Henry Horner Homes

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Henry Horner Homes
20020420 08 Henry Horner Homes (8107051768).jpg
2002 photograph of a vacant remaining building in the housing project.
Location Bordered by Washington Boulevard to Adams Street (south), Hermitage Avenue (east), Oakley Boulevard and Lake Street (north)
Chicago, Illinois
 United States
Status Demolished
Constructed 1957–1959
1961–1963 (extension)
Demolished 1995–2008
Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)

Henry Horner Homes was a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) public housing project located in the Near West Side neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. Henry Horner Homes was bordered between Oakley Boulevard, Washington Boulevard to the south, Hermitage Avenue to the east, and Lake Street to the north near the United Center.[1] Constructed between 1957 and 1963, The housing project was named in honor of former Illinois governor Henry Horner.


Henry Horner Homes originally consisted of 16 high-rise buildings along with low–rise buildings (920 units) and was completed in 1957. The Henry Horner Homes extension was added in 1961, which included 737 multi–story units. The original buildings consisted of two 15–story buildings and eight 7–story buildings, while the extension consisted of four 14–story buildings and two 8–story buildings all together totaling 1,656 units.

In 1983, Maurine Woodson, a resident of the housing project founded The Henry Horner Mother's Guild. The Mother's Guild was a community group to help mothers cope to life within in the housing project. At its peak the group consisted of thirty mothers. The group received funds totaling $88,000 from charitable foundations throughout the city from 1986 to 1988. The funds were used for clean-up efforts though the housing project, programs from youth in the neighborhood and etc.[2]

Crime and Gang violence[edit]

Gang activity has plagued the housing project for decades; beginning in the mid–1970s. The gangs, such as the Blackstone Rangers (which became known later as El Rukn), assert authority over the area and residents are often in the middle of gang warfare and criminal activity.[3] By the mid–1980s, several gangs dominated the housing project; Gangster Disciples, Four Corner Hustlers, Traveling Vice Lords and Gangster Stones. In October 1969, 20–year old resident Micheal Soto was shot to death by a Chicago police officer after fleeing a robbery scene in a building stairwell. Soto and an accomplice were chased by police after robbing a man near the project, which lead to a shootout between Soto and the officers. In the incident, Ten police officers and a little girl was injured.[4] In September 1974, Chicago police patrolman Joseph Cali was shot to death at the project by sniper fire while writing a ticket for an illegally parked vehicle; three men were charged with his death.[5] Aside from gangs, the housing projects experienced issues with sexual assaults in high numbers; most notably the June 1985 rape and murder of a child resident. On June 18, 1985, 5–year old Shavanna McCann[6] was raped and killed by an 17–year old boy who visited the project. The boy, Johnny Freeman lured McCann to a vacant apartment on the 13th floor of the 2111 W. Lake Street building. Freeman raped her and threw her from a window to her death.[7][8]

1991 lawsuit and demolition[edit]

In May 1991, Residents of the housing project, women apart of the Henry Horner Mother's Guild filed a class-action lawsuit against the Chicago Housing Authority for neglect. They argued that the housing authority had let their site fall behind in issues from plumbing, lighting, rodent infestations and among other city code violations.[9] The group created a video produced by the Chicago Video Project showing the living conditions at the housing project.[10] Demolishing began at the housing project in August 1995[11] by The Housing of Urban Development (HUD) took over control of the CHA high-rises six years prior. The last high–rise building was demolished in June 2005. The last building in the original projects, a mid–rise, was demolished in 2008.

Plan For Transformation/Redevelopment[edit]

A redevelopment project, referred to as the Plan for Transformation, is currently in progress to rehabilitate the buildings and create mixed-income housing.[12] The new neighborhood will be called "West Haven".[13] Phase I of the project, which involved the building of 461 replacement housing units, was completed in 2001. Phase II will be worked on in three stages: public housing, affordable housing and market rate housing.[14]

Pop culture[edit]

The housing project was the setting for the documentary film Legacy as well as the non–fiction book There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America by Alex Kotlowitz. The book later became a television movie starring Oprah Winfrey in 1993, in which filming took place at the housing project. The housing project was also featured in the 1995 film Losing Isaiah, starring Halle Berry.

See also[edit]