Back of the Yards

From HistoryWiki

Back of the Yards Soundex Code Y632

Wikipedia page about the Back of the Yards neighborhood within Community Area 61 New City)

Back of the Yards is an industrial and residential neighborhood so named because it was near the former Union Stock Yards, which employed thousands of European immigrants in the early 20th Century. Life in this neighborhood was explored in Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle. The area was formerly part of the Town of Lake until it was annexed by Chicago in 1889. In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, the area was occupied largely by Eastern European immigrants and their descendants, who were predominantly ethnic Bohemian, Moravian, and Slovak (from Hungary).

In the 1930s the activist Saul Alinsky did community organizing in this area, as its people suffered during the Great Depression. This work led to his founding the Industrial Areas Foundation in 1940, which trained community organizers.

Jane Jacobs, in her 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, cites the Back of the Yards as an area able to "unslum" in the 1960s, due to a beneficial set of circumstances. This included a stabilized community base with skilled members who were willing to trade work to upgrade housing, as well as active and well-led local social and political organizations. Jacobs often cited the Back of the Yards as a model for other depressed neighborhoods to follow to upgrade their communities.

Some time after the 1970s, when the stockyard operations closed and the number of nearby jobs decreased, many people left to move to newer housing and work in the suburbs. The population of the neighborhood gradually reflected a new wave of settlement, predominantly Mexican-American.