The culturally and historically rich neighborhood is on Chicago’s west side less than three miles from the city’s Downtown hub. Through most of the 19th century and well into the 20th, it was known for the strong ethnic character of its European immigrants, wide boulevards, long tree lined blocks, stately greystone homes, manufacturing plants and many other thriving businesses in the area.
By the mid-1950’s the neighborhood began to experience economic and population declines. Some of the causes were: racially motivated redlining and contract buying to drive black residents away, white flight, riots and burnings of neighborhood property after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an influx of highly addictive drugs into the neighborhood as was the case for cities across America, the loss of nearby businesses, factories, jobs and the middle class among other factors. As a result, crime, incarceration, joblessness and blight ravaged the neighborhood for years.
By contrast, today North Lawndale is experiencing a reawakening to its strengths. Many of the the predominantly African American residents are rallying under the leadership and collaboration of individual neighbors, elected officials, organizations, clergy members, business leaders and allies both inside and outside of the neighborhood with progress and revitalization in sight. The great Douglas Park, CTA Pink Line presence and the neighborhood's close proximity to the ever developing medical district, Chicago Loop and western suburbs via the Eisenhower and arterial streets make it a gem among the city’s other communities. Furthermore, the neighborhood’s many great non profits working together, restorative justice hub and court, the first in Cook County, elected officials living locally and working collaboratively for the good of the neighborhood and the first comprehensive strategic planning process in 50 years taking place are additional signs of the community’s resurgence. The ultimate hope is that North Lawndale will reassert itself as a destination community without its current residents suffering the unjust and alienating effects of urban gentrification.
For an indepth demographic look at the community today, view the North Lawndale Existing Conditions Report (below) prepared by the Chicago Metropolitan Association for Planning - CMAP.
Old St. Pat's Catholic Church
The church was established on Easter Sunday in 1846. hen the 1871 Chicago Fire decimated many neighborhoods in the city, Old St. pat's was spared by just two blocks. The congregation recoved alongside other Chicagoans and went on to contribute to all other aspects of Midwestern city life and national citizenship straight through the 19th and into the 20th Centuries. However by the late 1970's, the church's membership dwindled to less than twenty members.
In the late 1980's and early 90's, suburbanites whose families had vacated many of Chicago's south and west side neighborhoods in previous decades began to return to near west, near north and Downtown Chicago neighborhoods, all close to Old St. Pat's. Correspondingly, the neighborhood population boom palyed a role in the boom in the church's membership and engagement with the community as well.
Thus, a confluence of a gentrifying neighborhood, new, dynamic pastoral leadership at the church and attention given to vibrant worship, community service, social justice and outreach to communities abroad brought about a renaissance at Old St. Pat's. For the next several years, these and other factors led the church onto the path onto which it travels today. The current 3500 families who are predominantly white, generally well educated, mostly economically stable in relation to most Chicago communities and coming from 200 zip codes consider Old St. Pats their worship home from which they are called to faithfully engage in the world.
For a look at Old St. Pat's Church, both past and present, read The Old St. Pat's Journey Forward Capital Campaign Report.