North Lawndale, Chicago
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|— Community area —|
|Community Area 29 - North Lawndale|
|• Total||3.20 sq mi (8.29 km2)|
|• Density||11,000/sq mi ( 4,300/km2)|
|Time zone||CST (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|ZIP Codes||parts of 60608, 60623 and 60624|
|Median household income||$25,797|
|Source: U.S. Census, Record Information Services|
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2009)|
|This article may be in need of reorganization to comply with Wikipedia's layout guidelines. (November 2010)|
Once part of Cicero Township in 1869, the eastern section of North Lawndale to Pulaski Road was annexed to Chicago by an act of the state legislature. Thereafter, streets were platted and drainage ditches were installed between Western (2400 west) and Pulaski Road (4000 west). The name "Lawndale" was supplied by Millard and Decker, a real estate firm which subdivided the area in 1870. In 1871, after the fire, the McCormick Reaper Company (later International Harvester) occupied a new large plant in the South Lawndale neighborhood. As a result, many plant workers moved to eastern North Lawndale. The remaining area west of Crawford Avenue was annexed by a resolution of the Cook County Commissioners in 1889.
By 1890 North Lawndale was beginning to be heavily populated by Bohemians from Eastern Europe. The section most populated by the Czechs was the area from Crawford (Pulaski) west, and from 12th St. (Roosevelt Rd.) to 16th St. Real estate firm W.A. Merigold & Co. was largely responsible for the early development of that part of the community and as a result the name "Merigold" stuck as the name of that part of the neighborhood. Czech institutions popped up in Merigold with the Slovanska Lipa/Sokol Tabor (Czech fraternal & gymnastic organization) at 13th & Karlov in 1890.
In 1892 the Bohemian Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes was established at the corner of 15th & Keeler, and in 1909 the Czech Freethinkers School Frantisek Palacky was built at 1525 S. Kedvale. The Merigold neighborhood would also became known as Novy Tabor (New Camp) by the Czech immigrants that settled there. The ultimate Czech institution to come to North Lawndale in 1912 was the Ceska Beseda (Bohemian Club) at 3659 W. Douglas Blvd. This club was attended by Chicago's Czech elite, as well as the visiting Czech elite of the rest of the United States and Czechoslovakia.
This was the place for its refined members to celebrate and enjoy literature, drama, and music by the most celebrated and talented Czech artists. The Bohemians spread throughout the rest of the North Lawndale neighborhood and were the original owners of many of the beautiful greystone buildings that graced the picturesque streets of the neighborhood. Many of the elite members of the Bohemian community resided in the vicinity of the 1800 & 1900 blocks of South Millard Avenue.
These men of wealth as well as the rest of the Czech residents of North Lawndale were heavily invested in their neighborhood, especially civically, with their influence being far reaching. An example of this was the naming of Anton Dvorak Public Elementary School at 3615 W. 16th St. after the revered 19th century Czech composer. There were several members of the North Lawndale Czech community that occupied positions in city as well as county government. In time, the Czechs began leaving the neighborhood for the western suburbs of Cicero, Berwyn, Riverside, and Brookfield.
By the 1920s many of the Czechs were gone and the Jews became the majority ethnic group of the neighborhood having left the crowded confines of the Maxwell Street Ghetto. North Lawndale would later become known as being the largest Jewish settlement in the City of Chicago with 25% of the city's Jewish population living in just that one neighborhood.
From about 1918 to 1955, Jews, overwhelmingly of Russian and Eastern European extraction, dominated the neighborhood, starting in North Lawndale and moving northward as they became more prosperous. In the 1950s, blacks moved from the southern states and the south side of Chicago, and unscrupulous real-estate dealers all but evacuated the white population by using blockbusting and scare tactics. In a span of about ten years, the white population of North Lawndale went from 99% to less than 9%.
During the turbulent times of the late 1960s and 1970s, much of North Lawndale's built environment was destroyed by the 1968 riots which followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and by the decay brought about by being an extremely impoverished area. Thousands of structures were leveled during this time and the land sat vacant until the building and real estate boom of the 2000s. Due to these factors, the total neighborhood population dropped from 124,937 in 1960 to 41,768 by 2000.
According to Charles Leeks, director of NHS, North Lawndale has the greatest concentration of greystones in the city. The City of Chicago has enacted The Historic Chicago Greystone Initiative in late 2004 to aid in promoting the preservation of the neighborhoods historic greystone structures.
According to the Steans Family Foundation, in the decades following the 1960s.
