Robert Taylor Homes

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Robert Taylor Homes
2005 photograph of the last remaining Robert Taylor Homes (building 22).
Location Bordered by 39th and 54th Streets and Federal Street and State Street.
Chicago, Illinois
 United States
Coordinates 41°48′49.4″N 87°37′40.18″W / 41.813722°N 87.6278278°W / 41.813722; -87.6278278
Status Demolished
Constructed 1961–62
Demolished 1998–2007
Chicago Housing Authority

Robert Taylor Homes was a public housing project in Bronzeville on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, on State Street between Pershing Road (39th Street) and 54th Street alongside the Dan Ryan Expressway. It was named for Robert Taylor, an African-American activist and the first African American chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA).[1] It was a part of the State Street Corridor which included other CHA housing projects: Stateway Gardens, Harold Ickes Homes, Dearborn Homes and Hillard Homes.[2]


Robert Taylor Homes were completed in 1962 and named for Robert Rochon Taylor, an African American activist and Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) board member who in 1950 resigned when the city council refused to endorse potential building locations throughout the city of Chicago that would induce racially integrated housing.[3] At one time, it was the largest public housing development in the country, and it was intended to offer decent affordable housing. It was composed of 28 high-rise buildings with 16 stories each, with a total of 4,415 units, mostly arranged in U-shaped clusters of three, stretching for two miles (three kilometers).[4]


Robert Taylor Homes faced many of the same problems that doomed other high-rise housing projects in Chicago such as Cabrini–Green. These problems include narcotics, violence, and the perpetuation of poverty. Planned for 11,000 inhabitants, the Robert Taylor Homes housed up to a peak of 27,000 people.[5] Six of the poorest US census areas with populations above 2,500 were found there.

Including children who are not of working age, at one point 95 percent of the housing development's 27,000 residents were unemployed and listed public assistance as their only income source,[6] and 40 percent of the households were single-parent, female-headed households earning less than $5,000 per year. About 96 percent were African-American. The drab, concrete high-rises, many blackened with the scars of arson fire, sat in a narrow stretch of slum. The city's neglect was evident in littered streets, poorly enforced building codes, and scant commercial or civic amenities.

In the Robert Taylor homes a survey was conducted and showed that the majority of residents either had a family member in prison or expected one to return from prison within two years. This gives concern when residents are trying to relocate in which case they cannot. Many of these prisoners returning have a partner, child, and mental illnesses that prevent them from relocating to another residence.[7]

Gang violence and drugs[edit]

The Mickey Cobras (MC's) and Gangster Disciples (GD's) gangs dominated the housing project.[8] Police intelligence sources say that elevated number of homicides was the result of gang "turf wars", as gang members and drug dealers fought over control of given Chicago neighborhoods. The CHA, estimated that $45,000 in drug deals took place daily. Former residents of the Robert Taylor Homes have said that the drug dealers fought for control of the buildings. In one weekend, more than 300 separate shooting incidents were reported in the vicinity of the Robert Taylor Homes.[dubious ] Twenty-eight people were killed during the same weekend, with 26 of the 28 incidents believed to be gang-related.[dubious ]


In October 1976, 22-year-old Denise Dozier was thrown from a 15th floor apartment window at the complex by an unknown man when she entered her friend's apartment; she survived the incident.[9] On June 25, 1983, an infant, Vinyette Teague, was abducted from Robert Taylor Homes after her grandmother left her alone in the hallway for a few minutes to answer a phone call. An estimated 50 people were in the hallway at the time of the abduction, but police were unable to gather enough evidence to make any arrests. She has never been seen or heard from since.[10] On Thursday, August 15, 1991, shortly before midnight, Chicago Housing Authority Police Department officer Jimmie Haynes was fatally wounded by sniper fire from a high powered rifle at the housing project. He died two days later at Mercy Hospital.[11] Three suspects were charged with his murder, Ellean Nance, 20, Lorenzo Guye, 18 and a 13-year-old boy.[12] On February 11, 1993, a maintenance worker was beaten by gang members with a chain after allowing police officers access to a building in the project.


In 1993, it was decided to replace all Robert Taylor Homes with a mixed-income community in low-rise buildings as part of a federal block grant received for the purpose from the HOPE VI federal program.[13] In 1996, HOPE VI federal funds were granted specifically for off-site Taylor replacement housing. The Chicago Housing Authority moved out all residents by the end of 2005. On 8 March 2007, the last remaining building was demolished. As of 2007, a total of 2,300 low-rise residential homes and apartments, seven new and renovated community facilities, and a number of retail and commercial spaces are to be built in place of the old high-rise buildings. The development costs are expected to total an estimated $583 million. Part of the redevelopment is the renaming of the area to "Legends South". As of 2014 a three block stretch of land between 51st st & 54th street is being considered as a development site for XS Tennis Village.

Famous residents[edit]

The Robert Taylor Homes were also home at one time to such celebrities as Mr. T, Kirby Puckett, and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.


Because of the standardized housing and near homogeneous demographics, the RTH cluster was an ideal location for studying the effects of urban living and lack of "green space" on the human condition. This type of research in environmental psychology was most clearly demonstrated by a group of studies done by Frances Kuo and William Sullivan of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory (formerly the Human-Environment Research Laboratory) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The history and economy of this housing development was studied by Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh in his book American Project (ISBN 0-674-00830-8). Venkatesh also profiled the area, its residents and the Black Kings, a Chicago gang known for selling drugs, in his 2008 book "Gang Leader For A Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes To The Streets" (ISBN 978-1-59420-150-9). Although not about the Robert Taylor Homes, author Alex Kotlowitz wrote about the Chicago Housing Authority, the demographics and the history of the Chicago Housing projects in his book There Are No Children Here (ISBN 978-0-38526-556-0). The book discusses the Henry Horner Homes, but also looks at and discusses the issues within the entire area. The housing development was the subject of a PBS documentary called Crisis On Federal Street which aired nationally in August 1987.[14]


  1. ^ PRESERVATION CHICAGO Chicago’s Seven Most Threatened Buildings
  2. ^ "Changes to public housing spur State Street revival". Chicago Tribune. 
  3. ^ Bradford, Hunt D. (Spring 2001). "What went wrong with public housing in Chicago? A history of the Robert Taylor homes". Illinois State Historical Society. 
  4. ^ "All sizes - Robert Taylor Homes: 1961 - Flickr - Photo Sharing!". 
  5. ^ Robert Taylor Homes, Chicago Housing Authority
  6. ^ "Midst the Handguns' Red Glare - Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes, a public housing development"
  7. ^ The Robert Taylor Homes Relocation Study
  8. ^ "Living In A War Zone Called Taylor Homes". Chicago Tribune. 
  9. ^ Jet. 
  10. ^ The Charley Project: Vinyette Trudy Teague
  11. ^ "Our Fallen Heroes". Concerns of Police Survivors, Inc. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  12. ^ "2 Are Charged, 1 Sought In Slaying Of Cha Cop". Chicago Tribune. 
  13. ^ "Hope VI funds new urban neighborhoods". New Urban News. January–February 2002. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  14. ^ Chicago Tribune: Human Story At Robert Taylor Homes (September 07, 1987)

External links[edit]