North Lawndale, Chicago
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|Community Area 29 - North Lawndale|
A Pink Line train traveling along 21st Street
Location within the city of Chicago
|• Total||3.20 sq mi (8.29 km2)|
|• Density||11,000/sq mi (4,100/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
parts of 60608, 60623 and 60624
|Median household income||$26,781|
|Source: U.S. Census, Record Information Services|
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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 Great Chicago Fire, the McCormick Reaper Company (later International Harvester) constructed and 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 in 1889 by a resolution of the Cook County Commissioners.
By 1890, North Lawndale was beginning to be heavily populated by Bohemian immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 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 the chief developer of that part of the community, which resulted in the name "Merigold" being associated with the neighborhood. Czech institutions popped up in Merigold, beginning in 1890 with the Slovanska Lipa/Sokol Tabor (Czech fraternal & gymnastic organization) at 13th & Karlov.
In 1892, the Bohemian Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes, was established at the corner of 15th & Keeler. In 1909 the Czech Freethinkers School, Frantisek Palacky, was built at 1525 S. Kedvale. The Merigold neighborhood was also known as Novy Tabor (New Camp) by the Czech immigrants who settled there. The premier Czech institution, established 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.
It was the place for its members to celebrate and enjoy literature, drama, and music by the most renowned and talented Czech artists. The ethnic Bohemians spread throughout the rest of the North Lawndale neighborhood; they 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 and 1900 blocks of South Millard Avenue.
These wealthy men, as well as the rest of the Czech residents of North Lawndale, were strongly committed to their neighborhood, and were involved in civic affairs. Anton Dvorak Public Elementary School at 3615 W. 16th St. was named after the revered 19th-century Czech composer Antonín Dvořák. Several members of the North Lawndale Czech community occupied positions in city as well as county government. In the post-World War I years, the Czechs began leaving the neighborhood for newer housing in the western suburbs of Cicero, Berwyn, Riverside, and Brookfield.
By the 1920s, many of the Czechs were gone, and Jews became the majority ethnic group of the neighborhood after having left the crowded confines of the Maxwell Street ghetto. North Lawndale later became known as being the largest Jewish settlement in the City of Chicago, with 25% of the city's Jewish population.
From about 1918 to 1955, Jews, overwhelmingly of Russian and Eastern European origin, dominated the neighborhood, starting in North Lawndale and moving northward as they became more prosperous. In the 1950s, blacks migrated into the area from the South Side and from southern states. Unscrupulous real-estate dealers all but evacuated the white population by using blockbusting and scare tactics related to the change in ethnicity. In a span of about ten years, the white population of North Lawndale dropped from 87% to less than 9%, but the number of total residents increased.
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 led 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 also left North Lawndale, beginning a precipitous population decline that continues to this day.
The poverty resulting from the loss of thousands of jobs due to restructuring of industries from the 1960s to the 1980s meant that money was not available for property maintenance. Houses were abandoned and thousands of structures were leveled during this time. Much 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.
Writer, Jonathan Kozol devotes a chapter of Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools (1991) to North Lawndale. He notes that 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." 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 to concentrate on grantmaking and programs in North Lawndale.
In the 1990s, the foundation noted signs of revitalization, "including a new shopping plaza and some new housing" associated with Homan Square, stabilization of the declining population, and a rise in new residents, mostly Hispanic. They constituted 4.5% of the population.
According to Charles Leeks, director of NHS, North Lawndale has the greatest concentration of greystones in the city. In late 2004, the City of Chicago enacted "The Historic Chicago Greystone Initiative" to promote the preservation of the neighborhood's greystone structures.
Contract Buyers League
The Contract Buyers League (CBL) was a grassroots organization formed in 1968 by residents of the North Lawndale community. Assisted by Jack MacNamara, a Jesuit seminarian, and twelve white college students based at Presentation Roman Catholic Church, led by Msgr. Jack Egan, the CBL fought the discriminatory real estate practice known as "contract selling".
Groups similar to the CBL formed in cities around the country to combat contract selling. The CBL was the most influential in winning justice for exploited black homebuyers. The CBL renegotiated 400 contracts for its members, saving residents an estimated $25,000,000. The FHA finally responded to pressure from the CBL by reforming its discriminatory underwriting policies in order to lend to blacks.
