The Goldilocks of American Chinatowns, Chicago’s Chinatown is not the biggest in the country, nor is it the smallest. Here, new and old blend together—old village dialects aren’t heard quite as frequently as Cantonese and Mandarin, but survive nonetheless. Historic buildings like the Pui Tak center stand shoulder to shoulder with new restaurants and bustling souvenir stores.
The first thing you might notice is the lawns: carefully manicured, they bring to mind a preserved vision of the ideal American suburb of the 1950s. It’s not an accident. Block clubs in Chatham maintain a genial atmosphere and preserve a long-standing community within the neighborhood. It’s a feel that neighborhood citizens work hard to preserve in a time when the families of Chatham have begun greeting newcomers, renters, and unaffiliated buyers who nevertheless want to be a part of what is one of the most tight-knit communities in the South Side.
Millions of African-American migrants came to Chicago, and their descendants carry the pride of Bronzeville. There is no other place in the world like Bronzeville. Within a five-mile radius you can find historical sites of interest that chronicle the explosion of gospel, blues, jazz, abolitionism and grassroots civil rights activism. Bronzeville’s history spans from the late 1880s to present day as the most documented landscape of political, economic, art, and cultural influence. Blacks who lived in the early days of Bronzeville survived the 1919 Chicago race riots. The generations that followed withstood restrictive covenants, the dismantling of public housing, and the closing of more than forty schools. The tenacity of the families and stakeholders who call Bronzeville home is unmatched. In spite of every conceivable tactic to eradicate Bronzeville’s rich legacy and its people, Bronzeville lives on as the testament of what champions can do.”
A stone’s throw away from Chicago’s downtown area, one might find oneself in this nondescript, inconspicuous neighborhood called Bridgeport. With its post-industrial sheen, one would never guess the historic significance it holds: thousands and thousands of immigrants started up their American dream right here. It was a start-up for throngs arriving from throughout Europe. Word spread that boundless opportunities and streets paved with gold would welcome you. Bridgeport was booted up to the thriving union stockyards and the central manufacturing district. Abundant back-breaking work was available for everyone hardy or foolish enough to partake in this new American way of life. Saloons on every corner took the edge off the drudgery. Newly built churches and schools catered to your ethnic origin, gave you community.
To those who grew up here, Beverly means idyllic streets for learning to ride bikes, summer outings to Rainbow Cone and Sunday mornings at their local churches. To those from the surrounding areas, Beverly is the hub of the Southwest Side. They celebrate their 21st birthdays in the bars on Western Avenue, go out for a special dinner at Pizzeria Deepo or Franconello, or take in a show at the Beverly Arts Center. It has much to offer outsiders, yet is also known to have a tenuous relationship with the communities that border it.
I’m sixty-eight years old, but I really feel like I’m nineteen. I really try to stay busy. I love what I do, and the reason why I love what I do is because that’s what God wants me to do. Here, 139 years old, the church is. Really, we’re well-known for all the years we’ve been here. St. Gabriel’s is the same.
I’ve lived in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on and off for about twenty years. Originally, I moved into the westernmost part while going through a divorce. It is a neighborhood of large courtyard apartment buildings and single-family homes. The shops along West 79th Street and along Ashland Avenue guaranteed I had no need to leave my community for anything. Public transportation is a 24/7 convenience, so not having a car wasn’t a problem.
We all have a favorite cup of coffee, a go-to late-night snack, a building that makes us stop and wonder every time we pass it. With this, our biggest Best of the South Side issue ever, we invite you to go further afield for the sandwich you can’t live without, the bookstore you could spend all day in, the secluded spot you go to for some peace and quiet.