West Side (continued)
In 1886, an estimated sixty percent of Chicago's Bohemians were
property owners, and they supported twenty-eight building and
loan associations. According to the Tribune, nearly all the "fine
brick buildings" in Pilsen were financed by these local savings
groups. Once the area west of Halsted Street was built up, Bohemians,
Germans, Scandinavians, .and Poles began to erect houses in the
district between Ashland and Western.
By the 1890s, Blue Island Avenue from 18th to 22nd Streets was
a bustling shopping district. In addition to the shops which catered
to the needs of the expanding community, Blue Island Avenue included
a large number of saloons and tailor shops where garments were
"finished." Strikes in the garment district located
just west of the Loop also spread to Pilsen, where immigrants
worked for low wages as part of the infamous piecework system.
New construction such as Thalia Hall (1892) at the southeast
corner of 18th and Allport provided Pilsen residents with a
stores, and "Hats" (See Fig. 1). While brick
homes and shops in the neighborhood testified to the stability
of the district, congestion remained a serious problem. In 1894
the Chicago Times painted a graphic picture of overcrowding
in the Bohemian Quarter. When a smallpox epidemic ravaged the
bounded by 18th, Loomis, 20th, and Carpenter, the Times reported
The block on Allport street where the disease is worst contains
over 360 families. The houses are frequently three deep; one
set of families occupying the house facing the street and others
the (frame) dwellings one behind the other in the rear.
According to Robert Hunter, in 1901 more than 7,000 persons
lived on nine blocks in the heart of the Bohemian Quarter. Then
there were many children in Pilsen. Because of the lack of parks
and yards, youngsters played in the neighborhood s crowded streets
and alleys and along the railroad tracks. Local churches and
settlement houses provided much-needed clubrooms and activities
In 1898 Leila A. Martin, a Protestant, and Hettie Peary French,
a convert to Roman Catholicism, joined forces to establish Gads
Hill Social Settlement at 22nd and Robey Street (Damen Avenue).
Unlike other local settlements, Gads Hill was nondenominational
and nonsectarian. In its early years the chief concerns of the
settlement were temperance, social activity, and citizenship
Although Gads Hill has always promoted music and art, it was
not named for Charles Dickens's birthplace in Rochester, England.
According to a history of the center, a lieutenant in the local
police station in the 1870s named this rough-and-tumble part
Chicago after Gads Hill, Missouri, the scene of "a notoriously
bold bank robbery." The name stuck, but following the opening
of the social center, Gads Hill became synonymous with "good
fellowship, brotherly love, the true Christ spirit." Since
1916, Gads Hill Center has been located
at 1919 W. Cullerton Street (See Fig. 2).
Another institution which has served the Lower West Side since
1905 is located at 1831 S. Racine Avenue. Established as the Howell
Neighborhood House and supported for many years by the Fourth
Presbyterian Church, this center is now an independent organization
known as Casa Aztlan.
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Thalia Hall, built in 1892 at 1807 S. Allport. »
Gads Hill Center, 1919 W. Cullerton, c. 1960. »