K-Town is a nickname for an area in Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, and West Garfield Park[note 1] between Pulaski Road and Cicero Avenue in which the names of many north–south avenues begin with the letter K (Keystone, Karlov, Kedvale, Keeler, Kenneth, Kilbourn, Kildare, Kolin, Kirkland, Kolmar, Komensky, Kostner, Kilpatrick, Kenton, Knox, and Keating). The pattern is a historical relic of a 1913 street-naming proposal, by 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. The eleventh mile is the easternmost area in which the plan was widely implemented, as many neighborhoods to the east were already developed and had street names in place. The portion of K-Town bounded by W. Kinzie St, W. Cermak Rd, S. Kostner Ave, and S. Pulaski Rd was listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places on September 9, 2010.
John W. Fountain wrote in his 2005 memoir:
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. ...
The site of the former Sears headquarters was redeveloped beginning in 1988 as Homan Square. The development has included new construction of owned and rental mixed-income housing; adaptive reuse and restoration of historic properties for use as community center, school, and other facilities; a new community pool and recreation center; and associated retail. Homan Square is often used as an example of the revitalization of North Lawndale. The former Sears tower was rehabbed and reopened to the public as "The John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols Tower" in 2015. It now houses non-profit groups and youth association offices. Despite the renaming, the tower retains the "Sears Roebuck" plaque on top of the building. The 14th floor of the tower is now used as a space for parties and other community events. A windowless portion of the building indicates the tower's former connection to the Sears Merchandise Building. The complex before demolition was situated along the former Baltimore and Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad line (now CSX).
Government and infrastructure
Historian Paul Street, citing a 2001 demographic study by Claritas Inc., writes that more than 70% of men aged 18–45 residing in North Lawndale had criminal records.
The area is in Chicago Public Schools.
- Jacob Arvey (1895–1977), politician and influential leader within the Cook County Democratic Party.
- Shelley Berman (1925–2017), comedian, actor, writer, teacher, lecturer and poet. He was a childhood resident of North Lawndale.
- Andre Braugher (born 1962), actor (Glory, Homicide: Life on the Street, Brooklyn Nine-Nine). He was born and raised in North Lawndale.
- Steelo Brim (born 1988), television personality, host, and actor
- Ertharin Cousin, 12th Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme. She was raised in North Lawndale.
- Danny K. Davis (born 1941), U.S. Representative, former executive director of the Greater Lawndale Conservation Commission
- Kevin Garnett, basketball player
- Elmer Gertz (1906–2000), lawyer and civil rights activist notable as the plaintiff in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc.. He was a childhood resident of North Lawndale.
- Benny Goodman, clarinetist nicknamed the "King of Swing," grew up at 1125 S. Francisco Avenue
- Ahuvah Gray, author, grew up in the neighborhood, she now lives in Israel.
- Andrea Jenkins (born 1961), first black openly transgender woman elected to public office in the United States upon her election to the Minneapolis City Council in 2017. Jenkins was a childhood resident of North Lawndale.
- Mickey Johnson, basketball player
- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968), civil rights leader, lived at 1550 S. Hamlin Ave. in 1966 while campaigning against housing discrimination in Chicago.
- Irv Kupcinet (1912–2003), newspaper columnist and radio personality. He was a childhood resident of North Lawndale.
- Meyer Levin (1905–1981), attorney. He was a childhood resident of North Lawndale.
- Michael Peña, actor (Crash, Million Dollar Baby, End of Watch, Fury, Ant-Man). Born and raised in North Lawndale.
- Benjamin F. Lewis (1909–1963), member of the Chicago City Council from Chicago's 24th ward from 1958 until he was murdered in his ward office in 1963. He was a resident of 3457 West 13th Place.
- Ramsey Lewis, jazz composer
- William Lorimer (1861–1934), Republican member of the United States Senate from 1909 until his expulsion in 1912. He resided in a mansion at 3659 West Douglas Boulevard.
- Abraham Lincoln Marovitz (1905–2001), Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois from 1963 to 1975. He was a resident of 1323 South Independence Boulevard while a member of the Illinois Senate in the 1930s and 1940s.
- Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel. She briefly lived at 1306 S. Lawndale Avenue in 1917 while working at the Lawndale Branch Library
- Kim Novak, actor, lived at 1910 S. Springfield Ave.
- Harold Ramis (1944–2014), actor, comedian, director and writer. Ramis was a childhood resident of North Lawndale living at 13th Street and Keeler Avenue and 14th Street and Kostner Avenue before his family moved to Rogers Park as part of the white flight of the era.
