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Relocation Guide Main Page - The Loop/S Loop/Pilsen Area Guide
The Neighborhood Of Chatham
Chatham looks like a sleepy enclave of comfort and ease. However settling, stabilizing and maintaining this south side neighborhood has been far from easy. For nearly fifty years, it has been a battle that Chatham’s residents have waged unceasingly, under threat of crime, poverty, discrimination, gangs, official neglect, and a myriad other forces that undermine urban communities.

Chatham is a neighborhood that won't take no for an answer. It's a neighborhood that stands up for itself, a pugnacious community always ready to flex its muscles, always demanding to be given its due. With the original black settlers now in their 70s and 80s, Chatham is at a turning point. New families are starting to move in, and community leaders are working overtime to indoctrinate them into the spirit of Chatham, a spirit that mixes self-sacrifice with self-interest.

Among the communities that make up the Black Bungalow Belt and cover an area of more than 20 square miles, Chatham stands out.

The neighborhood is centered in the area bordered by 75th Street, Cottage Grove Avenue, 87th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway, but the name Chatham is often attached to nearby areas as well. It's an affluent community, although not the most affluent. It's tidy, but no more tidy than other middle-class black neighborhoods.

What sets Chatham apart is its location along the northernmost edge of the Black Bungalow Belt. Here, it acts as a bulwark – for itself and for all of the communities to the south – against the forces of deterioration, disinvestments, and discrimination that destroyed many of the neighborhoods to the north.

The 1950s were a time of trial for neighborhoods throughout Chicago. Restrictive covenants in property deeds, used for decades to keep blacks out of white areas, were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948. This opened the floodgates for waves of African-American families, many of them middle class, to escape overcrowded ghettos.

Meanwhile, in that post-World War II era, many young white families were taking the new superhighways to new homes in new suburbs, leaving the city far behind. What this meant was that suddenly the number of potential white home-buyers for even the finest of homes in Chicago was sharply reduced, creating a vacuum into which stepped those African-Americans looking for better housing.

Given the high degree of segregation in Chicago then, a certain amount of tension, friction, and even violence was unavoidable. But the already volatile situation was exacerbated by panic-peddlers who stirred up racial animosities to make a quick buck. The result was that many neighborhoods changed from all-white to all-black in only a couple of years. Those new African-American communities, no matter their character, were quickly redlined by financial institutions and insurance companies – essentially designated as dead zones where no loans would be granted or policies written. City services, such as garbage pickup and snow removal, were cut. Stores closed, and, eventually, as new opportunities opened up, the original black middle-class settlers moved away to formerly white areas or even to the suburbs, leaving behind large numbers of the poor and near-poor.

It was a formula for disaster, and it turned virtually the entire West Side and much of the South Side into huge slums. In neighborhood after neighborhood, it brought ruination - but not in Chatham.

In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, the neighborhood was one of the few places in the metropolitan region where middle-class blacks, moving from the slums farther north, could settle. So doctors, lawyers, schoolteachers – many schoolteachers – put down roots in the community, giving Chatham a high degree of worldliness, saviness and knowledge of how to get things done for their community. For these new residents, moving to Chatham was like moving to the suburbs. In fact, it was called black suburbia. The neighborhood was dominated by single-family homes. There was no high-rise public housing, and few apartment buildings of any sort.

Some of the old problems have eased. Redlining, for example, is now illegal, and financial institutions are working overtime, under federal pressure, to make up for lost time.

But crime, schools and the community's business strips are worries. The crime rate, for example, is nowhere near as high as in the low-income neighborhoods to the north, but it's higher than in some other middle-class communities because of Chatham's proximity to poorer areas. Most Chatham houses are equipped with decorative steel entrance doors and bars on basement windows.

The schools, once a selling point, aren't bad as far as Chicago schools go. McDade Classic, a magnet school, is one of the best in the city, and four of the five other elementary schools rank in the top 20 percent. But only McDade consistently scores above statewide averages.

