It’s a Beautiful Day in Chatham

It’s a Beautiful Day in Chatham

In this series of blog posts, we provide a summary of the neighborhoods where we’re currently listing and developing homes. In this post, I’ll be focusing on Chatham Chicago.

Chatham is one of Chicago’s 77 community areas and sits on the city’s South Side. Its official boundaries [PDF] are 79th Street on the north, the Metra rail line on the east, and the railroad on the south and west sides. The neighborhood’s shape is similar to the state of Ohio if it were flipped horizontally.

Since the mid-1950s, Chatham has been known for its community focus, with a long history of block clubs — and over 100 still active today. Chatham housing is mostly single-family homes, many situated on large lots on tree-lined streets with large parkways. West Chatham is one of Chicago’s thirteen neighborhoods recognized as a historic bungalow district, and bungalows are common in the area, though other architectural types (Georgian, modern, etc.) dot the streets.

Lenart Regional Gifted Center, a fantastic K-8 school, in Chatham. Photo cropped from the original by Motstravail [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Chatham’s neighborhood gathering places include three parks — ColeTuley, and West Chatham — as well as the Whitney M. Young, Jr., branch of the Chicago Public Library. This library reopened in January 2019 after a $12M makeover that includes a new garden, a technology hub, and three Experience Labs. One of these labs is a Makers Lab, with a 3D printer and recording studio.

The recently remodeled Whitney M. Young, Jr., branch of the Chicago Public Library.

And did I mention Chance the Rapper grew up on 79th Street, as the third or fourth generation in the same house?

Read on to see why it’s always a beautiful day in Chatham.

Entertainment and Eating

Chatham restaurant Lem’s Bar-B-Q opened by brothers Bruce and Myles Lemons in 1954 and has been in its current location on 75th Street since 1968. Photo by Southern Foodways Alliance [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

While Chatham is better know for its good schools and well-kept residential streets than its dining and entertainment, there are some great neighborhood spots. Institutions like Lem’s Bar-B-Q (in Chatham/Greater Grand Crossing since 1968), Brown Sugar Bakery across the street (since 2004), and Dat Donut (on 83rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue since 1994) have been joined by recent additions to the scene, such as the brand-new Chi Pizza Pie (amongst the retail on Cottage Grove Ave between 85th and 87th Streets). Another retail area, known as Chatham Market, is located west of the Dan Ryan Expressway.

The sign marking the entrance to Chatham Market, at 83rd Street and S Holland Road. Photo cropped from the original by Eric Allix Rogers [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr.

The Numbers

The 79th Street Metra station in Chatham. Photo adapted from the original by Zol87 [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

A typical commute to the Loop from Chatham using public transportation is around 40 to 50 minutes, door to door. To O’Hare Airport, it’s an hour and a half. By car, a typical drive to the Loop without traffic would take about 20 minutes, and a trip to O’Hare would be 25 to 35 minutes, sans traffic. considers Chatham very walkable. Note that they define the neighborhood’s boundaries a bit differently and that the most walkable parts of the neighborhood are on the north and east sides. The neighborhood has good transit and some bike infrastructure. Homes in the eastern part of Chatham have easier access to the Metra, while the Red Line runs along the Dan Ryan Expressway on the west.

The 87th Street (Woodruff) Metra station in Chatham. Photo adapted from the original by Zol87 [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

According to Zillow, home values in Chatham decreased by 4.2% in the past year but are projected to increase 6% in the next year — making this a good time to buy. Note that Zillow has also defined the neighborhood’s boundaries a bit differently. The median home value in Chatham is similar to surrounding neighborhoods; this area is much more affordable for homebuyers than the city’s North Side.

The 91st Street (Chesterfield) Metra station in Chatham. Photo adapted from the original by Zol87 [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

A Bit of History

An example of a “garlow” (with a sun room addition) along King Drive. Built in 1918. Photo adapted from the original by Eric Allix Rogers [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr.

An interesting tidbit of Chicago history is still visible along the 8100 block of South Calumet Avenue and the 8000 and 8100 blocks of King Drive: still-standing “garlows”. Garlow is a portmanteau of garage and bungalow. According to the Chicago Tribune, these residences were built in the years after World War I, when Chicago was dealing with a housing shortage and resulting problems with affordability. Garlows were built as a solution. They were small brick buildings situated on the back of city lots that intended to provide temporary affordable homes for young buyers, who would then, presumably, build homes at the front of their lots and convert their garlows into garages. The garlow itself was built with future conversion in mind. However, the idea didn’t catch on — and many of the garlows still stand, though many have incorporated some form of addition (as with the sun room above). Their large front yards mean they are easily noticeable from the street.

Digging further back into Chicago history, the area that is now Chatham was originally swampland. Farmers began settling in the neighborhood’s western reaches in the 1860s. Then, nearby industrial developments brought more settlers into the neighborhood in the 1870s through 1900. Italian stonemasons settled in eastern Chatham in the 1880s while building homes in Avalon Park. Hungarian and Irish railroad workers moved to the neighborhood later in that same decade. A 1914 subdivision brought strict zoning codes and property standards to the community. More Hungarian and Irish immigrants, in addition to Swedish, made homes of Chatham bungalows in the 1920s. Next, the development of the Chatham Park housing complex near the end of the Great Depression lead to the shopping district on Cottage Grove Avenue. Between 1950 and 1960, Chatham’s African American population rose from 1% to nearly two-thirds of the neighborhood. As of 1990 census data, 99 percent of Chatham’s residents were African American. Middle-class African Americans were — and still are — attracted to Chatham because of the neighborhood’s good schools, intact strict property standards, and high levels of community organization. The neighborhood population dipped early in this century due to aging; however, many believe Chatham is on the rise again.

Chatham resident Lori Burns in front of her bungalow home on Monday, June 29, 2015. Photo cropped from the original by Jasmin Shah [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr.

If you’d like to learn more about Chatham, I recommend exploring the following resources:

Interested in living in Chatham? I have one contingent listing in the neighborhood, at 8400 S Vernon. I’m working on a few more upcoming listings in the area, so check back to my Listings page. And feel free to contact me for more information on buying a home in Chatham Chicago.

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