- there were a series of economic and social disasters... Riots followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, destroying many of the stores along Roosevelt Road and accelerating a decline that lead to a loss of 75% of the businesses in the community by 1970. Industries closed: International Harvester in 1969, Sears (partially in 1974 and completely by 1987), Zenith and Sunbeam in the 1970s, Western Electric in the 1980s. By 1970 African-Americans who could were also leaving North Lawndale, beginning a precipitous population decline that continues to this day.
Lawndale was the site of the founding of the Vice Lords, a street gang which in the late 1960s attempted to transform themselves into a positive force for their neighborhood, setting up community centers and undertaking peaceful political actions. However, this transformation proved short-lived.
Jonathan Kozol devotes a chapter of Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools to North Lawndale, which he says a local resident called it "an industrial slum without the industry." At the time, it had "one bank, one supermarket, 48 state lottery agents ... and 99 licensed bars." and that, according to the 1980 census, 58 percent of men and women 17 and older had no jobs.
In 1986 the Steans Family Foundation was founded; it describes itself as "a small family foundation" that "concentrates its grantmaking and programs in North Lawndale" and "by dedicating time, money, and skills... works in partnership with local residents and institutions to build and enhance the North Lawndale community".
In the 1990s, the foundation sees some signs of revitalization, "including a new shopping plaza and some new housing," stabilization of the declining population, and a rise in the number Hispanic residents, currently constituting 4.5% of the population.
Contract Buyers League
The Contract Buyers League (CBL) was a grassroots organization formed in 1968 by residents of the North Lawndale community on Chicago’s West Side. With the assistance of Jesuit Seminarian Jack Macnamara and twelve white college students based out of Monsignor Jack Egan’s Presentation Roman Catholic Church, the CBL fought the discriminatory real estate practice known as “contract selling.”
Following WWII, Chicago’s South Side Black Belt became increasingly overcrowded as African Americans moved from the South in the second wave of the Great Migration. Unable to attain decent and sanitary housing in white neighborhoods due to racially restrictive real estate covenants and mortgage redlining by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), African-Americans were confined to the South Side ghetto.
In the 1950s-60s, real estate speculators exploited white homeowners’ fear of plummeting real estate values in racially-transitioning neighborhoods on the West Side. Realtors went door-to-door convincing white homeowners that they ought to sell because blacks were moving into the neighborhood. In neighborhoods they wished to exploit, “panic-peddling” speculators hired black men to drive beat-up cars with the music blaring and paid black women to push their babies in strollers. Speculators made enormous profits by convincing whites to sell their homes at well-below market value, then reselling to blacks at much higher than market value. Black homebuyers were subject to a “race tax,” as a property would typically be bought from a white homeowner for $10,000 and resold a week later to a black family for $25,000.
The FHA’s refusal to lend to blacks meant that purchasing overpriced homes on contract was the only way for many blacks to “own” a home. However, the title to a property bought on contract would not be transferred to the buyer until all contract payments had been made. Trapped in overwhelming debt, contract buyers were charged exorbitant fees for repairs to correct building code violations that speculators had concealed from them. In order to afford payments, contract buyers were forced to work two or three jobs, separating them from their families. Buyers who missed a single payment would be evicted with no right to recoup prior payments. Speculators would then resell the property to another black household under the same terms.
The process of “blockbusting” was a national phenomenon, but nowhere was the practice of contract selling as pernicious as in North Lawndale, where an estimated 3,000 buildings were sold on contract. This largely explains how the neighborhood’s population transitioned from 87% white to 91% black between 1950 and 1960. Groups similar to the CBL formed in cities around the country to combat contract selling, but no group was as influential as the CBL in winning justice for exploited black homebuyers. The CBL renegotiated 400 contracts for its members, saving residents an estimated $25,000,000. The FHA would also respond to pressure from the CBL by reforming its discriminatory underwriting policies to lend to blacks.
K-Town is a nickname for an area in North Lawndale between Pulaski Road and Cicero Avenue in which many names of north-south avenues (Karlov Ave., Kedvale Ave., Keeler Ave., Kenneth Ave., Kilbourn Ave., Kildare Ave., Kolin Ave., Kolmar Ave., Komensky Ave. Kostner Ave., Kilpatrick Ave., Kenton Ave., Knox Ave., Keating Ave.) begin with the letter K. The pattern is a historical relic of a 1913 street naming proposal in which streets were to be systematically named according to their distance from the Illinois-Indiana border; K, the eleventh letter, was to be assigned to streets within the eleventh mile, counting west from the state line. K-Town is one of the few places where the plan was actually implemented. The portion of K-Town bounded by W Cullerton St, W Cermak Rd, S Kostner Ave, and S Pulaski Rd was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 9, 2010.
