Back of the Yards

From Encyclopedia of Chicago:

“Situated in a heavily industrialized location, populated by successive generations of immigrant people, and animated by some of the most dramatic social conflicts of modern times, Back of the Yards focused the attention of novelists, activists, and social scientists alike for most of the twentieth century. Located in the community area of New City, the neighborhood extends from 39th to 55th Streets between Halsted and the railroad tracks along Leavitt Street, just south and west of the former Union Stock Yard and adjacent packing plants, a giant sprawl that was until the 1950s the largest livestock yards and meatpacking center in the country.”

“Part of the town of Lake until annexation by Chicago in 1889, Back of the Yards was settled by skilled Irish and German butchers, joined in the 1870s and 1880s by Czechs. Here in 1889, developer Samuel Gross built one of his earliest subdivisions of cheap workingmen’s cottages. By the turn of the century the area was transformed into a series of Slavic enclaves dominated by Poles, Lithuanians, Slovaks, and Czechs, with most communities organized around ethnic parishes serving as social and cultural as well as spiritual focal points for residents’ lives. Small numbers of Mexican immigrants entered Back of the Yards and neighboring Bridgeport as early as World War I and the 1920s, but the community retained its Slavic character until the 1970s, when it gradually became a largely Mexican American community with a minority of African Americans.”

The Back of the Yards/ New City community continues to be a vibrant working class community, although it struggles with issues of poverty, violence, gangs, and drugs.