The heart of the south side of Chicago, Gresham is a neighborhood in transition with a bright future ahead and a rich history behind it. Community groups and public parks are on the front lines of revitalization. Providing a place for Gresham residents of all ages to participate in sports and be active, the neighborhood parks offer numerous programs and even a 12-lane bowling alley - to cover every recreational interest. Adult social clubs, teen groups and day camps for kids all encourage community bonding and are a great way to meet the neighbors. Some of the park facility programs focus on personal fitness with aquatic exercise classes and workout centers, but mostly the Chicago Park District works to supply places where Gresham residents can hangout and have fun with fellow community members.
Location: 9 miles southwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Beverly, Brainerd, West Chatham, Englewood, West Englewood
Boundaries: Vincennes Avenue to the east, Western Avenue and the Dan Ryan Woods to the west, 89th and 91st streets to the south and 75th Street to the north
Then and Now
Originally, the neighborhood of Gresham (also known as Auburn Gresham) was a part of Lake Township with was a large community area that ran between 39th and 87th streets, and Crawford Avenue and State Street. With the opening of the Union Stockyard in 1865, the area’s population exploded and the local government was unable to provide residents with basic infrastructure and services. As a result, Lake Township was incorporated into the city of Chicago in 1889.
The original inhabitants of the area were small-time farmers from Holland and Germany who used the swampy terrain to produce enough crops to support themselves and their families while selling the surplus at local markets. However, it was a burgeoning railroad business that brought a change to the rural setting. Irish workers came to the Gresham neighborhood in the mid 1900s as did many other European immigrants from Italy, France, Poland and Sweden who also migrated to Chicago during this time. By the early 20th century, Gresham was a solid blue-collar community of construction and stockyard workers, police and firefighters.
The establishment of street cars throughout the south side made it very convenient for people to get to and from work in nearby neighborhoods. More and more of the local labor force moved to the area and the population of Gresham grew from around 19,000 in 1920 to over 57,000 by 1930. Gresham survived the Great Depression and World War II without suffering any great loss in population, but in the 1950s the neighborhoods demographics would begin to shift. Many African Americans from the region commonly referred to as the 'Black Belt' began to move into Gresham. The Black Belt was an area south of downtown Chicago which stretched along State Street from 22nd Street to 31st Street. Overcrowding in this small strip forced residents to seek housing elsewhere, many of them migrating further south to Gresham. To combat discrimination and ease racial tensions spurred by the influx of African American families, the Organization of Southwest Communities was formed with the goal of maintaining property value as well as the peace among the diverse group of community members.
With the 1960s came the Civil Rights Movement and national attention to racial issues, and despite the best efforts of local community organizations the power of the times swept through Gresham, as it did in many south side Chicago neighborhoods. Slowly, the black population grew, while the white population shrank with many white families moving to the suburbs. Today, Gresham is a Chicago neighborhood experiencing a significant resurgence and the cornerstone of this revival is St. Sabina Church. Under the leadership of Reverend Michael Pfleger the church has worked hard to transform Gresham’s abandoned buildings and empty storefronts into flourishing businesses with an interest in investing in the future of the overall community.
Gresham neighborhood encompasses plenty of places for family recreation with several green spaces, parks and playlots for all to enjoy. Sometime in the late 1800s (the exact year is unknown), Auburn Park (406 W Winneconna Pkwy, 312-747-6135) was established on eight acres of swampy land. The locale was part of privately owned property that was drained and developed into an appealing park space to attract potential homebuyers to the area. When Auburn Gresham was incorporated into Chicago in 1889 the city took over the facilitation of the park even though it was still owned by private developers. In the early 20th century the Auburn Park Improvement Association purchased the parkland and transferred the deed to the city with the Chicago Park District taking over in 1959. One condition of the sale, as specified in the deed, is that the land will forever be used as a park and so far that legally binding promise has not been challenged.
Dawes Park (8052 S Damen Ave, 312-747-6108) is a 16-acre L-shaped park that was developed after World War II to meet the increasing population demands of the Baby Boom. Dawes Park got a major overhaul in the 1960s when tennis courts and a running track were added. The park is named after U.S. vice president and former Evanston resident, Charles Gates Dawes. Dawes won a Nobel Peace prize for his efforts to rebuild Europe after World War I, a war in which he also fought. Some of his other local achievements include helping to bring the World’s Fair to Chicago in 1933 and the building of a homeless shelter in 1913. Today, Dawes Park offers baseball and softball programs, and all age demographics are covered with day camps for tots, teen clubs and adult social clubs. If you’re more inclined to be less organized, then you can simply use the shade of Dawes Park’s trees to relax and read a book or take a stroll along the half-mile walking trail.
