Hegewisch

This unique and spirited neighborhood is located at the southern-most end of Chicago and offers a charming combination of city and country living. An ideal place for families, Hegewisch is truly a diamond in the rough. A number of different waterways surround Hegewisch, so no matter which way you go there is a lake or river to enjoy within minutes of home. And like a small, rural community, the majority of businesses and restaurants in Hegewisch are found on the area's main street, Baltimore Avenue. No frills diners and classic Chicago fare (hot dogs and pizza) are favorites among Hegewisch locals, and a few neighborhood taverns round out the dining and entertainment options.

Hegewisch Facts

Location: Approximately 20 miles south of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Burnham, Wolf Lake
Boundaries: 126th Street to the north, the Indiana state line to the east, Brainard Avenue to the south and Torrence Avenue to the west

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Then and Now

A unique fusion of rural and urban, it can safely be said that there is no place in Chicago like its southern-most neighborhood, founded in 1883 by visionary Adolph Hegewisch (Later accounts of the neighborhood’s history altered the founder’s first name to Achilles. Many believe this change was meant to eliminate public association with another well-known 'Adolph'). Then president of the United States Rolling Stock Company, a railroad car building business, Hegewisch bought 100 acres of land with the hope of establishing a town for his employees similar to 'the world’s most perfect town' that George Pullman had built a decade earlier.

It didn’t take long to open up shops and plants, but most of the area was reserved for the USRS rail yards. In 1889, the city of Chicago annexed the community as part of Hyde Park, and Hegewisch officially became Chicago’s southern-most community. At the time of its inclusion, the young neighborhood consisted only of a few homes, shops, and the massive USRS complex. Adolph envisioned the forming of two canals to facilitate industrialization. One was set to connect Lake Michigan with Wolf Lake, which is located just to the northeast of Hegewisch, and the other was intended to shorten the Calumet River to more easily connect with the two lakes. These canals were never built, however, and the chasm between Chicago and this far-south neighborhood grew. Rail lines were built between the heart of the city and Hegewisch, still the large lots of land to the north of the neighborhood remained undeveloped. Along with the lack of canals, the vast area of open prairie isolated Hegewisch from the Windy City, and left the area as something of an industrial island.

Adolph Hegewisch’s death in the 1890s pushed the neighborhood into decline, and his dream town wasn’t the only thing that fell short of the Pullman standard—his rail-car company proved unsuccessful too, and was sold in 1912. The new incarnation was dubbed Western Steel Car & Foundry, and made electric steel, gray iron, and malleable iron. The company, which eventually overcame its identity crisis and settled on the name Pressed Steel Car Company, was the only employment option around.

Because the area was too isolated to commute to downtown Chicago for work, the Hegewisch neighborhood remained sparsely populated until the 1920s when Polish immigrants began to arrive. Between the late 1800s and the late 1920s, many Polish people were uprooted from their homeland, largely due to civic unrest, changes in the economic structure of Poland, and the abolishment of serfdom that left them hungry, jobless and no longer allowed to wander their country side. The Russian Revolution in 1905 shook all parts of the empire, including Poland, and resulted in a wave of immigration, commonly referred to as 'Za Chiebem' or 'For Bread.' Refugees first fled to European countries like Germany, Denmark and France, but soon the displaced masses found their way to the eastern shores of America, and eventually to Chicago. During this decade, about 55 percent of Hegewisch residents were immigrant Poles and their influence is still apparent in the neighborhood today.

The steady increase in population screeched to a stand-still in 1929, when The Great Depression forced people to move wherever they could find work, which certainly wasn’t in the tiny southern Chicago neighborhood. The lull lasted until the post-war boom of the early 1950s, when housing development surged and Hegewisch found itself with a 25 percent increase in population. The neighborhood enjoyed a steady growth in residential construction, culminating in the early 1980s with nearly 12,000 inhabitants. During this time the populace consisted mostly of steel workers and municipal employees. By the end of the ‘80s, the steel industry was on the decline, the children of the Baby Boom generation were moving to the suburbs, and Hegewisch again experienced a dramatic population decline.

Chicago city officials had been watching the struggling neighborhood, and took this latest setback as an indication that the space could be put to better use. In February 1990 the city proposed to destroy over 4,200 homes, and to displace Hegewisch’s 10,000 remaining residents in order to build a new airport. The plans for the airport, which would have been the city’s third, were declared 'dead' by Mayor Daley after a two-year fight with Hegewisch residents, who had no intention of leaving.

