The Story of Chatham and Greater Grand Crossing
Chatham and Greater Grand Crossing are two South Side community areas that are linked by a busy African American business district, spanning from 75th Street in Greater Grand Crossing to 79th Street in Chatham.
According to local business initiative Chatham Center Chicago, Chatham’s swampy land was settled by Irish, Italian, Swedish, and Hungarian immigrants in the mid-19th century and was known as “Mud Lake” or “Hogs Swamp.” By the 20th century, Chatham and its bungalows were home to middle-class African American families. Similarly, Greater Grand Crossing, also saw more African Americans moving into the community in the 1950s, according to Encyclopedia of Chicago. Like other South and West side neighborhoods, Chatham and Greater Grand Crossing experienced white flight and disinvestment in the latter half of the last century.
Today, data from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning shows that both Chatham and Greater Grand Crossing are still predominantly African American. Despite disinvestment in these communities, many African American-owned shops and restaurants are still thriving, especially in the business district from 75th and 79th streets dubbed “The Blacknificent Mile.”
The Red Line makes stops in Greater Grand Crossing and Chatham at 69th, 79th, and 87th streets.
Watch: Original Soul Vegetarian
Neighborhood Spotlight: Original Soul Vegetarian
Brother and sister Arel Israel and Lori Seay now run Original Soul Vegetarian, which was founded by their parents in 1982. The restaurant features a vegan twist on classic soul food such as ribs – and they even have vegan Italian “beef.”
Watch the video to learn about their story.
Things to Do
A Chicago favorite, Garrett’s Popcorn, is located in Chatham at 737 E. 87th Street. If you’re in need of some quiet time, the newly designed Whitney Young, Jr. Library is an excellent option to settle in with a good book.