Austin, Chicago

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Community area
Community Area 25 – Austin
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
Country United States
State Illinois
County Cook
City Chicago
 • Total 7.16 sq mi (18.54 km2)
Population (2014)
 • Total 99,711
 • Density 14,000/sq mi (5,400/km2)
Demographics (2014)
 • White 4.2%
 • Black 84.2%
 • Hispanic 10.3%
 • Asian 0.5%
 • Other 0.8%
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP Codes 60644 (entire)
60639, 60651, 60707 (partial)
Median household income $31,435

Austin, is one of seventy-seven officially designated community areas in Chicago. It the currently the largest community area both geographically and by population. 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.[1]


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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4][2]

Neighborhood growth[edit]

After its annexation, Austin continued to maintain an independent, suburban identity.[2] 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. [5] In 1926, it was estimated the area had approximately 140,000 residents.[2] 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.[1]

In 1949, construction began on the Eisenhower Expressway which bisected the southern portion of Austin.[2]

White flight and decline[edit]

After World War II, African-Americans increasingly moved into the surrounding community areas of East Garfield Park, North Lawndale, West Garfield Park.[2] Despite white flight in the surrounding neighborhoods, in 1960, the Austin community was near exclusively white.

In the mid-1960s, African-Americans began moving into Austin proper. This created animosity amongst the white residents who opposed integrated schools.[2] 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.[6]

The latter half of the twentieth century also saw significant divestment from the community. The Central station on the Chicago Transportation Agency’s Congress Line was closed on September 2, 1973.[7] 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.[1]

Twenty first century[edit]

In 1999, developers agreed to turn the abandoned Galewood rail yard into an industrial park.[8] During the development of the proprety, 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,[9] and ended with the conviction of the developer and Carothers on various felony charges.[10] The $60 million dollar development ultimately brought new homes and a movie theater to the neighborhood.[11]


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

Austin is Chicago's 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.[12]


Galewood is named for Abram Gale who bought a farm on the area in 1838.[1] The neighborhood is bordered by the Milwaukee District / West Line to the north, Harlem Avenue to the west, North Avenue to the south and Central Avenue to the east. The area is a historically Italian-American community with a sizable population of Chicago city employees.[13] 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.[14]

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 and Shriners Hospitals for Children, the latter of which is located in Belmont Cragin. The Mars station only stops during traditional commuting hours. The second, Galewood station is located west of Mars station and is a regular service station.

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.[15][16]

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.[17] 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 Harlem Avenue.[12]

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.[6] Today, the Island is an integrated community.[17]

The area, once industrial, has a diverse economy. Chicago Studio City, the largest film studio in the Midwestern United States, is located here.[17] 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.[18]

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 Boulervard south of North Avenue, Eastern boundaries to Cicero Avenue, and Southern boundaries to Division Street.[12] The Robert LeFlore, Jr. Post Office at 5001 West Division Street is in this neighborhood. [19]

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.[6] 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, 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.

The United States Postal Service operates the Reverend Milton R. Brunson Station Post Office at 324 South Laramie Avenue.[20] South Austin has five Chicago "L" stops; Austin, Central, Laramie and Cicero and Lake on the Green Line and Cicero and Lexington on the Blue Line.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1930 131,114
1940 132,107 0.8%
1950 132,180 0.1%
1960 125,133 −5.3%
1970 128,084 2.4%
1980 138,026 7.8%
1990 114,079 −17.3%
2000 117,527 3.0%
2010 98,514 −16.2%
Est. 2014 99,711 1.2%

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.[22]

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.[22]

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.[22]

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%.[22]


In 2015, the Chicago Police Department recorded 50 homicides in the Austin neighborhood, making the area the highest in homicide-related incidents in Chicago. By 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.[23]

The Austin neighborhood is notorious for gang violence, primarily caused by the Black P. Stones, Gangster Disciples, Four Corner Hustlers, Mickey Cobras, and Vice Lords.


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

Austin Community Academy High School[24] closed after spring 2007.[25] 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.[26]

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 Cook Journal,[27] founded in 2004, is published by West Suburban Journal, a black-owned press published by Trottie Publishing, based in the West Cook County suburb of Westchester. The founder and publisher of West Suburban Journal and West Cook Journal, L. Nicole Trottie, is the first black woman in Illinois history to start an accredited weekly newspaper. Trottie is also the first African American woman ever elected to the Illinois Press Association's Board of Directors in its 150-year newspaper-rich history. The Austin Voice[28] has been published in Austin since 1988. The Austin Weekly News,[29] 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,[30] an online publication maintained by journalism students at Chicago's Columbia College and underwritten in part by the Chicago Community Trust.

