Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Bloody" Maxwell

From the mid-1850s through the 1930s, the area bordered by Harrison St., Wood St., 16th St., and the Chicago River, was the toughest neighborhood in town, and the nation's foremost foundry for criminals. Termed "Bloody Maxwell" by the Chicago Tribune in 1906 for its violence, the district was populated first by Irish immigrants, then by Germans, Russians, Greeks, Poles, Jews, and many other ethnic groups, making it Chicago's version of the "melting pot."

The Tribune wrote, "Reveling in the freedom which comes from inadequate police control, inspired by the traditions of criminals that have gone before in the district, living in many instances more like beasts than like human beings, hundreds and thousands of boys and men follow day after day and year after year in the bloody ways of crime."

The "inadequate" police operated out of the famous 22nd precinct station nearby.

In the 20th century, the area became populated primarily by Jews, then by African-Americans relocating from the South. Over the last ten years, this "terror district" has come to be populated primarily by students at the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago. New construction is prominent (while taking these photos, a real estate agent asked whether I was looking for a condo and handed me a brochure on a nearby development).

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