Austin, Chicago

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Community Area 25 – Austin
The Austin Town Hall Park field house.
The Austin Town Hall Park field house.
Location within the city of Chicago
Location within the city of Chicago
Coordinates: 41°54′N 87°45.6′W / 41.900°N 87.7600°W / 41.900; -87.7600Coordinates: 41°54′N 87°45.6′W / 41.900°N 87.7600°W / 41.900; -87.7600
CountryUnited States
  • Galewood
  • The Island
  • North Austin
  • South Austin
 • Total7.16 sq mi (18.54 km2)
 • Total96,557
 • Density13,000/sq mi (5,200/km2)
Demographics (2019)[1]
 • White5.6%
 • Black77.8%
 • Hispanic15.1%
 • Asian0.5%
 • Other1.1%
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
60644 (entire)
60639, 60651, 60707 (partial)
Median household income$31,634[1]

Austin is one of 77 community areas in Chicago Located on the city's West Side, it is the third largest community area by population (behind the Near North Side and Lake View) and the second-largest geographically (behind South Deering). Austin's eastern boundary is the Belt Railway located just east of Cicero Avenue. Its northernmost border is the Milwaukee District / West Line. Its southernmost border is at Roosevelt Road from the Belt Railway west to Austin Boulevard. The northernmost portion, north of North Avenue, extends west to Harlem Avenue, abutting Elmwood Park. In addition to Elmwood Park, Austin also borders the suburbs of Cicero and Oak Park.[2]


Early development[edit]

In 1835, Henry DeKoven purchased prairie land in the region. In 1857, a group of citizens formed the Town of Cicero, a ten-member local governing body that covered modern day Cicero, Oak Park, Berwyn and Austin.[3] Eight years later, DeKoven's land was bought by Henry W. Austin. Austin, a businessman and real estate speculator, developed the namesake Austinville subdivision. Its population grew exponentially as the area's attractive amenities and access to suburban railroad service drew in population. In 1870, the Town of Cicero placed its town hall in Austin.[4] However, by the 1890s, the heavily populated Austin area dominated town politics, but did not constitute a majority of voters. The Austin-controlled township government allowed the Lake Street Elevated to extend into Oak Park. Outraged, the other residents of Cicero Township voted to allow Chicago to annex the Austin area in an 1899 referendum. The residents of Austin voted against the referendum.[5][3]

Neighborhood growth[edit]

After its annexation, Austin continued to maintain an independent, suburban identity.[3] By the 1920s, the area had developed significant street railways to serve its commuter population. This infrastructure attracted a large group of European immigrants to the community.[6] In 1926, it was estimated the area had approximately 140,000 residents.[3] In 1923, Austin Hospital opened. In 1938, the hospital, now called William Temperance Hospital, was taken over by Sisters of Saint Casimir who operated the hospital as Loretto Hospital.[2]

In 1949, construction began on the Eisenhower Expressway which bisected the southern portion of Austin.[3]

African-American migration, white flight and economic decline[edit]

After World War II, African-Americans increasingly moved into the surrounding community areas of East Garfield Park, North Lawndale, and West Garfield Park.[3] Crime rates in the 1960s were still virtually non-existent while the Austin community was near exclusively white middle class. After the arrival of African Americans during the Great Migration, there resulted race and integration related prejudices, economic decline, and safety concerns. Austin then became a case of the white flight movement, with a dramatic decrease in white residents, white-owned businesses, and industrial jobs.[3] By 1970, despite the aggressive blockbusting efforts of realtors, the Austin community was 32% black. A decade later, it was 73% black. This trend would continue for the rest of the twentieth century with Austin becoming a stronghold for Chicago's African American middle class.[7]

The Austin community became known for violence after the loss of free flowing capital during white flight when prostitution, drug dealing, gang-activity, and shoot-outs became commonplace in the Austin neighborhood. Many trace the problems that impacted this community to the crack cocaine epidemic, as well as the opioid crisis, mass incarceration, and the HIV epidemic, which resulted in further economic decline and the loss of many social safety nets.[8] This led to many middle and upper middle class African Americans leaving for the suburbs. In 1992, the 15th District (Austin) of the Chicago Police Department located at 5327 West Chicago Avenue at the time recorded about 48 homicides which covers most of the Austin neighborhood.