John W. Fountain (2005) writes:
- K-Town is a city within a city, a fifteen-minute drive from downtown Chicago's skyscrapers... I used to joke that the "K" stood for "kill." I was only half-joking... it had developed a reputation for being one of the rougher places in the city.... K-Town is where my grandfather... and all the other black folk that flocked to the West Side during the mid-to-late-1950s bought proud brick houses on tree-lined streets with crackless cement sidewalks....
Homan Square is a new development in the past ten years and consists of new residences, retail, and a community center on the site of the old Sears headquarters. Homan Square is often used as an example of the gradual turn around of North Lawndale. Former world's fastest rapper Twista is also from North Lawndale.
Government and infrastructure
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights leader, lived at 1550 S Hamlin in 1966 while campaigning against housing discrimination against blacks
Danny K. Davis, U.S. Representative from Illinois's 7th District, was a Chicago Public Schools teacher, counselor, director of a health center, and Executive Director of the Greater Lawndale Conservation Commission in North Lawndale
Clyde Ross, Co-Founder and Vice President of the Contract Buyers League, which in the late 1960s-1970s renogotiated discriminatory real estate contracts for 400 North Lawndale residents
Golda Meir, Zionist leader who became Israel's fourth Prime Minister, lived at 1306 S Lawndale in 1917 while working at the Douglass Branch Library and lecturing at the Hebrew Theological College
Julius Rosenwald, Co-Founder and President of Sears, Roebuck, & Co., began collaborating with Booker T Washgton in 1911 to use the fortune earned at the Sears Catalog Plant in North Lawndale to fund construction of 5,300 schools for African-Americans across the South
Benny Goodman, Born in 1909, famous clarinetist nicknamed the "King of Swing," grew up at 1125 S Francisco
Dinah Washington, "Queen of the Blues," lived at 1518 S Trumbull in the house she bought for her mother
Otis Clay, Blues artist, launched his career with Cobra Records at 2854 W Roosevelt
Magic Sam, Blues artist, launched his career with Cobra Records at 2854 W Roosevelt
Buddy Guy, Blues artist, launched his career with Cobra Records at 2854 W Roosevelt
Chester Arthur Burnett (June 10, 1910 – January 10, 1976), known as Howlin' Wolf, influential American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player, lived on the 3300 Block of W Flournoy
Ramsey Lewis, Jazz composer has recorded seven gold records and won three Grammy Awards
Twista, Platinum Hip Hop recording artist is from K-Town
Wallace Edgar "Mickey" Johnson, NBA PF/C from 1974–1986
Kevin Garnett, NBA PF/C from 1995–present, 2004 NBA MVP, 14-time NBA All-Star, and future Hall of Famer lived in K-Town and graduated Farragut Career Academy
Darryl Stingley, NFL Wide Receiver for the New England Patriots from 1973–1977
Isiah Thomas, NBA Hall of Fame player known for his career on the Detroit Pistons as a two time NBA champion.
Marques Sullivan, NFL Offensive Lineman for the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, New England Patriots from 2001 - 2005. Grew up at 1818 S. Kedzie.
- Paral, Rob. "Chicago Demographics Dara". Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- Paral, Rob. "Chicago Census Data". Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- Steans Family Foundation, Chicago, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-05-11.
- Jonathan Kozol (1991): Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools, Crown, ISBN 0-517-58221-X
- Although these long streets extend beyond the bounds of North Lawndale, published sources identify the name K-Town as referring specifically to an area of North Lawndale, i.e. the area through which these streets pass.
- John W. Fountain (2005): True Vine: A Young Black Man's Journey of Faith, Hope, and Clarity. Public Affairs, ISBN 1-58648-285-8;
- "Post Office Location - OTIS GRANT COLLINS". United States Postal Service. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
- Paral, Rob. "Chicago Community Areas Historical Data". Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- Official City of Chicago North Lawndale Community Map
- North Lawndale: Profile of an Illinois Workforce Advantage Target Area. Parisa Arash, Office of the Governor, State of Illinois
- Chicago Park District
- K-Town, entry in the Chicago Historical Society's Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago
- North Lawndale History Steans Family Foundation website.
- Homan Square Homan Square website.
||Austin, Chicago||West Garfield Park, Chicago||East Garfield Park, Chicago|
|Cicero, Illinois||Near West Side, Chicago|
|South Lawndale, Chicago||Lower West Side, Chicago|