While we feel that kids should be outside enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, it’s hard to compete with entertainment options available at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park & Family Entertainment Center (1219 W 76th St, 312-747-2602). This is definitely the place to be for kids. Opening in Gresham neighborhood in 2003, the 40,000-square-foot entertainment center features a 12-lane bowling alley. Bowling is a sport, right? Well, if that’s not enough exercise the center also features a hardwood maple roller rink complete with the requisite spinning disco ball and fog machine. There’s also a snack shop and an arcade featuring over 20 video games (not a sport, we agree).
J. Frank Foster was a pioneer in park management and is credited by some to be the developer of the nation’s first neighborhood parks. In Chicago, Foster helped with the preparations for the World’s Columbian Exposition which was held in Jackson Park in 1893. Foster also helped create ten south side parks in the early 1900s some of which were the first in the country to feature fieldhouses and branches of public libraries. So, it seemed natural that after Foster’s passing in 1926, the city would name a park in his honor. Foster Park (1440 W 84th St, 312-747-6135) was originally envisioned as a thirty-acre park with many features that Foster had implemented in his previous work. This grand tribute was not to be, unfortunately. The park commissioners had difficulty acquiring enough land from private developers and the park never materialized on the scale they originally planned. Still, enough space was gathered up to provide Gresham residents with a pretty good setting for outdoor fun and activities. Today, the park has a lot to offer the neighborhood with tennis courts, a baseball field, fitness center and assembly rooms available in the fieldhouse for various group meetings. Throughout the warmer months, the park’s aquatic exercise programs and lap swims at the outdoor pool, and baseball and softball programs will keep you occupied. The park also hosts a Senior Citizens Club for adults age 60 and over, and there’s even a free dog training class offered for those unruly canines.
Named in honor of gospel singing legend Mahalia Jackson, Mahalia Jackson Park (8407 S Kerfoot Ave, 312-747-6154) is located four blocks away from Miss Jackson’s home in the nearby Chatham neighborhood. A New Orleans native, Jackson moved to Chicago in 1927 as part of the Great Migration of African-Americans picking up their roots and heading to northern cities to search of work and better opportunities. Mahalia enjoyed a singing and recording career that spanned six decades. Her refusal to sing secular music, in favor of religious tunes, endeared her to gospel fans and frustrated those who thought they could profit by using her powerful voice for more commercial melodies that would be surefire hits on the radio. Ms. Jackson died in 1972 at the age of 60 due to complications from diabetes. Her park keeps her legacy and memory alive as a place were Gresham residents congregate to shoot the breeze and enjoy the city’s warmer months. With baseball diamonds, tennis courts, basketball, gyms, play camps, and assembly rooms, there’s plenty of activity throughout this Gresham neighborhood treasure.
You probably think it would be hard to fit another park into this south side Chicago neighborhood, huh? Well, sorry to prove you wrong, but there is one more that deserves a mention—and a handful of others you’ll just have to discover for yourself. O’Hallaren Park (8335 S Honore St, 312-747-6570) is named after park supporter and 18th Ward Alderman, Bernard J. O’Hallaren who passed in 1947. The park was created on land the city originally leased from the Board of Education (it would be another forty years before the city bought the park outright in the late 1980s). The park’s offerings in the beginning were rather meager compared with today’s recreational standards. In the late forties amenities included a small rec center, an athletic field and a playground. In the winter months, ice skating was offered on the flooded athletic field—not exactly Olympic regulation. When the Chicago Park District took over the administration of the park in 1959, improvements arrived as well. The Park District added basketball and volleyball courts in the ‘60s and by the mid 1980s it even had tennis courts. Today, in addition to the pick-up games of basketball and baseball, the park offers organized baseball, basketball and day camps for neighborhood children. For a more individual type of exercise the park also features a mile of walking trails where you can choose your own speed and enjoy to solitude of some alone time.
Gresham Real EstateGresham is the home to St. Sabina Church headed up by Reverend Pfleger, who has spearheaded initiatives to revitalize the area. As a driving force in improving Gresham’s outward appearance, both the church and Reverend Pfleger have been a crucial part of the neighborhood’s recent transformation. This includes the current construction of one of the biggest single-family home developments in the city at West 87th Street and Parnell Avenue. Along the neighborhood’s other blocks sit cute brick bungalows, simple one- or two-story homes with front porches, raised ranches, duplexes, and some mid-rise residential buildings. Many Gresham properties have small yards with private fences, and a decent number of trees and greenery surround the lots.
