Oakland, Chicago

Juan P. and Michael K. Period 5 1/16/14

Oakland is a small neighborhood in Chicago. It is about one square mile in area. It started out as a settlement, and was fully made part of Chicago in 1889. It is bordered by by 35th and 43rd Street, and Lake Michigan, Cottage Grove, Pershing, and Vincennes Avenue.


Oakland originally grew out of the Cleaverville settlement. Industrialist Charles Cleaver bought 22 acres of land and built a company town and a soap factory. Residents were attracted to the area because of nearby Camp Douglass, the stockyards,and a commercial district that included popular saloons. In 1863, only part of the land was made part of Chicago. The area was divided and named Oakland by real-estate developers in 1871.

In 1905, Jenkin Lloyd Jones founded the Abraham Lincoln Center as a meeting place for people of dfferent religions and nationalities. It was designed by Frank Lloyed Wright, who also designed other buildings in Chicago (we also learned about his buildings in our architecture class). The center was later used as the home of Northeastern Illinois University's Center for Inner City Studies.

In the 1930s, Oakland had the most diversity in its history as tons of immigrants moved there. These immigrants included African Americans, Canadians, English, Germans, Irish, Japanese, and Jews. This also created some conflicts, where many African Americans would try to move in but where stopped by whites using violence to prevent them from coming. Also by 1950 Oakland was 77% African American.

In the 1940s, to help house poor African Americans, the Ida B. Wells public housing project was built in Oakland. At first, it was the pride of the community, but eventually it became crime-infested, causing many residents to leave the area. The buildings were eventually demolished. From 1960 to 1990, Oakland's population shrunk by two-thirds, resulting in the population being almost 100% African American.

Oakland Today

Today, Oakland is a quiet neighborhood that is recovering from the conflict caused by the Ida B. Wells public housing project. As more residents stream back in, the neighborhood becomes more and more lively. The current population is 5,900. While Oakland is a small and quiet community, it has some great attractions. Neighbors gather at Norman's Bistro, known for its sweet potato pie. Many other people spend time at the three parks and basketball courts in Oakland. Residents can also cross pedestrian bridges to enjoy beaches along Lake Michigan. The Oakland Museum, the tomb and memorial of Stephan A. Douglas, and the Abraham Lincoln Center historic landmark.

Fun facts: The well-known blues artist Muddy Waters lived in Oakland. One of the first things built on the area Charles Cleaver purchased was a soap factory.