The latter half of the twentieth century further municipal saw significant divestment from the community. The central station on the Chicago Transportation Agency's Congress Line was closed on September 2, 1973.[9] In 1988, West Side Health Authority was formed after the closure of St. Anne's Hospital. In 1991, the Sisters of Saint Casimir gave control of Loretto Hospital to a management company.[2]

21st century[edit]

In 1999, developers agreed to turn the abandoned Galewood rail yard into an industrial park.[10] During the development of the property, then-Alderman Ike Carothers solicited a bribe to allow the permitting process and zoning changes to move forward. The subsequent trials created a political scandal,[11] and ended with the conviction of the developer and Carothers on various felony charges.[12] The $60 million development ultimately brought new homes and a movie theater to the neighborhood.[13]


Mars station in Galewood.
Seth Warner House
Residence of J.J. Walser Jr.
Laramie State Bank Building

Austin is Chicago's second largest community area both by population and by land area. The Austin community area is made up of four neighborhoods; Galewood, The Island, North Austin and South Austin.[14]


Galewood is named for Abram Gale who bought a farm on the area in 1838.[2] The neighborhood is bordered by the Milwaukee District / West Line to the north, Harlem Avenue to the west, North Avenue to the south and Narragansett Avenue to the east. The area is a historically Italian-American community with a sizable population of Chicago city employees.[15] Since the 1980s, it has seen an increase in African American and Latino residents, but this integration has occurred peacefully in contrast with other areas of Chicago.[16]

Galewood has two stations on the Milwaukee District West Line. The first station, Mars station functions as a stop for employees of the nearby Mars, Incorporated factory, closing in 2024, and Shriners Hospitals for Children, the latter of which is located in Montclare. The Mars station only stops during traditional commuting hours. The second, Galewood station is located east of Mars station and is a regular service station. Canadian Pacific (which operates in the U.S. Midwest as the Soo Line Railroad) operates freight trains on the line via trackage rights.

The neighborhood has strong ties with neighboring Montclare, including sharing a namesake library in the Chicago Public Library system, and is sometimes considered as part of that neighborhood and not the Austin community.[17][18]

Galewood is significantly whiter than the remainder of Austin. Galewood is 22.51% White, 50.17% African American, and 1.77% from two or more races. Residents who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino of any race were 23.96% of the total Galewood population with the western half of Galewood being 36% white and 31% African American.[N 1]

The Island[edit]

The Island neighborhood is located in the southwest corner of the Austin community. It has a population of approximately 1,700 residents.[21] It encompasses roughly a square mile and its western and southern borders are to the suburbs of Oak Park and Cicero respectively. It is further isolated from the rest of Austin by an industrial corridor to its east and railroad tracks and Interstate 290 to the north. It is only accessible from Austin Boulevard & Roosevelt Road.[14]

The Island was the last of Austin's neighborhoods to integrate. In the 1980s, when the rest of Austin was over 70% African-American, the Island did not have a single African-American family. In 1984, when an African-American family attempted to move in on Roosevelt Road, they were met with violent resistance and shortly moved out. Politically, the area went heavily for Jane Byrne in the Democratic primary and for Edward Vrdolyak against Harold Washington in the 1987 mayoral election that broke down on racial lines.[7] Today, the Island is an integrated community.[21]

The area, once industrial, has a diverse economy. Chicago Studio City, the largest film studio in the Midwestern United States, is located here.[21] The films Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Dark Knight and Public Enemies were partially filmed in The Island as were episodes of Empire and Shameless.[22]

North Austin[edit]

One of Austin's neighborhoods is North Austin, its boundaries starts north at Milwaukee District/West Line and Armitage Avenue, Western boundaries are Austin Avenue or Austin Boulevard south of North Avenue, Eastern boundaries to Cicero Avenue, and Southern boundaries to Division Street.[14] The Robert LeFlore Jr. Post Office at 5001 West Division Street is in this neighborhood.[23]

South Austin[edit]

South Austin is the area's largest neighborhood. It is bordered by Division Street to the north, Austin Boulevard to the west, Roosevelt Road to the south and Cicero Avenue to the east. During the Austin area's transition from a predominantly white community to a predominantly African-American community, the South Austin neighborhood was the first neighborhood to become African-American majority.[7] The neighborhood is characterized by its numerous historic buildings. The neighborhood is home to six landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places; Austin Historic District, Midway Park, Austin Town Hall Park Historic District, Columbus Park, First Congregational Church of Austin, Joseph J. Walser House and the Seth Warner House. Austin Town Hall Park, modeled after Philadelphia's Independence Hall, is also in this neighborhood.

