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Transportation Connections within an Urban Community

Adapted from People, Space, and Time: The Chicago Neighborhood History Project (1986)

Gerald A. Danzer and Lawrence W. McBride


The Englewood neighborhood in Chicago began in the 1850s as an area known as "The Junction." Its name referred to its location, where the Rock Island Rail Road and other national railroad companies built stations and repair shops. The earliest settlers were railroad workers who lived along Junction Avenue, now 63rd Street. Many early settlers were immigrants from Ireland. In 1868 land developers changed the area's name to Englewood.

The railroads provided convenient transportation for people living throughout the south side of the city. A major commercial strip soon developed along 63rd Street and along Halsted Street. Electrified elevated trains and streetcars also began to serve the community, bringing shoppers to Englewood's retail stores. Several groups of European immigrants, especially from Sweden and Germany, moved into the area, attracted by good jobs within easy commuting distance. By 1930 almost 90,000 people lived in Englewood. Between 1940 and 1980 the ethnic composition of the community changed. Black working-class people became the dominant group in the community. From 2% of the total population in 1940, blacks made up 10% in 1950, 69% in 1960, and over 98% in 1980. Some community institutions and businesses left the community, and the shopping district declined. The 1960s brought some urban renewal to Englewood. The shopping area at 63rd and Halsted was turned into a small shopping mall. The results have been mixed, but the excellent transportation facilities, including the Dan Ryan Expressway, promise a better future.


1. Read a newspaper article, analyze it, and relate it the major theme of the lesson.

2. Consider how urban transportation networks affected the course of community development in another community and in students' own community.

3. Analyze a primary source.

4. Interview members of the community to learn about the past.

Illinois Learning Standards

13.C. Describe and explain relationships among science, technology, and society in practical situations.

16.A. Apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation.

16.C. Understand the development of economic systems.


I. Introduction: Discuss with students how local transportation routes connect their neighborhood to other nearby places.


II. "Englewood Rising to Busy Trade Center," from Chicago Daily News, February 11, 1922. The article (Handout 1) describes a thriving commercial business district that was connected to the entire northern Illinois region.

A. Students Read and Discuss the Article

1. Paragraph I. Kankakee is a city south of Chicago, about fifty miles from Englewood.

2. Paragraph 2. "Interurban" was an electric train, like the present METRA system, that connected such cities as Kankakee with Chicago. Interurban means "between cities." The South Shore line is the last remaining interurban line in the area, connecting South Bend, Indiana, with Chicago. This Chicago interurban line was popularly known as the Kankakee Electric. Scores of Illinois cities were linked by an interurban rail network.

3. Paragraph 5. Englewood Business Men's Association was a community institution.

4. Paragraph 7. Chicago Surface Lines was the name of the streetcar company that controlled all the lines after 1913.

5. Paragraph 9. "Small park," Normal Park was near the Chicago Teachers College.

6. Paragraph 10. "Government took control" During World War I, the federal government briefly took control of all railroads, setting fares and schedules.

7. Paragraph 13. "Argo, Blue Island, Crete, and Steger" are suburbs and outlying towns. Argo is located at the western end of 63rd Street.

8. Paragraph 17. South Side Masonic Temple is another example of a community institution.

9. Paragraph 18. English Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer: note the "English" in the name, emphasizing that the worship services were not in German or Swedish. "Evangelical" indicated that the church wanted to reach out to others.

10. Paragraph 22. Advertising a community's virtues is called boosterism. A popular slogan among business people in the 1920s was, "Be a booster not a knocker."

B. Old Newspapers as Primary Sources of Information about Technology and Commerce. The newspaper is a historical document.

a. What is the role of a daily newspaper?

b. How do historians and other social scientists use old newspapers to help them understand the past?

c. What is the purpose of this article?

C. Technology Attracts More and Improved Technology

a. What technological innovations (besides transportation) are mentioned in the newspaper article?

b. What types of rail technology are mentioned in the article?

c. Why is the article on Englewood important for the rest of the city?

d. What evidence is there that transportation aided the development of Englewood before 1922 nd would continue to aid it after1922?

III. When Automobiles Replaced Street Cars, the Interurban, and Trains

A. Discuss this quote about the collapse of a small city's old shopping district: "A lack of parking in the old downtown and the attractiveness of new shopping malls lured away all but my most loyal customers."

B. Ask students to interview some of their community's long-established merchants to discover how the local economy changed when local transportation systems changed.

C. Ask students to interview older members of the community to learn what they remember about the interurban rail network.

D. Have students develop newspaper advertisements that would publicize the old shopping district and encourage people to come there. These advertisements could be set in 1918, 1948, 1998, etc.



63rd Street Englewood

The Chicago Daily News, Saturday, February 11, 1922



New Building Projects and Business Growth Rval Loop District.

By Harry M. Beardsley

(This article is the first of a series dealing with development of Chicago's various business, industrial and residence centers. Another article will appear on this page next Sturday.)

"So this is Chicago," said the woman from Kankakee, "Well, well!"