You can buy a two-bedroom condo or townhome in Gresham for as low as $25,000 if you shop around, but the average sales price is closer to $60,000. Other townhouses in the neighborhood that are well-kept or offer more space are priced in the upper $100,000s. Detached single-family homes also range in price with some traditional frame houses listed for $50,000 or $60,000 and other larger two-stories and new constructions costing as much as $350,000.
What’s on the Menu?
Creole and cajun to just plain fried food fast, Gresham is the place to get your 'eat on'. In the parlance of French Louisiana, a lagniappe is an unexpected gift that a storeowner offers to a customer. The gift here is great food. From the swamps of the Louisiana bayou to the former swamps of Gresham comes Cajun and Creole culinary creations of Lagniappe-A Creole Cajun Joynt (1525 W 79th St, 773-994-6375) and owner Mary Madison. This storefront gem features all the dishes you’d expect to find in New Orleans; dirty rice, jambalaya andouile etouffe (which changes daily) and of course, our favorite Bayou staple, the catfish po’boy. And be sure to save room for the sweet potato pie. The lack of decor and the easy manner of this south side favorite are easy to overlook, as well as the wait time for a table, and the laid back service and owner Mary Madison doesn’t demand much from her customers: 'Our only request is that our guests arrive neatly dressed and hungry!'
When we need our daily java jolt, then the Teal Cafe (9101 S Beverly Ave, 773-238-9501) is our spot. Located in Gresham right on the Beverly border, this coffee and tea joint invokes images of the sea right here in the prairie, with an ocean motive that has a calming effect on customers and invites them to lounge on pillow covered benches and couches before it perks them back up and sends them off on their work day. For those with a sweet tooth Teal Cafe offers a variety of syrups to enhance your beverage (coconut, banana, German chocolate and our favorite, hazelnut). Local roaster Intelligentsia coffee is brewed here as well as a variety of teas and smoothies.
Night on the Town
Swank is the word that comes to mind when describing the blue velvet and pink neon interior of Reeses Lounge (1827 W 87th St, 773) 238-1993). With two long bars framing the carpeted room, this Gresham neighborhood joint seems to attract a crowd that knows how to dress to the nines. Wednesday through Sunday, there are DJs spinning the best of the old and new with Friday nights reserved for step dancing and Sundays dedicated to smooth jazz tunes. Reeses is not a beer bar, although a variety of domestic and some imports are offered, instead mixed drinks seem to be the adult beverage of choice among guests, including a little specialty libation called 'Tap that A—' well, we’ll let you experience that one on your own. The food, which is the least upscale part of Reeses, includes many of the regular suspects: chicken wings, fried catfish and other southern staples, and fries that come drizzled with barbeque sauce. The food prices are hard to beat, averaging around $5 per meal. So dress up and meet up with other Gresham neighborhood night-owls for a fun evening of entertaining tunes, unique cocktails and down-right cheap grub.
Getting AroundGetting around this Chicago neighborhood is a breeze with plenty of public transportation options.
There are several CTA bus lines bisecting Gresham that can get you to places north, south, east, and west. When we need to hook up with a CTA train line to the north, we hop on either the #8 Halsted or the #9 and #9X Ashland Express where we can connect with the Orange Line to Midway Airport. Both bus lines connect with the Green Line as well, which will whisk you to the Loop in no time. For excursions beyond Chicago’s borders, there’s the Rock Island Line Metra at Gresham which you can use to get to Joliet or to see a concert at Tinley Park. Both the #79 and #87 buses run west (along 79th and 87th Streets) will get you to the Red Line for a trip to watch the White Sox at the Cell, or on north to the Loop.
If you prefer driving to being driven, the Dan Ryan Expressway forms part of the eastern border of Gresham, which is convenient for trips out of town or even out of State north to Wisconsin or south to Indiana. Heading north to the Loop, Lake Shore Drive is probably a safer bet in terms of congestion (larger trucks aren’t allowed on Lake Shore Drive, which lightens the load considerably). Just take Stoney Island Avenue north until 57th Street, where it connects with Lake Shore Drive.
School’s in Session
Gresham has several public schools to choose from. In addition to the following list, you can find more information on Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Cook – 8150 South Bishop St – (773) 535-3315
Cuffe Math/Science/Tech Acad. – 8324 South Racine Ave – (773) 535-8250
Fort Dearborn Elementary – 9025 South Throop St – (773) 535-2680
Foster Park Elementary – 8530 South Wood St – (773) 535-2725
Gresham Elementary – 8524 South Green St – (773) 535-3350
Mahalia Jackson Elementary – 917 West 88th St – (773) 535-3341
Morgan Elementary – 8407 South Kerfoot Ave – (773) 535-3366
We’ve put together this list of some of the basic necessities covered in Gresham neighborhood, from post offices to your closest public library.