It is also home to an additional seven Chicago Landmarks not listed on the National Register of Historic Places; Beeson House and Coach House, Hitchcock House, Laramie State Bank Building, Schlect House, F. R. Schock House, Marie Schock House and the Third Unitarian Church.


Historical population
Census Pop.

According to a 2016 analysis by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, there were 99,711 people and 32,277 households residing in the area.[1]

The racial makeup of the area was 4.20% White, 84.20% African American, 0.50% Asian, 0.80% from other races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.30% of the population.[1]

In the area, the population was spread out, with 30.50% under the age of 19, 20.80% from 20 to 34, 18.70% from 35 to 49, 18.40% from 50 to 64, and 11.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The media age was 33.9.[1]

The median household income for the area was $31,435 as opposed to $47,831 for the city. The area's residents were disproportionately lower income with 41.0% of residents earned less than $25,000, 27.6% of residents earned between $25,000 and $49,999, 14.1% earned between $50,000 to $74,999, 8.0% earned between $75,000 and $99,999, 6.4% earned between $100,000 and $149,999, 2.9% earned $150,000 or more.

There were 41,807 residents in the labor force. 18.9% of workers were employed in the healthcare industry, 11.3% were employed in retail, 11% were employed in administration, 8.4% worked in education, and 8.3% worked in hospitality and food services. The area had an unemployment rate of 22.1%.[1]


The Chicago Tribune "Crime in Chicagoland" page, the Austin neighborhood ranked 11th out of 77 community areas in Chicago in violent crime, 25th among Chicago community areas in property crimes, and 5th out of 100 for quality of life crimes.[25]


A classroom in Robert Emmet School from 1911.
Children reading at the "Robert Emmet School" in 1911. The school, located at 5500 W Madison Street, closed in 2013.

Austin Community Academy High School[26] closed after spring 2007.[27] New smaller schools have replaced Austin Community Academy High School: Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy, which opened in 2006, and Austin Polytechnical Academy, which opened in September 2007.[28]

Other portions of the community area are zoned to Manley High School, Marshall H.S., and Orr Campus.


Austin is served by three free weekly newspapers. The West Suburban Journal,[29] founded in 2004, published by black-owned press Trottie Publishing Group, based in the West Cook County suburb of Westchester. L. Nicole Trottie, founder and publisher of West Suburban Journal, is the first black woman in Illinois' 190 year history to found an accredited weekly newspaper. Trottie is also the first African American woman ever elected to serve on the Illinois Press Association's Executive Board of Directors in its 150-year newspaper-rich history. The Austin Voice[30] has been published in Austin since 1988. The Austin Weekly News,[31] founded in 2005, is published by The Wednesday Journal, a publisher of free weekly newspapers based in Oak Park, Illinois. Both papers are published on Wednesdays and distributed in stores, office buildings and recreational venues throughout the community. Austin is also served by Austin Talks,[32] an online publication maintained by journalism students at Chicago's Columbia College and underwritten in part by the Chicago Community Trust.


Austin is a stronghold for the Democratic Party. In the 2016 presidential election, Austin cast 37,492 votes for Hillary Clinton and cast 1,280 votes for Donald Trump. Despite this landslide victory, it was Clinton's 23rd largest margin of victory by percentage points in the 76 community areas she won.[33] In the 2012 presidential election, Austin cast 44,734 votes for Barack Obama and 965 votes for Mitt Romney. It was Obama's 24th largest margin of victory by percentage points in the 76 community areas he won.[34]

At the local level, Austin is located in Chicago's 28th, 29th, and 37th represented by Democrats Jason Ervin, Chris Taliaferro, and Emma Mitts respectively.[35][36][37]

Notable residents[edit]


