Chicago’s 55th community, Hegewisch (Heg-wish), borders railroad tracks to the north, city limits to the south, the Indiana border to the east and Riverdale to the west. Three areas comprise Hegewisch: Arizona (“The Avenues”) north of 138th Street; Old Hegewisch west of Avenue O between 130th and 138th Streets; Avalon Trail north of 130th Street and east of Torrence Avenue.
Migratory birds stopped in the region, a route on the Mississippi River flyway. A waterway passage between Hyde Park and Wolf Lakes was used by Native Americans for trade, hunting and fishing. In the 1850s, settlers built the first railroad through Lake Township, later Hyde Park Township in 1867.
In 1883, Adolph Hegewisch (Hege-vish), president of U.S. Rolling Stock Company, purchased 100 acres for rail yards near 135th Street. Investors in his ideal company town bought 1500 acres. The plan included a mill, two canals and employee housing. It was partially completed, but by 1885, only 500 residents lived in Hegewisch, and without funds the canal projects ended. After Adolph Hegewisch’s death in the 1890s, the company declined.
In the 1930s, a streetcar line extended across Hyde Park Lake, and after WWI, bus service replaced the streetcars. After WWII, housing developments emerged, and from the 1960s to 1980s, steelworkers, firefighters and policemen called Hegewisch home. The 1990s saw a decline in the steel manufacturing, movement to the South Suburbs and a proposed Lake Calumet Airport. Residents fought the airport, and after careful study, the City Council voted against it.
Today Hegewisch has small town charm with shopping malls, and it’s at the crossroads between Chicago, South Suburbs and Northwest Indiana. It’s a diverse community with low crime and affordable housing.
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