So she purchased a new hat at a chic millinery shop, shoes for the children, gloves at a department store, draperies at a furniture store, looked at blouses and coats, lunched at a spic and span cafeteria, went to a matinee, and took the interurban back home without getting more than a block away from the intersection of West 63d and South Halsted streets.

This is the story Englewood business men tell, and it summarizes Englewood's ambition to make the Englewood business district so attractive to shoppers that they will echo the phrase of the woman from Kankakee, and seek no further.

Moving Toward Greater Place.
Already one of the most important outlying business districts in the city, Englewood will assume even greater importance if building projects now under consideration are pushed to completion, her business men declare.

"Many establishments handicapped by lack of space are preparing to expand at the earliest opportunity," said William Tegtmeier, president of the Englewood Business Men's association.

"We are confident that the section is destined to even greater development than it as seen in the past. We believe that our location and unsurpassed transportation facilities make our future certain, if we continue to serve the public well."

The excellence of Englewood's transportation is shown by the schedule of the Chicago Surface lines, which reveals that 2,276 street cars, including 102 interurban cars, pass or "loop" the intersection of 63d and Halsted every twenty-four hours. There are 201 elevated trains in each direction during the same period, and 123 suburban trains each way on the Rock Island and the Chicago & Western Indiana railroads - a grand total of more than 2,000 cars and trains a day.

Car Fare Near Five Cents
Englewood is the one section of the city that approaches a five-cent fare. Her rate is five and one-half cents, and the manner in which it was obtained and retained is a romantic chapter in the early history of the community.

Back in 1879, the Chicago and Western Indiana railroad, having been refused right of way through a small park extending along Wallace street, between 67th and 69th streets, planned to seize the right of way through strategy. Residents of the neighborhood were awakened one night by the glare of torches, and the clang of sledges and found a track crew madly laying ties and rails across the park to complete the track before an injunction could be obtained.

Under the leadership of the late Prof. D.S.


Wentworth, then head of the Normal school, the citizens of Englewood rallied, rushed to the park, drove the track gang off, and stopped construction. Later when officials of the road obtained permission to cross the park, it was on condition that all passenger rains stop at Englewood, and that a five-cent fare to Chicago be maintained on commutation tickets.

This agreement remained in force until the government took control of the railroads, when the rate was raised from 5 cents for the ten ride ticket to 55 cents four to five and one-half cents a ride.

Recites Advantages for Buyers.
And what does Englewood have to offer shoppers who come from afar?

"We have one of the largest retail furniture centers outside of the loop," declares Harry Englestein, Englewood realty man. "A well developed clothing and shoe center, department stores and specialty shops of every nature. Practically every chain store system operating in the city is represented in the district, along with two of the principal restaurant chains. People come from Argo to do their shopping here and almost any merchant along the street can show you accounts on his books from Blue Island, Crete, Steger and Kankakee."

A survey of the district made by an Englewood civic organization shows that Englewood proper has a population of approximately 200,000 persons and that 200,000 more live in territory readily accessible through Englewood's transportation service. Within the district are two national and eight state banks with deposits of nearly $32,000,000. Four of the banks are within one block of the 63d and Halsted streets intersection.

An average of more than 2,000 pedestrians passes this corner an hour, a traffic survey shows, while nearly 1,000 an hour pass the intersection at 63d street and Wentworth avenue. Farther west at 63d street and Ashland avenue is another busy corner, for which steady development is predicted.

A modern hotel, a seven-story department store, a new bank building and several new homes for fraternal organizations are among the major projects scheduled for early materialization in the 63d and Halsted streets district, according to those in close touch with the situation.

Many Buildings Being Constructed.
A number of important buildings, however, are already in course of construction. Chief among these is the $425,000 South Side Masonic Temple, pictured above, which is expected to be ready for occupancy before January, 1923. The building fronts 125 feet on both Green street and West 64th street. It will be six stories high and of pressed brick construction with cut stone trim. The temple was designed by Architect Clarence Hatzfeld.

Bids on separate contracts for work on the $150,000 new church edifice to be erected by the English Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer on Harvard avenue, between 64th and 65th streets, have been opened by Architects Worthman and Steinbach.

The beautiful three-story pressed brick and terra cotta home of the Englewood Business college at 725-45 Englewood avenue, is nearing completion. The structure fronts ninety feet on Englewood avenue.

Four old frame buildings were razed to make way for the new two-story brick and terra cotta building being erected by K. Sidder at 6032-46 South Halsted street. The building represents an investment of approximately $250,000.

Three additional blocks on 63d street west of Halsted street, are to be equipped with ornamental cluster street lamps by the Englewood Business Men's association. The installation will cost $18,000 and will supplement the $75,000 lighting system already in operation throughout the district.

But this is not all the Englewood business men are going to do. They plan to raise and spend $100,000 for the purpose of telling the people of Englewood, and Argo, Crete, Blue Island and Kankakee: "This is Chicago. You need seek no further for what you want."


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