- Hyman G. Rickover, United States Navy Admiral known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy"
- Julius Rosenwald, co-founder and president of Sears, Roebuck & Co..
- Darryl Stingley, football player for the New England Patriots.
- Marques Sullivan, football player, grew up at 1818 S. Kedzie Avenue
- Ernie Terrell, (1939 – 2014) singer and former WBA heavyweight boxing champion, brother of Jean Terrell of The Supremes.
- Jean Terrell, singer who replaced Diana Ross as the lead singer of The Supremes in January 1970.
- Isiah Thomas, basketball player for the Detroit Pistons.
- Twista, rapper.
- Dinah Washington, "Queen of the Blues," lived at 1518 S. Trumbull Avenue.
- Although these long streets extend beyond the bounds of North Lawndale, and West Garfield Park, published sources identify the name K-Town as referring specifically to an area of North Lawndale, and West Garfield Park, i.e. the area through which these streets pass.
- "Community Data Snapshot - North Lawndale" (PDF). MetroPulse. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
- Steans Family Foundation, Chicago, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-05-11.
- Paral, Rob. "Chicago Community Areas Historical Data". Robparal.com. Archived from the original on 18 March 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- Jonathan Kozol (1991): Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools, Crown, ISBN 0-517-58221-X
- The Atlantic (2014-05-28), The Story of the Contract Buyers League (YouTube video), retrieved 2017-01-12
- John W. Fountain (2005): True Vine: A Young Black Man's Journey of Faith, Hope, and Clarity. Public Affairs, ISBN 1-58648-285-8; print[permanent dead link]
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-13. Retrieved 2007-10-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Held for hours at secret Chicago 'black site'". Retrieved 2020-01-04.
- "Post Office Location - OTIS GRANT COLLINS". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
- "Street, Vicious Circle, 16" (PDF). Prisonpolicy.org. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- Watkins, William Henry. Black Protest Thought and Education (Volume 237 of Counterpoints : studies in the postmodern theory of education, ISSN 1058-1634). Peter Lang, 2005. ISBN 0820463124, 9780820463124. p. 185 (Section "Farragut High School")
- Cutler, Irving (October 26, 2009). "Chapter 3 - People". Chicago's Jewish West Side. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
- Kilian, Michael (March 3, 1991). "Classic overachiever". Chicago Tribune. p. SM20. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
- Orr, David, ed. (February 1, 2012). "Resoultion 12-R-54 Congratulating Ertharin Cousin on her appointment to lead the "United Nations World Food Program"". Journal of the Proceedings of the Board of Commissioners of Cook County. Chicago: Cook County Board of Commissioners. p. 12.
- MORDECHAI S CHILLER. "GO WHERE I SEND THEE : A Former Minister Finds Torah" (PDF). Ou.org.s3.amazonaws.com. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- Zurowski, Cory (June 24, 2015). "Andrea Jenkins archives LGBTQ stories for the ages". City Pages. Archived from the original on May 29, 2016. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
- Bruch, Michelle (May 5, 2015). "Building an archive of transgender history". Southwest Journal. Archived from the original on June 18, 2016. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
- "North Lawndale". Encyclopedia. Chicago History. Archived from the original on January 9, 2013. Retrieved September 8, 2008.
Against the wishes of King and his aides, housing authorities fixed the place up a bit before the activist and his family moved in. King later noted that in the more confined space, his children became more irritable and less patient. He also bonded with local residents by demonstrating his facility with a pool cue in a nearby billiards parlor.
- Tagge, George (December 18, 1957). "Negro Slated for Alderman in 24th Ward: Democrats Pick City Aid, B. F. Lewis". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
- Illinois Blue Book 1939-1940. Illinois Secretary of State. p. 183. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
- "Golda Meir's Home in Chicago". Uncovered & Rediscovered | Stories of Jewish Chicago. Spertus Institute. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
- "Seven Things to Know About Kim Novak".
- "Harold Ramis' Chicago Childhood was Basis for Lost Sitcom". DNAinfo. January 24, 2014. Archived from the original on November 11, 2017. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- "The Man in Tempo 3". Time. 1954-01-11. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2009-03-06.
- Duncan, Francis (2001). Rickover: the struggle for excellence. Annapolis, Maryland: U.S. Naval Institute Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-55750-177-6.
- 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.