Residents of German and Irish descent began to move into the area from the Back of the Yards and Englewood neighborhoods. Poles, Bohemians, and Lithuanians followed them. Most new residents belonged to various Protestant denominations, but Chicago Lawn also was home to many Roman Catholic churches and schools. Today, there are six Catholic institutions that make up the Marquette Park Catholic Campus Council. Chicago Lawn was a thriving urban neighborhood as the Depression hit the nation and by 1940 its population had reached 49,291. In 1941, the National Biscuit Company announced plans to build a huge bakery in Chicago Lawn. When completed, this was the largest bakery in one location in the world. The size of the facility was doubled in the late 1990s.
Chicago's changing racial demographics had a profound impact on Chicago Lawn. In the 1960s most of the white Americans had fled Englewood and West Englewood and Chicago Lawn became a target for civil rights groups' open housing marches. In 1966, a march led by Martin Luther King, Jr., into Marquette Park met a violent reaction. King himself was hit by a rock. Violence also erupted in the neighborhood when Gage Park High School attempted to integrate after Brown v. Board of Education. The primary resistance to integration came from fear of declining property values by people who put their life savings into their homes and disruption of ethnic bonds, especially for the Lithuanians. Some Irish, Poles, and Lithuanians still remain, though most have moved further south and west. Many Lithuanians and Poles have reestablished a community in Lemont.
By 2000, Blacks comprised 52.9% of the population, while Hispanic groups accounted for 35.1%, and the white population dropped 72%. Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation (House of Peace for the Children of the Ancient Ethiopian Hebrews), at 66th Street and Kedzie Avenue, serves members of the local Jewish community, many of whom are black. Rabbi Capers Funnye and Michelle Obama are first cousins once removed.
1930s When the census reported 8,919 people in West Lawn, primarily German, Irish, Czech, Polish, and Italian, with a small Lithuanian immigrant population. Residents were factory, clerical, and professional workers. Since the 1970s, younger Mexican families have been attracted to the area, and some Arab families and businesses have followed the 63rd Street retail run moving toward the west from Chicago Lawn.
1990sAfrican Americans composed 27 percent of the population. Hispanic groups mostly of Mexicans and some of Puerto Ricans accounted for 28 percent. Arabs of Palestinian descent have also taken up residence. Some Irish, Poles, and Lithuanians still remain. However, most have moved further south and west. Many Lithuanians have reestablished a community in Lemont.
Left Photo: Al-Anwar Grocery on West 63rd Street and Albany Ave. Center Photo: Chicago Islamic Center on West 63rd Sreet founded by Arab-Americans in 1950s. Right Photo:Middle Eastern Stores and Restaurants next to Alsalm Mosque Foundation on 63rd St.
1920's Arabs immigrant to Chicago, Political turmoil in the decades following the creation of Israel in 1948 brought more Palestinian Muslims to Chicago. Arab families live in Chicago Lawn and Gage Park Neighborhoods. Arab community founded Chicago Islamic Center and Mosque on 63rd. Many Middle Eastern store and restaurant near Mosque area. Arab families come from Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. In the 1950s, Palestinians with families moved out of their boardinghouses and shops and into apartments and homes just west of Chicago's “Black Belt.” By the 1970s, they formed a concentrated residential community in Gage Park and Chicago Lawn, on the South Side, and had established a business district with stores catering to Arab clientele. Chicago's largest concentration of Palestinians still lives in these areas and in the communities to the south and west of them. In the 1980s, many upwardly mobile Palestinian families moved to the southwest suburbs, bringing significant Palestinian and Arab populations to Bridgeview, Alsip, Oak Lawn, Hickory Hills, Palos Hills. Alsalm Mosque Foundation is small place to worship, Palestinians built new Mosque Foundation in 1982 in Bridgeview.