Researching specific Chicago neighborhoods can be more difficult than researching community areas. This is due in part to the fact that the city of Chicago does not officially designate the names or boundaries of neighborhoods. As such, different sources, or even different people within the same source, might refer to a neighborhood or its boundaries differently. To further complicate research, neighborhoods oftentimes share their name with a community area even though they may be one of multiple neighborhoods within that community area. However, because Chicagoans oftentimes describe where they live by the neighborhood name rather than the community area name, it may be easier to find a first-hand account of growing up in the Pilsen neighborhood, for example, than it would to find an account of growing up in the Lower West Side which is the community area in which Pilsen is located.
Information for specific neighborhoods tends to come from a variety of resources. A good example are the Chicago Public Library neighborhood level community collections which exist for some, though not all, neighborhoods. These collections can vary in size, scope, and material (one might offer local club newsletters while another might contain oral histories), but typically provide the kind of neighborhood focus that researchers may find useful. Other helpful resources, when available, are the records of local organizations, community groups, or even legal records.
Collections exemplifying some of the various types of neighborhood specific resources are listed here, but this list is not comprehensive.
Back of the Yards community collection, 1937-1983, Chicago Public Library
Collection summary: This collection consists of microfilm reels of the Back of the Yards Journal, running from January 7, 1937 to December 29, 1983 with some significant gaps, as well as one box of supplementary materials. Also included is a microfilm reel of scrapbooks kept by the Back of the Yards Council from between July 1939 and February 1967. Included is a copy of the 25th Annual Report of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, dated May 1964.
Southport Neighbors Association Records, 1992-2003, University of Illinois at Chicago
Collection Summary: The Southport Neighbors Association (SNA) represents the residents and businesses in the Southport neighborhood of Chicago located in the heart of Lakeview. This collection contains minutes, newsletters, correspondence, and photographs documenting the activities of the Southport Neighbors Association.
Forty Blocks: The East Garfield Park Oral History Project papers, Chicago History Museum
Collection summary: In 2016 Breakthrough Urban Ministries, a community-based organization that provides social services on Chicago's West Side, and the Studs Terkel Center for Oral History collaborated on this oral history project. The oral history center worked with Breakthrough's Film Crew, a group of nine young people from East Garfield Park and other West Side communities, to conduct these interviews. Breakthrough and the East Garfield Park Youth Collaborative recruited most of the narrators. All narrators had strong connections to the West Side, mainly East Garfield Park and North Lawndale. A transcription company, interns, and a volunteer created the transcriptions comprising this collection, known as Forty Blocks: The East Garfield Park Oral History Project. Archive includes project documents and 27 oral history transcripts from Forty Blocks: The East Garfield Park Oral History Project.
The Bethlehem Howell Neighborhood Center collection, 1894-1965, University of Illinois at Chicago
Collection summary: Bethlehem Center and Howell House were church-related neighborhood houses serving the Pilsen area on the Near West Side. They provided religious, social services, and personal welfare assistance to an immigrant community composed predominantly of Bohemians, Poles, and Czechs. The two centers cooperated throughout their history, merging in 1961 as the Neighborhood Service Organization. The Neighborhood Service Organization, popularly known as Casa Aztlan, continues to serve the Pilsen area.
University Village Association records, Bulk, 1961-1978, University of Illinois at Chicago
Collection summary: The University Village Association (UVA) is a not-for-profit organization which aims to improve local stability in the University Village area. Located near the UIC campus, UVA assists local economic and residential development. These records include architecture maps, a Hi8 tape recording, newspaper clippings, photographs, redevelopment reports, and utilities maps.
Brubaker, C. William, Bromann Playground, Andersonville, 1981, University of Illinois at Chicago,
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