The Story of Englewood
The Englewood community and its residents are often at the center of a city-wide conversation about how to support communities that have suffered from disinvestment. Englewood, according to Encyclopedia of Chicago, was once home to Irish and German immigrants. It is now officially two separate community areas: Englewood and West Englewood.
By the 1930s, nearly 90,000 lived in the community and enjoyed the second-largest shopping district in the city, buoyed by the proximity to the ‘L.’ At 63rd and Halsted streets, a large Sears department store, other large stores, and small businesses set up shop. The Great Depression hurt many of the small businesses, and when restrictive housing covenants were later lifted, an increasing number of African Americans moved into Englewood.
The story that followed is a familiar one for many South and West Side communities: white flight, redlining, and disinvestment led to a decline in property values. Crime, gun violence, poverty, and unemployment are still pressing issues in the community today.
But many people in the community are working to improve Englewood. Small businesses, jobs programs, and nonprofit outreach are infusing the neighborhood with more optimism. The Englewood Jazz Festival brings music to Hamilton Park every year. Churches such as Antioch Missionary Baptist Church have continued to serve as spiritual centers for the community and provide other services such as affordable housing. And Kennedy-King College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, opened a 40-acre campus at 63rd and Halsted streets in 2007. It’s home to the Washburne Culinary Institute and WKKC radio. A new Whole Foods opened in 2016, providing some relief for a community with food deserts — something nonprofit Growing Home is also working to solve with its urban farm (read more below).
The Red Line runs through Englewood, stopping at 63rd Street. The Green Line also branches off in Englewood, stopping at Halsted and terminating at Ashland/63rd.
Neighborhood Spotlight: Growing Home
Since 2002, Growing Home in Englewood has provided farm-based job training to Chicagoans. The nonprofit focuses on helping those with employment barriers, such as criminal records, medical needs, or housing.
Growing Home emphasizes Englewood’s lack of fresh food choices in its mission. Nearly 30 percent of the food it sells or donates stays in Englewood. According to its 2018 numbers, 86 percent of the graduates of its job training program found jobs in other urban farms, retailers, and restaurants.
Growing Home also partners with other organizations to provide legal aid and support services to those in the job training program who are facing issues with housing, child custody, health care, and other needs.
Watch the WTTW News story on Growing Home.
Things to Do
Visit the Englewood Jazz Festival each September, or hop the ‘L’ and take it to the Ashland/63rd stop to see the mid-century modern station design, including a soaring decorative spire complete with 1960s-era CTA “meatball” logo.