Much new commercial development has taken place along the western edge of the Dan Ryan, bringing such stores as Home Depot and new movie theaters into the community. But it's the business strips along 79th Street, 87th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue that cause concern. On the plus side, they're livelier than the commercial streets in many Chicago neighborhoods. Empty storefronts and vacant lots are relatively few, and the community is blessed with a wide range of restaurants. Yet, the facades of many stores have a worn-out look, and there are many sorts of stores – dress shops, men's stores, bath shops, office supply stores – that Chatham people would like to see represented.
Important Information For Chatham:
Residential Parking Permits - Vehicle Stickers

Featured Businesses Serving Chatham
Law Offices of Roy Kessel
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Chicago Health Insurance
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Bannockburn, IL 60015

GCG Financial is a comprehensive financial services firm committed to helping our clients improve their long-term financial success. We offer a wide range of quality financial products and the advice and expertise of some of the best financial professionals in the industry.

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Utilities Serving Chatham
Local Phone CompaniesAmeritech
30 South Wacker, 34th Floor
Chicago, IL 60606
Electric CompaniesComEd
P.O. Box 805379
Chicago, IL 60680-5379
Gas CompaniesNicor Gas
P.O. Box 190
Aurora, IL 60507-0190
Schools Serving Chatham
Elementary Schools
Auburn Park School8025 S Normal Ave(773) 535-3498
Avalon Park Branch School8045 S Kenwood Ave(773) 535-6615
Ball Chatham Community Union 5201 W Mulberry St217-483-2416
Ball Elementary School1015 New City Rd217-483-2414
Barton Elementary School7650 S Wolcott Ave(773) 535-3260
Burnside School650 E 91st Pl(773) 535-3300
Charles Ezzard School7946 S Ashland Ave(773) 487-0227
Chatham Elementary School525 S College St217-483-2411
Cook Elementary School8150 S Bishop St(773) 535-3315
Cuffe Elementary School1540 W 84th St(773) 535-2660
Deneen Elementary School7240 S Wabash Ave(773) 535-3035
Dixon Elementary School8306 S Saint Lawrence Ave(773) 535-3831
Fort Dearborn Elementary Schl9025 S Throop St(773) 535-2680
Foster Park Elementary School8530 S Wood St(773) 535-2725
Gillespie Elementary School9301 S State St(773) 535-5065
Greater Emmanuel Community618 E 72nd St(773) 994-5373
Harold Washington School9130 S University Ave(773) 535-6225
Harvard Elementary School7525 S Harvard Ave(773) 535-3045
James E Mc Dade School8801 S Indiana Ave # 4750(773) 535-3669
James Madison School7433 S Dorchester Ave # 4570(773) 535-0551
Joplin Elementary School7931 S Honore St(773) 535-3425
Kellogg Elementary School9241 S Leavitt St(773) 535-2590
Kipling Elementary School9351 S Lowe Ave(773) 535-3151
Mary E Mc Dowell School1419 E 89th St(773) 535-6404
Neil Elementary School8555 S Michigan Ave(773) 535-3000
Paul Revere School1010 E 72nd St(773) 535-0618
Pirie Elementary School650 E 85th St(773) 535-3435
Ruggles Elementary School7831 S Prairie Ave(773) 535-3085
Tanner Elementary School7350 S Evans Ave # 6970(773) 535-3869
Middle Schools
Arthur R Ashe Jr School8505 S Ingleside Ave(773) 535-3550
Avalon Park Branch School8045 S Kenwood Ave(773) 535-6615
Burnside School650 E 91st Pl(773) 535-3300
Glenwood Junior High School595 Chatham Rd217-483-2481
Harold Washington School9130 S University Ave(773) 535-6225
James E Mc Dade School8801 S Indiana Ave # 4750(773) 535-3669
James Madison School7433 S Dorchester Ave # 4570(773) 535-0551
Mahalia Jackson Elem School917 W 88th St(773) 535-3341
Morgan Elementary School8407 S Kerfoot Ave(773) 535-3366
Oglesby Elementary School7646 S Green St(773) 535-3060
Paul Revere School1010 E 72nd St(773) 535-0618
Walter Q Gresham Elementary8524 S Green St(773) 535-3350
Wescott Elementary School409 W 80th St(773) 535-3090
High Schools
Calumet High School8131 S May St(773) 535-3500
Glenwood High School595 Chatham Rd217-483-2424
Hirsch High School7740 S Ingleside Ave(773) 535-3100
Leo High School901 W 79th St(773) 483-2232

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