Notable residents[edit]


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Martin, Judith A. (2005). "Austin". In Reiff, Janice L.; Durkin Keating, Ann; Grossman, James R. Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved March 13, 2017. 
  4. ^ Cain, Louis P. (2005). "Annexation". In Reiff, Janice L.; Durkin Keating, Ann; Grossman, James R. Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved March 13, 2017. 
  5. ^ Martin, Judith A. (2005). "Austin". In Reiff, Janice L.; Durkin Keating, Ann; Grossman, James R. Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved March 13, 2017. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Buck, Thomas (September 2, 1973). "CTA Shutting Down 7 Rapid Transit Stations Today". Chicago Tribune. p. 5. 
  8. ^ Tribune Staff (July 17, 1999). "Northwest Side Industrial Park Planned". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. 
  9. ^ Lighty, Todd; Mihalopoulos, Dan (September 23, 2009). "Six aldermen subpoenaed for developer's fraud trial". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ Mihalopoulos, Dan (October 31, 2008). "Aide: Daley blank on letter". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. 
  12. ^ a b c "City of Chicago Neighborhoods (1978)" (PDF). 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Dold, R. Bruce (September 18, 1989). "These Northwest Siders give integration a boost". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 13, 2017. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Felton, Robert (July 17, 2015). "Residents still pining for new Galewood-Montclare library building". Austin Weekly News. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 20, 2017. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Post Office Location – ROBERT LEFLORE JR.". United States Postal Service. Retrieved April 17, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Post Office Location – REV.MILTON R.BRUNSON STATION". United States Postal Service. Retrieved April 17, 2009. 
  21. ^ Paral, Rob. "Chicago Community Areas Historical Data". Archived from the original on March 18, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2012. 
  22. ^ a b c d "Community Demographic Snapshot: Austin" (PDF). Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. June 2016. Retrieved March 14, 2017. 
  23. ^ "Austin -- Crime in Chicagoland --". Retrieved December 24, 2016. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ austincommunityacademy.shtml
  26. ^ "New high school to focus on high-tech manufacturing". May 31, 2007. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  27. ^ West Suburban Journal
  28. ^ "The Voice Newspapers, Serving Chicago's West Side". Retrieved December 23, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Austin Weekly News". Retrieved December 23, 2016. 
  30. ^ "AustinTalks - News and information covering Chicago's Austin neighborhood on the West Side". Retrieved December 23, 2016. 
  31. ^ 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. 
  32. ^ "Former Austin Alderman Isaac Carothers enters Cook County Board race". Austin Weekly News. Chicago, Illinois. October 8, 2013. Retrieved March 13, 2017. 
  33. ^ Gray Brosious, Emily (March 15, 2016). "Bill Clinton stumps for Hillary Clinton in Chicago on Illinois primary day". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 13, 2017. 
  34. ^ Roemer, Jr., William F., The Enforcer (1994), p.90
  35. ^ Roemer, Jr., William F., Accardo: The Genuine Godfather (1995), p.271
  36. ^ Wang, Richard A. (2005). "Austin High Gang". In Reiff, Janice L.; Durkin Keating, Ann; Grossman, James R. Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved March 14, 2017. 
  37. ^ a b "Fundraiser to benefit Austin school". Austin Talks. Chicago, Illinois. November 12, 2011. Retrieved March 14, 2017. 
  38. ^ McClelland, Edward (July 26, 2012). "Better Know A Ward: Emma Mitts's 37th". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 14, 2017. 
  39. ^ Warren, James (February 11, 2013). "Can't Pat Quinn Get Any Respect?". Chicago Magazine. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved March 14, 2017. 
  40. ^ Mihalopoulos, Dan (October 6, 2009). "Daley names Banks aide new alderman". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 14, 2017. 
  41. ^ Rice served as Alderman in the same Galewood ward as Banks. He would need to be a resident to do that.
  42. ^ Rock, Phil; Wojcicki, Ed. Nobody Calls Just to Say Hello. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University. p. xvii. ISBN 0809330725. 

External links[edit]