Grand Crossing began as a simple railroad junction. The train tracks are still there, but now days this south side Chicago neighborhood is loaded with affordable single-family homes and condos. It is also the focus of revitalization efforts with new housing and a recently inaugurated community youth center. A dance studio, large gym and computer lab are all onsite at Grand Crossing's youth center, giving area children a place to be active, even when the weather outside is a bit frightful. When the weather is cooperating, folks head over to the neighborhood park to take a dip in the outdoor pool or play a game of basketball on the courts. Chicago's foremost African American creative arts foundation has also set up shop in Grand Crossing. The organization premieres original works and opens its stage to local musical performers on Music Mondays.
Grand Crossing Facts
Location: About 12 miles south of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: South Shore, Woodlawn, Park Manor, Avalon Park, Chatham
Boundaries: Marquette Road to the north, Stoney Island Avenue to the east, 79th Street to the south and Cottage Grove Avenue to the west
Then and Now
Once known to locals as Cornell, the neighborhood of Grand Crossing was renamed in 1871, because of a dangerous train intersection that ran through its core, forever leaving its mark on this now predominantly residential community of Chicago.
A train accident may not be the most auspicious basis for a neighborhood’s identity, but back in the 1850s those railway tracks were certainly the name of the game. Two railroad lines, the Illinois Central and the Michigan Southern Railroad, had routes that ran through what is now the Grand Crossing neighborhood. The lines intersected one another at what is now 75th Street and South Chicago Avenue, a section that became known as the hazardous 'Grand Crossing.' It all started in 1853 when two trains collided at a junction, which both railroad companies claimed as their own. Eighteen people were killed and many more injured in the mishap, and in the following years there were plenty more accidents at the same spot until the tracks were elevated and signal lights installed in 1912.While the treacherous crossing was done away with, the name Grand Crossing remains.
The area started out as swampland, and aside from accidents, the railroad also brought growth and residential development to this once-barren Chicago neighborhood, which was populated for most of the 19th century and until mid 20th century by immigrant workers. There was an industrial base in the neighborhood with factories that made furniture, tacks and barbed wire. In the 1950s the neighborhood underwent a demographic and economic change as African American families moved in, while the immigrant population moved out. By the 1960s, the city of Chicago viewed Grand Crossing as a 'slum and blighted area.'
Despite some of the problems the neighborhood faces, it has had an active theatre presence since 1971, when ETA Creative Arts Foundation opened its doors, an organization that both fosters the arts and offers premieres of African American plays, musical evening and literary get-togethers.
These days, Grand Crossing is a community still working towards improving and reinventing itself. There is ongoing development on the east side of this Chicago neighborhood, which borders South Shore. Just a year ago, a stunning new youth center was opened through the philanthropy of a former resident of Grand Crossing named Gary Corner. Corner lived in Grand Crossing and attended Paul Revere School more than 70 years ago. He was the founder of Land’s End catalog and was a major philanthropist, who in his last years tried to reinvigorate parts of Grand Crossing, with a new housing project and youth center near the school he attended in his childhood. Mr. Corner passed away in 2006, but the youth center that bears his name is flourishing and bringing new life into a Chicago neighborhood that continues to strive for a better tomorrow.
Grand Crossing affords us an unusual choice between down-to-earth fun at Grand Crossing Park and a chance to meander through much of Chicago’s history at Oakwoods Cemetery. And we like the different moods and modes of these two open green spaces.
For simple fun, plenty of sporting and organized activities, and a great place to stretch the legs, Grand Crossing locals all know just where to go—yup, the park of the same name Grand Crossing Park (7655 S. Ingleside Ave, 312-747-6158). During those hot summer months in Chicago, when the humidity is hovering right around 100 percent, cool off at the Grand Crossing Park outdoor pool. As many other residents will have the same idea, the poolside scene is one of festive vacation and spirited playtime. And with all that splish-splashing going on, whether you choose to take a dip or not, you’re sure to feel the refreshing droplets of water on your skin. Once you’ve had your fill of swimming (or being splashed by the people/kids swimming) gather up a team and challenge your friends (or arch rivals) to an amicable game of volleyball or basketball—courts are available for use right here on the park grounds. If you’re not so much the active type, and happen to be looking for a way to express your creative side, you could sign up for one of the wood crafting classes offered at Grand Crossing Park. There’s always room for another birdhouse in the backyard.
Call us strange, but sometimes, we prefer a stroll through Oakwoods Cemetery’s (1035 East 67th St, 773-288-3800) tranquil and historical grounds to a game of basketball at the neighborhood’s namesake park.