  1. ^ Census Tracts 2504-2505 in Cook, IL and Galewood (as defined by Google Maps) are coterminous.[19][20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Community Demographic Snapshot: Austin" (PDF). Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. June 2016. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Zangs, Mary (July 1, 2014). The Chicago 77: A Community Area Handbook. Stroud, Gloucestershire, England: The History Press. ISBN 978-1626196124.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Seligman, Amanda I. (May 10, 2005). Block by Block: Neighborhoods and Public Policy on Chicago's West Side. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226746654.
  4. ^ Martin, Judith A. (2005). "Austin". In Reiff, Janice L.; Durkin Keating, Ann; Grossman, James R. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  5. ^ Cain, Louis P. (2005). "Annexation". In Reiff, Janice L.; Durkin Keating, Ann; Grossman, James R. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  6. ^ Martin, Judith A. (2005). "Austin". In Reiff, Janice L.; Durkin Keating, Ann; Grossman, James R. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Fremon, David K. (October 22, 1988). Chicago Politics Ward by Ward. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-31344-9. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  8. ^ Kamada, T. (2020). The Emergence of the Crack Epidemic and City-to-Suburb Mobility Between and Within Ethno-Racial Groups. Center for Open Science.
  9. ^ Buck, Thomas (September 2, 1973). "CTA Shutting Down 7 Rapid Transit Stations Today". Chicago Tribune. p. 5.
  10. ^ Tribune Staff (July 17, 1999). "Northwest Side Industrial Park Planned". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois.
  11. ^ Lighty, Todd; Mihalopoulos, Dan (September 23, 2009). "Six aldermen subpoenaed for developer's fraud trial". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois.
  12. ^ Lighty, Todd (February 1, 2010). "Source: Carothers bound for prison: Alderman to plead guilty to tax charges, bribery and lose post". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois.
  13. ^ Mihalopoulos, Dan (October 31, 2008). "Aide: Daley blank on letter". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois.
  14. ^ a b c "City of Chicago Neighborhoods (1978)" (PDF).
  15. ^ a b Steele, Jeffrey (February 12, 2010). "Timeless community with spirit: Galewood is convenient, close-knit neighborhood". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  16. ^ Dold, R. Bruce (September 18, 1989). "These Northwest Siders give integration a boost". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  17. ^ Anderson, Hilary (March 16, 2003). "Suburban feel in city neighborhood: Space, stability are big draws for Montclare". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  18. ^ Felton, Robert (July 17, 2015). "Residents still pining for new Galewood-Montclare library building". Austin Weekly News. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  19. ^ "Census Tract 2504, Cook, IL". Census Reporter. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  20. ^ "Census Tract 2505, Cook, IL". Census Reporter. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  21. ^ a b c d e Schmidt, John R. (August 17, 2012). "The Island, past and present". WBEZ 91.5. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  22. ^ "2000 through current". Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  23. ^ "Post Office Location – ROBERT LEFLORE JR". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original on July 20, 2012. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
  24. ^ Paral, Rob. "Chicago Community Areas Historical Data". Archived from the original on March 18, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  25. ^ "Austin -- Crime in Chicagoland --". Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  26. ^ "Welcome to Austin Community Academy Online!". November 3, 2002. Archived from the original on November 3, 2002. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  27. ^ "Chicago Public Schools: OSHP High School Directory". February 11, 2007. Archived from the original on February 11, 2007. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  28. ^ "New high school to focus on high-tech manufacturing". May 31, 2007. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  29. ^ "West Suburban Journal". Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  30. ^ "The Voice Newspapers, Serving Chicago's West Side". Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  31. ^ "Austin Weekly News". Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  32. ^ "AustinTalks - News and information covering Chicago's Austin neighborhood on the West Side". Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  33. ^ Ali, Tanveer (November 9, 2016). "How Every Chicago Neighborhood Voted In The 2016 Presidential Election". Chicago, Illinois: Archived from the original on March 17, 2017. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  34. ^ Ali, Tanveer (November 7, 2012). "How Every Chicago Neighborhood Voted In The 2012 Presidential Election". Chicago, Illinois: Archived from the original on March 17, 2017. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  35. ^ Connolly, Colleen (February 6, 2015). "Get to Know Your Ward: 28th Ward". Ward Room. WMAQ-TV. