Englewood, Illinois

Chicago’s municipal boundaries in 1853 were very modest. To the north, the boundary was Fullerton Avenue extending from Lake Michigan to Western Avenue, with North Avenue defining the northern-most boundary from Western Avenue to Crawford Avenue (now Pulaski). The southern boundary was designated at Egan Avenue (39th Street). These boundaries, generally, were in effect from until June 29, 1889 when the City of Chicago incorporated the townships of Lake, Hyde Park, Jefferson and Cicero.

The Rock Island Railroad was built at the end of 1852. Coming from the west, it intersected the newly laid Michigan Southern Railroad at the junction that is now 63rd and La Salle Streets. There was a large grove of oak trees in this vicinity, and the name applied to the district was Junction Grove. Two years later the Chicago, Pittsburgh & Fort Wayne Railroad was built and the Junction became more of a railroad center. This was soon followed by the Wabash & St. Louis, then the Louisville, New Albany & Chicago, then the Chicago & Atlantic and the Nickel Plate. Houses sprang up in the neighboring locality in groups rather than with any definite vision of a future city. Previous to to the coming of the railroads, the “Grove” was a stopping station on the old stage road from the east, which came by way of Michigan City, City West and Bailey Town. The last two being in the sand dunes of Indiana. The last change of horses before reaching Chicago was where 63rd Street now crosses Indiana Avenue, following Vicennnes Road to 37th Street, then Cottage Grove Avenue, into Chicago via State Street. This was the old Indian trail from Chicago to Fort Wayne and probably the first road of importance built south and west to the village of Chicago.

In 1868, Mrs. H. B. Lewis suggested to change the name from The Junction to Englewood. Having recently visited England, Mrs. Lewis learned about the home of the ancient outlaws, Adam Bell and William Cloudsley being in a forest near Carlisle, England called Englewood. At that time the district was literally a forest of luxuriant oak trees.

It was in the ’80’s that the most noted progress was made in the building of homes in Englewood, Illinois. Many additions and sub-divisitions were platted and laid out between 55th Street and 71st Street, from Wallace Street east almost to South Park Avenue. Beautiful maple trees were planted along the street line and in a few years the district of Englewood became especially noted for its clean, beautiful streets and shaded drives.


John S. Gregory and Rebecca Hunter married on December 30th in 1874, and moved to the Englewood suburb immediately in 1875 and resided at 5918 Arnold (renamed South LaSalle when incorporated) from about 1878 till Rebecca’s death in 1929. Their daughter, Evangeline, continued to reside there till several years afterwards. The Gregory’s were one of the first parishoners of the new St. Anne’s Catholic Church (pictured) when it opened during a violent Sunday storm during the summer of 1875. The church, whose name was changed to St. Charles Lwanga Church, was torn down in May 1994, at the cost of $38,000; only $2,000 less it cost to build it.

The Aug. 16, 1875, Tribune described the plans for St. Anne Church’s exterior: “It will be rather unostentatious in its style of architecture, but very sufficiently ornamented to relieve it from austere plainness. The church, the cornerstone of which had just been laid, was in the midst of a broad prairie, and it seemed wonderful that there were enough Catholics to fill it,” the paper paraphrased Rev. Thomas Leydon as saying at the ceremony.
St Anne
The West Side was intensively built-up, but did not extend beyond Austin Boulevard, although there were suburban clusters farther west. To the southwest, however, the urbanized area spread much more rapidly, extending all the way to 67th Street in Englewood. The junction of three railroad routes at 63rd Street formed the original inducement for settlement, for each provided quick and easy access to downtown Chicago. No single avenue developed as the main street axis, but a series of surface car lines served the section and permitted the rapid filling up. Irish, German, and older residents, all moving from the inner city, gave a cosmopolitan and middle-class flavor to the new area.

The South Side was the area of greatest expansion, its built-up area stretching to 79th Street, with irregular development reaching almost to the municipal boundaries in 1893. Its excellent transportation – the Illinois Central Railroad and the extensive cable and electric street service on Cottage Grove Avenue – permitted extraordinary growth. In addition, the establishment of the University of Chicago in 1892 and the Columbian Exposition the next year, together with the city’s first elevated railway, substantially accelerated this development. The period between the Fire and the Fair was the South Side’s golden age.

In 1889, the city limits expanded south to 138th and State Street and to the west 87th and Cicero by incorporating the Town of Lake and the Village of Hyde Park. The same year, the City of Lake View and the Town of Jefferson were added, thus extending the northern city limits to Devon Avenue and the western boundary to as far as Harlem Avenue. With these additions, Chicago’s population doubled to over a million residents in a ten year period. Only New York had more people.

In November, 1890, an international committee chose Jackson Park as the site of the 1893 World’s Fair. Not wishing to miss out on the potential ridership from this area which they intended to ultimately serve anyway, the South Side Rapid Transit Company (SSRT) begins making plans to extend the elevated line from 39th Street to Jackson Park.

The preeminence of the South Side began to diminish after the Fair. The supremacy of that area had stemmed largely from the excellence of its transit facilities. But the completion of elevated transit lines into other sections of the city, coupled with the electrification and expansion of street railways, substantially reduced this advantage in the decades after 1893. The North and West sides now enjoyed the stimulus of good connections with downtown, and both witnessed spectacular growth.

At first, horsecar lines connected Englewood to downtown (1887), followed by electric trolleys (1896) and the Elevated line (1907). By 1922, 2,900 street railways, Elevated, and suburban trains serviced Englewood daily.

The construction of apartment buildings in the 1910s and 1920s created problems of density and economic segregation. By 1920 the population soared to 86,619 and Englewood’s shopping district at Halsted and 63rd was the second busiest in the city. In 1929, Sears developed a $1.5 million store here. The Great Depression years did not affect the operation of the larger stores, but many smaller ones suffered and several banks in Englewood closed.

If you want a more detailed history on Englewood, be sure to visit Maureen Spoke’s modesty titled site, A Short History of Englewood

Although currently suffering from urban blight, Englewood was once a community of railroads and beautiful homes. We learn about its history as well as ongoing revitalization projects in the neighborhood. Here is an interview of an Englewood historian.