Built in 1854, the long-established cemetery grounds give Grand Crossing residents over 180 acres of Chicago history, landmark monuments and legendary stories to contemplate. Start with the most humbling place in the expansive burial site—Confederate Mound—a monument to thousands of Confederate soldiers that died at Camp Douglas and were buried in a mass grave here at Oakwoods. Remember that Olympic runner Jesse Owens, winner of the Gold Medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics? He’s buried here, too. If science is your passion, the physicist Enrico Fermi who was part of the Manhattan Project is also laid to rest in Oakwoods, as is Thomas Dorsey, the great gospel singer and Harold Washington, the first African American mayor of Chicago.
In 2006 the Gary Corner Youth Center (7200 S Ingleside, 773-358-4100) was opened. Housed in a striking multi-colored building, it brings architectural beauty to this south side Chicago neighborhood as well as excellent facilities and programming for Grand Crossing youth, including a large gymnasium, dance studio, computer lab and hot meals.
Grand Crossing Real Estate
As they say, home is where the heart is, and whatever your needs, Grand Crossing is an affordable Chicago neighborhood that holds the heart of many a Chicago family. This south side neighborhood has a choice of modest housing for local city dwellers and any re-locaters planning the move to Chicago. The residential streets are lined with everything from traditional brick bungalows to new-construction townhomes which have sprung up in recent years.
Families might want to check out the neighborhood’s Paul Revere area, which features modern townhomes and condominiums, in close proximity to the Revere Elementary School. These newer-model dwellings general sell for between $200,000 and $260,000, but there are a lot of older vintage courtyard condos on the market that are listed for just under $100,000.
Still, along the shady tree-lined streets of Grand Crossing neighborhood, there are plenty of detached single-family homes with private yards and parking that will provide you with a little more space and privacy. There are a lot of two-story houses in the area that have three- or four-bedrooms. The average sales price for a home of this size is around $153,000. While some properties in Grand Crossing are well-kept and in good condition, other lots are in disrepair and might require some TLC.
What’s on the Menu?
If you don’t feel like firing up the grill but are in the mood for barbecue, check out neighborhood staples like Barbara Ann’s BBQ (7621 S Cottage Grove Ave, 773-723-4780), DD&S Bar-B-Que (7100 S South Chicago Ave, 773-643-5411) or Sands BBQ Ribs, Inc. (1467 E 67th St, 773-667-6722). Grand Crossing is a destination for smoked pork and soul food—and for good reason—the folks behind these joints do ribs right.
When you’re up for a more genteel sandwich and coffee, head to Cafe Nine 17 (917 E 79th St, 773-723-2222). An added plus, we think it’s safe to say the menu items here are much less caloric than the finger-licking good barbecue found at the rest of Grand Crossing’s neighborhood eateries.
It’s true that Chicago has a wonderful theater district, but for something just a little different—fresher and a little bit off the beaten path—we like to check out the theater scene in Grand Crossing, which offers the latest in original plays by African American playwrights and actors. The subject could be as universal as 'romance' or 'loss of love,' but performance promises to be unique and entertaining.
This unassuming Chicago neighborhood is home to the ETA Creative Arts Foundation (7558 South Chicago Ave, 773-752-3955) considered to be the foremost African American performing arts center in Chicago. Be in the know about the latest African American plays, whether it is a gospel musical, comedy or romance with a visit to this Grand Crossing neighborhood institution. Churning out 180 productions since 1971, ETA is known for its premieres of original works by African American playwrights and actors. Like many Grand Crossing residents, we’re big fans of Music Mondays, which is touted as the place to hear 'great black music in an intimate cabaret setting.' This covers a pretty wide spectrum of musical pleasure from female blues vocalists to smooth jazz saxophonists. But, we are not purists about definitions here. We just love being surprised which seems to fit the bill at ETA as sometimes you’ll get hot Latin rhythms, sometimes something akin to soulful Gospel tunes. All we know is, either way, it’s music to our ears
An altogether different kind of performance is found at the Gary Corner Youth Center (7200 South Ingleside, 773-358-4100). The South Shore Drill Team and Performance Ensemble practices here, while other children and youth use the facilities for classes, exercise and a hot meal. The drill team was formed in 1981 as an alternative to gangs and street life. See their website for performance schedules or watch them practice for free at the youth center.
For authentic Chicago blues and jazz, spend an evening at Lee’s Unleaded Blues (7401 S Chicago Ave, 773-493-3477), a bar that’s been on the Grand Crossing music scene since the 1970s. Whenever it’s cooking, we like to combine Lee’s unleaded chili with the unleaded tunes for the ultimate experience at Lee’s Unleaded. On Thursday nights, the lovely ladies are welcome to come to 'women’s night' at Club Escape (1530 E. 75th St, 773-667-6454), which is a gay men’s bar the rest of the week—so just don’t expect to meet your future husband sitting at the other end of the bar.
During the summer, check out the Chicago Park District’s schedule of 'Movies in the Park,' which play at Grand Crossing Park. Pack up a picnic basket and a few blankets and head down to the park with the family for some wholesome evening entertainment and lighthearted fun under the city sky.