Thurgood Marshall Branch – 7506 S Racine Ave – (312) 747-5927
Auburn Park – 8345 S Ashland Ave – (800) ASK-USPS
PharmaciesCVS – 8025 S Ashland Ave – (773) 783-8943
CVS – 7858 S Halsted St: – (773) 873-1842
Walgreen’s – 8636 S Ashland Ave – (773) 238-1268
Walgreen’s – 2041 W 79th St – (773) 783-7884
Walgreen’s – 1213 W 79th St – (773) 651-2118
Curves 8530 S Racine Ave – (773) 651-3030
Need to relax, take a break and unwind after a day of urban survival? Below is a list of a few places to do just that and more in Gresham.
Auburn Park – 406 W Winneconna Pkwy – (312) 747-6135
Dawes Park – 8052 S Damen Ave – (312) 747-6108
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park & Family Entertainment Center – 1219 W 76th St – 312-747-2602
Foster Park – 1440 W 84th St – (312) 747-6135
Leland Giants Playlot Park – 7526 S Lowe Ave – (312) 747-6135
Lyle Park – 7700 S Wallace St – (312) 747-6135
Mahalia Jackson Park – 8407 S Kerfoot Ave – (312) 747-6154
Marshfield Playground Park – 1637 W. 87th St – (312) 747-6136
O’Hallaren Park – 8335 S Honore St – (312) 747-6570
The Grove Playlot Park – 8421 S Morgan St – (312) 747-6154
Tiffany Family Store – 1158 W 87th St – (773) 846-2540
My Sistas Closet – 8307 1/2 S Racine Ave – (773) 651-2395
Roaring Twenty’s – 8135 S Elizabeth St – (773) 488-1483
Games & Things – 8148 S Ashland Ave – (773) 783-9507
Big Pawn Incorporated – 8130 S Ashland Ave – (773) 651-0500
Epe Music Incorporated – 1702 W 82nd St – (773) 846-2700
Emporium – 938 W 79th St – (773) 874-0153
Family Billiard – 8130 S Ashland Ave – (773) 874-77
James Brennan – 8647 S Racine Ave – (773) 723-9508
Reeses Lounge – 1827 W 87th St – (773) 238-1993
Yours Too Limited – 8917 S Loomis St – (773) 233-1961
Junction – 8615 S Racine Ave – (773) 651-6511
There Lounge – 8235 S Ashland Ave – (773) 488-1664
Studio 79 Disco Lounge – 1004 W 79th St – (773) 994-1200
Time Out Lounge – 8216 S Vincennes Ave – (773) 224-8430
Golden Girls Lounge – 1340 W 87th St – (773) 723-0452
New Journey Inn – 8022 S Racine Ave – (773) 488-4094
Lagniappe – 1525 W 79th St – (773) 994-637
Morrison Restaurant – 8127 S Ashland Ave – (773) 892-1078
Triple A Restaurant – 1111 W 79th St – (773) 994-7577
C & W Restaurant – 919 W 87th St – (773) 994-7825
Rubye’s Restaraunt – 8125 S Halsted St – (773) 224-1722
Harolds Chicken Shack – 8316 S Ashland Ave – (773) 298-0964
Dove Caribean Restaurant – 8036 S Racine Ave – (773) 488-0340
Pepe’s – 954 W 87th St – (773) 488-4026
Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits – 7617 S Racine Ave, – (773) 602-1406
J & R’s Caribbean Hut – 7959 S Ashland Ave, – (773) 224-3523
J&J Fish – 1861 W 87th St – (773) 233-6040
Quench 2 – 8056 S Racine Ave – (773) 651-3278
Maxwells – 7600 S Ashland Ave – (773) 483-9752
Whale Fish & Chicken – 1653 W 79th St – (773) 846-8888
Pizza Time – 1903 W 87th St – (773) 445-9814
Pizza Plus – 8112 S Vincennes Ave – (773) 723-1490
Kennedy Fish & Chicken – 1535 W 79th St – (773) 723-8300
Chicago Steak & Cheese – 8950 S Ashland Ave – (773) 779-5822
Nicks Gyros – 7858 S Ashland Ave – (773) 224-6612
F&H Wok – 1544 W 79th St – (773) 783-8284
Rib & Fish Unlimited – 1419 W 79th St – (773) 723-5530
Teal Cafe 9101 S Beverly Ave, – (773) 238-9501
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. Gresham 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 Gresham.