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Chicago's Community Areas and Neighborhoods

A guide to Chicago's neighborhoods and 77 officially designated community areas

ASK Chicago Collections

Overview

Chicago has grown and changed drastically since its founding and those changes are reflected in the community areas and neighborhoods that make up the city. The resources here are examples of some of the kinds of information available about the history of Chicago neighborhoods and communities and the ways they may have changed over time. This information oftentimes comes from local neighborhood historical societies or community associations, but it can also be useful to look at Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps or official city of Chicago records such as those from the Department of Urban Renewal included below to get an idea of how Chicago has changed over time.

Of special note are the records of the various settlement houses in Chicago. Settlement houses provided important services to members of the surrounding community including day care services, English classes, meeting spaces for various civic and trade organizations, and advocacy for policies to improve the lives of people living in the community. Because of this, settlement house records can provide a unique look at the development of the neighborhood they served and the people who lived there. The most prominent of these settlement houses was Hull House and information related to it can be found among many collections through Explore, with extensive materials held by the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition to Hull House, Chicago was home to numerous other settlement houses between the late-19th and mid-20th centuries, including the Chicago Commons whose records are included below.

 

Archival Sources

  • C. William Brubaker Collection, University of Illinois at Chicago
    Collection Summary: Charles William "Bill" Brubaker (1926-2002) was a member of the Chicago-based architectural firm of Perkins & Will from 1950 until his retirement in 1998. First joining that firm as an intern while a student at the University of Texas at Austin, he rose to become its President and Chairman (1968-1974). Known for his work in designing schools, Brubaker also authored many articles and books on the subjects of school design and urban planning, served on Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council, and lectured widely on topics related to design of the urban environment. This image collection is a digital version of Brubaker's personal slide collection, which he photographed himself in and around Chicago. The portion presented here illustrates aspects of the built environment of Chicago and the surrounding metropolitan area over a thirty-year time span from the early 1960s through the mid-1990s.

  • Chicago Commons Association Records, Chicago History Museum
    Collection Summary: Correspondence, minutes (1894-1960), annual and other reports, personnel records, records of clubs based at the settlement house, neighborhood census data and surveys compiled by the Chicago Commons, the second settlement house founded in Chicago, and by the Chicago Commons Association, which operated several additional settlement houses. Topics include employment, housing, education, and social conditions in the neighborhoods that the settlement houses served, primarily on the Near North Side; ethnic and racial neighborhood change and its problems, particularly among Polish, Italian, and African Americans; and various children's and adults' activities at the Commons, including education for naturalization and, during the 1940s and 50s, interracial camping. 

  • Bronzeville Expansion Collection, 1950-2017, University of Illinois at Chicago
    Collection Summary: Materials from a variety of sources and dates documenting the past and present of the African-American neighborhood of Bronzeville, historically known as the Black Metropolis, located on the South Side of Chicago

  • South Side Redevelopment Photographs, 1949-1959, Illinois Institute of Technology
    Collection Summary: Aerial photographs and photographs of plans and models concerning the post-World War II planned redevelopment of Chicago's South Side. See item listing for description of specific images. Also included are a small number of copies of photographs from other sources.

  • Englewood Historical Association Records, 1931-1953, Chicago Public Library
    Collection Summary: In 1931 a group of Englewood residents interested in the history of their neighborhood joined together with the staff of the Hiram Kelly Branch Library to form an organization, "to gather and preserve historical material of the Englewood district of Chicago ...," and "to extend its support for the betterment of the community."1 By 1941, the organization had incorporated and was known as the Englewood Historical Association, (EHA). The EHA actively collected manuscript materials, newspapers and photographs documenting their neighborhood's rich historical tradition. 

  • Chicago Department of Urban Renewal Records, Chicago Public Library
    Collection Summary: The records in this collection were created and collected by the Department of Urban Renewal, its predecessors and other Chicago city departments with duties related to planning and development. The majority of the collection is comprised of photographs, contact sheets, negatives and slides of Chicago neighborhoods considered and targeted for improvement, including images that show buildings and neighborhoods that were subsequently razed. There are also papers related to the administration of the Department's initiatives, publications related to planning and development, images of events related to various urban renewal and development projects and images of staff members of the Department of Urban Renewal, the Chicago Plan Commission and other related City entities.

  • Hyde Park-Kenwood Razed Buildings. Collection, Mid-19th century-2006, University of Chicago
    Collection Summary: This collection is the result of a circa 2006 study of buildings in the Hyde Park-Kenwood neighborhood in Chicago, most of which were demolished as part of the mid-20th century urban renewal movement. This collection contains copies of photographs and illustrations of the Hyde Park-Kenwood area, along with supporting material used to develop the collection and research the images. The images represent individual structures, street scenes, aerial views, and panoramas showing businesses and properties that were relocated, repurposed or vacated during the urban renewal period. Research files in the collection include descriptions and notes on the projects; lists and indexes of addresses, street names, properties and businesses; and photocopies of architectural records produced by the Department of Urban Renewal.

  • Metropolitan Planning Council records, 1934-2000, University of Illinois at Chicago
    Collection Summary: The Metropolitan Planning Council is an independent nonprofit Chicago area planning organization. According to its website, it is committed to developing a sustainable and prosperous Chicago region, and since its founding in 1934 it has played a critical role in city infrastructure planning, providing housing for low income individuals, sponsoring urban renewal, protecting the environment, and advocating health care for the poor. The Metropolitan Planning Council Records (ca. 1890-2000) is arranged into ten series: “Administrative,” “Housing,” “Planning and Urban Renewal,” “Transportation,” “Health Issues and Advocacy,” “Environment,” “Government,” “Audio/Visual,” “Publications,” and “Oversized.” It contains administrative records, planning documents, research studies, legal documents, legislative papers, promotional material, photographs, films, and scrapbooks that the Metropolitan Planning Council generated or collected.

Chicago Aerial Industries Inc.. Chicago, 1930's?, ca. 1930-1940. Newberry Library
https://explore.chicagocollections.org/image/newberry/128/fb4xs90/

 

Books and Other Published Sources

WorldCat allows you to search the holdings of libraries around the world. Check to see if these titles are at a library near you! If not, see if a local public library or a university with which you are affiliated allows you to do interlibrary loan.​

Online Sources