For a neighborhood that got its name from a heavily traveled transportation hub, it’s good to know there are still some convenient (and safe) modes of transit around these parts. Several bus routes, train lines and highways still cross through Grand Crossing—and it’s a good thing, too, since Chicago is such a big city with so many cool places to go to.
The CTA transit system makes it easy to get to and from the neighborhood. Pick up the Metra (Chicago’s city-to-suburb commuter line) at 75th Street and Chicago Avenue or at the Stoney Island station (Stoney Island Avenue and 71st Street), which gets you to Millennium Station at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street, one of the most beautiful areas of Chicago and convenient to many bus lines and businesses.
Buses also abound in Grand Crossing and are an especially good way to jet across the neighborhood or shoot up to other Chicago destinations. Jump on the #28 or X28 (the express) that run along Stoney Island Avenue and take passengers into the Loop.
If you’ve got a car, there are two expressways that will take you directly to downtown Chicago: Lake Shore Drive and I-90 (the Skyway, which merges with the Dan Ryan Expressway). However, if it’s rush hour or even if it’s not rush hour, you risk facing serious delays and bumper-to-bumper congestion. For our money, the best bet is the train. It’s faster and kinder to the planet.
School’s in Session
A graduate of Paul Revere School (1010 E 72nd St, 773-535-0618) in Grand Crossing, Gary Corner, went on to found Land’s End catalog and become one of Chicago’s greatest philanthropists. Now, the foundation bearing Corner’s name is actively trying to improve the quality of life for Revere students and their families. In addition to the following list, you can find more information on Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page
Ashe Elementary School – 7740 S Ingleside Ave – (773) 535-3550
Betty Shabbazz Charter School – 1339 N Wells St
Fermi Elementary School – 1415 E 70th St – (773) 535-0540
Hirsch Metro High School – 7740 S Ingleside Ave – (773) 535-3100
Madison Elementary School – 7433 S Dorchester Ave – (773) 535-0551
Revere Elementary School – 1010 E 72nd St – (773) 535-0618
Here’s a list of places to stock up on everything from Tylenol to toothbrushes, pantry items to theatre performances.
Chicago Transit Authority – (888) 968-7282
Medical Specialist Pharmacy – 7845 S Cottage Grove Ave – (773) 873-4400
Moo & Oink – 7158 S Stoney Island Ave – (773) 493-2755
Save-A-Lot – 7240 S Stoney Island Ave – (773) 643-4867
Curves – 806 E 78th St – (773) 874-4601
Grand Crossing Park – 7655 S. Ingleside Ave.312-747-6158
Gary Corner Youth Center – 7200 South Ingleside 773-358-4100
Bargain Center Furniture – 7417 S Cottage Grove Ave – (773) 483-7100
Party Linens – 7780 S Dante Ave – (773) 731-9281
Sears Roebuck & Co – 1334 E 79th St – (773) 933-1600
THEATER AND PERFORMANCE
Barbara Ann’s BBQ – 7621 S Cottage Grove Ave – (773) 723-4780
Billy Boy Fish & Chicken – 956 E 79th St – (773) 483-4957
Cafe Nine17 – 917 E 79th St – (773) 723-2222
DD&S Bar-B-Que – 7100 S South Chicago Ave – (773) 643-5411
Ms Minnie’s Seafood – 6922 S Stoney Island Ave – (773) 955-9563
Sands BBQ Ribs, Inc. – 1467 E 67th St – (773) 667-6722
Soul Food on the Run – 808 E 75th St – (773) 371-0842
Spitz Diner and Lounge – 7149 S Chicago Ave – (773) 643-1044
1 Chop Suey – 7342 S Stoney Island Ave – (773) 643-3888
Sun Island Restaurant – 7042 S Stoney Island Ave – (773) 955-1868
Dat Old Fashioned Donut – 8249 S Cottage Grove Ave – (773) 723-1002
Club Escape – 1530 E 75th St – (773) 667-6454
Helen’s Den – 1300 E 75th St – (773) 752-2814
Lee’s Unleaded Blues – 7401 S Chicago Ave – (773) 493-3477
Leo’s Den – 1200 E 71st St – (773) 667-3130
Odyssey Lounge – 7643 1/2 S Cottage Grove Ave – (773) 994-6817
Sometimes it makes more sense to view the city of Chicago as a bunch of separate neighborhoods-especially when it comes to real estate. Whether you are in the market for a loft, condo, townhome, or house, it is just as important to inspect the surrounding area as it is to inspect the home’s foundation. Grand Crossing is just one Chicago community with an abundance of residential properties, and a life all its own. From where you send your kids to school to where you dine at night, the information we provide is an essential piece of the puzzle when you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy that beautiful loft or adorable house in Grand Crossing.