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  36. ^ Connolly, Colleen (February 6, 2015). "Get to Know Your Ward: 29th Ward". Ward Room. WMAQ-TV. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  37. ^ Connolly, Colleen (February 6, 2015). "Get to Know Your Ward: 37th Ward". Ward Room. WMAQ-TV. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  38. ^ Studenkov, Igor (October 26, 2016). "Lack of will or lack of clout?: 29th Ward meeting generates debate about Ald. Taliaferro's responsiveness". Austin Weekly News. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  39. ^ Fishman, Elly (March 25, 2014). "Is Hannibal Buress the Funniest Man Alive?". Chicago Magazine. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  40. ^ a b Illinois Blue Book 1961-1962. p. 260. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  41. ^ "Former Austin Alderman Isaac Carothers enters Cook County Board race". Austin Weekly News. Chicago, Illinois. October 8, 2013. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  42. ^ Lacey, Jennifer T. (May 16, 2011). "West Side schools compete for top honors in knowledge bowl". Austin Talks. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  43. ^ Gray Brosious, Emily (March 15, 2016). "Bill Clinton stumps for Hillary Clinton in Chicago on Illinois primary day". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois. Archived from the original on March 11, 2017. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  44. ^ Roemer, Jr., William F., The Enforcer (1994), p.90
  45. ^ Roemer, Jr., William F., Accardo: The Genuine Godfather (1995), p.271
  46. ^ Wang, Richard A. (2005). "Austin High Gang". In Reiff, Janice L.; Durkin Keating, Ann; Grossman, James R. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  47. ^ "Meet the Candidates: City Council, 29th Ward".
  48. ^ Jensen, Trevor; Ramirez, Margaret (May 30, 2013). "Andrew Greeley -- priest, author, critic -- dead at 85". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on June 25, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  49. ^ "EX-GOV. JOHN M. HAMILTON ILL: Early This Morning Reported to Be Near Death at His Residence, 4720 Madison Avenue". Chicago Daily Tribune. September 23, 1905 – via ProQuest subscription through Chicago Public Library.
  50. ^ Dwyer, Bill (June 16, 2009). "Hanrahan's life transcended '69 Panther raid". Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  51. ^ a b "Fundraiser to benefit Austin school". Austin Talks. Chicago, Illinois. November 12, 2011. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  52. ^ "Hugh Hefner's Chicago: The Neighborhoods That Helped Make The Man". DNAinfo. September 28, 2017. Archived from the original on December 27, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  53. ^ "Transcript of Interview with Roberta S. Karmel (Feb. 20, 2013; Mar. 28, 2013; July 16, 2013; July 24, 2013; July 30, 2013)," ABA.
  54. ^ Clauss, Hunter (April 24, 2010). "OPRF alum, Austin resident named State Rep". Wednesday Journal. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  55. ^ "Clark Post To McPartlin". Suburbanite Economist. January 20, 1960. p. 12. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via
  56. ^ McClelland, Edward (July 26, 2012). "Better Know A Ward: Emma Mitts's 37th". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  57. ^ "Illinois Members of Congress Listing". Illinois Blue Book 1947-1948. 1948. p. 100.
  58. ^ Warren, James (February 11, 2013). "Can't Pat Quinn Get Any Respect?". Chicago Magazine. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  59. ^ Chiarito, Bob (February 21, 2020). "Blagojevich Ignored Prisoners Who Sought The Mercy He Was Given — And They Actually Apologized, Ex-Gov. Pat Quinn Says". Block Club Chicago. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  60. ^ Mihalopoulos, Dan (October 6, 2009). "Daley names Banks aide new alderman". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  61. ^ Rice served as Alderman in the same Galewood ward as Banks. He would need to be a resident to do that.
  62. ^ Rock, Phil; Wojcicki, Ed (November 28, 2011). Nobody Calls Just to Say Hello. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University. p. xvii. ISBN 978-0809330720.
  63. ^ 'Illinois Blue Book 1975-1976,' Biographical Sketch of Philip J. Rock, pg. 106
  64. ^ Krzeczowski, Jake. "Saba's West Side Story Is One Worth Listening To". Noisey. Vice. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  65. ^ Janota, Laura (September 1990). "Jim Tobin: Fighting taxes is his only cause". Illinois Issues. Sangamon State University. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
  66. ^ Kogan, Rick (January 14, 2016). "Lois Weisberg dead at 90: Tireless champion of city's cultural life". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  67. ^ Pierson, Don (April 28, 1991). "Skins' Top Pick Wilson Isn't About To Quit Now". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  68. ^ "Country Honors Valiant Marine for his Courage". Chicago Daily Tribune. July 27, 1947. p. W14 – via ProQuest.
  69. ^ "BANDITS SEIZED IN RAID ON HOME FACE SHOWUP: Insist Slain Pal Guided Them to Victim". Chicago Tribune. August 6, 1951. p. 26. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  70. ^ Mitchell, Fred (February 16, 2014). "Former Illinois, NFL star Abe Woodson dies". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved June 24, 2017.

External links[edit]