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Table of Contents > Chapter 7



Lower West Side (continued)

South Lawndale
As Bohemian families on the Lower West Side prospered, many moved further west to South Lawndale, below Douglas Park. In the 1870s, A.C. Millard and E.J. Decker developed a residential community just south of the Burlington Railroad station at Ogden Avenue. According to an 1875 advertisement, the community boasted eight new buildings, among them the Millard Avenue Baptist Church at 24th and Millard, and the Lawndale Hotel. Around 1880, John G. Shedd, an up-and-coming young executive with Marshall Field's, built a spacious brick home at 2316 S. Millard Avenue. Other substantial homes and new institutions followed, such as the Muscoda Club, 2340 S. Lawndale, and the Fowler Methodist Episcopal Church (1891) at 2255 S. Millard. As a result of building restrictions imposed after the Chicago Fire of 1871, brick homes predominated in the Millard & Decker subdivision.

According to the Chicago Times, the streets in the area were all paved with either block or asphalt, and sewers, water, gas, and shade trees were in place. Despite the fact that property in this neighborhood was "cheaper than in some of the suburban towns," South Lawndale did not develop into an exclusive residential area like Austin, Edgewater, or Kenwood. Although fifty-eight trains a day passed through the area en route to the city's business district, it remained isolated from the rest of Chicago. As late as 1891, travel to other parts of the city was difficult The streetcar line along 21st Street extended only as far as Western Avenue, and the Blue Island cable line, the last one built in Chicago, made commuting to this part of the West side tedious.

In 1895 South Lawndale lost its most prominent resident, John G. Shedd, to Kenwood, a South Side neighborhood that was becoming an enclave of Chicago's most powerful businessmen. Shedd's rise from stockboy to partner at Marshall Field's had been rapid. He was named partner in 1896. and became president of the department store ten years later. (The Aquarium on South Lake Shore Drive which bears his name was opened to the public in 1929)

But Shedd's decision to build a gabled mansion at 4515 S. Drexel Boulevard did not signal the end of the Millard & Decker subdivision's glory days. On the contrary, the area took on new life as a Bohemian community which became known as Czech California. Among the Bohemian immigrants who moved to this area from Pilsen was Albert V. Cerny, a noted musician. His home at 2347 S. Lawndale became a gathering place for Bohemian intellectuals artists and musicians. Indeed, his daughter Zdenka was immortalized in the works of artist Alphonse Mucha Another Bohemian immigrant who settled in Czech California at 2348 S. Millard was Anton J. Cermak, mayor of Chicago from 1931 to 1933.

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