Although its isolation from the city made it difficult for Hegewisch to grow, today that same seclusion is a big part of the neighborhood’s charm. Hegewisch is a bona fide 'rural, working-class town' inside the big city limits, retaining a luster that could only have come from rocky beginnings, decades of hard work, and fierce local pride. It may not be the dream town that Adolph Hegewisch envisioned, but to its loyal residents, it’s just perfect.
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Parks

This southernmost neighborhood of Chicago gets to reap all of the benefits of the city’s stellar park system, and it also enjoys the benefits of its very own lake.

In 1907, civic groups hoped to enrich the struggling neighborhood by convincing the South Park Commission to build a park in Hegewisch. Twenty acres were set aside and landscaped based on the plans of the Olmsted Brothers, sons of Frederick Law Olmsted who was famous for landscaping New York’s Central and Prospect parks, as well as Chicago’s Jackson and Washington parks and the Midway Plaisance—which was designed for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. The brothers themselves were responsible for the grounds of the Capitol Building and White House in Washington, D.C., as well as for designing the Yosemite Valley Park and revamping their father’s work in New York’s Central Park.

Originally called simply Hegewisch Park, the name was later changed to honor U.S. Representative James R. Mann. Mann Park (3035 E. 130th St, 773-646-0210) has several baseball fields and tennis courts, in addition to a beautiful red-roofed fieldhouse that houses a gym and neighborhood assembly halls. The grounds of the park are still breathtakingly landscaped and offer trails for jogging and biking, in addition to a well-maintained playground for children.

In addition to Mann Park, Hegewisch residents also enjoy Wolf Lake’s recreational areas. Nothing says summertime like a lake-side picnic, and there are plenty of prime spots here. Fisherman love this glacially formed lake for its abundance of bass, pike and carp, and for the six miles of shoreline reserved solely for casting a line. Boating is permitted in the warm weather months here, and in the wintertime, ice-fishing is even allowed. The diverse plant and animal life of Wolf Lake have provided fond memories for many generations of Hegewisch families.
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Hegewisch Real Estate

With historic steel and saw mills, factories, and railroad tracks, Hegewisch is reminiscent of a frontier town that has rolled over into the 21st century.

Hegewisch is a charming little neighborhood with wide, well-maintained streets, small single-family homes, and a decidedly vintage flair. The main commercial strip on Baltimore Avenue, between 132nd and 134th streets has been slickly refurbished, but the entire area is tickled with quaint, shack-like restaurants that pay homage to the neighborhood’s working-class history.

The Hegewisch community has historically been home to steel workers, rail workers and municipal employees, and most of the housing structures reflect this past. The majority of the houses tend to be very small, and most of them were built during the post-war boom of the 1950s. Although the bulk of the housing market here consists of these single-family dwellings, there are some apartment buildings and a large mobile-home community located in the eastern-most part of the neighborhood.

The citizens of Hegewisch take a lot of pride in their property, a fact which is evident in the impeccably maintained tree-lined streets, spotless sidewalks, and painstakingly preserved historic buildings. The area is largely surrounded by wetlands and train tracks, a dichotomy that has resulted in a bizarre island-meets-industry vibe.

The average sales price for a two- or three-bedroom single-family detached home in Hegewisch is around $145,000, with some selling for as low as $65,000 and others going for as much as $225,000. Larger Hegewisch properties are not much more, but the average sales price does creep up to about $160,000.


What’s on the Menu?

One of the perks to Hegewisch’s isolated location is that all of the local eateries are laid-back, unassuming, and finely tuned to the palates of folks who like their food simple, fresh, and brimming with that trademark Chicago flavor.

Nothing says 'small town' like the kind of quaint fast-food joints that John Mellencamp songs are made of. We love Darcy’s Dogs (3146 E 133rd St, 773-646-5100) for its delicious take on a Chicago classic, and for its outdoor patio. Local residents also can’t get enough of the no-frills diner fare at Tom’s Restaurant (2701 E 130th St, 773-646-6065). The big secret of Hegewisch, though, is Steve’s Lounge (13200 S Baltimore Ave, 773-646-1071). We’re not sure what they bread their fried chicken with here, but it only takes one bite to make a believer out of anyone. This vintage joint draws visitors from all over Chicago, and it’s the culinary heart of this neighborhood.

When you get that old time hankering for a hot slice of pizza, you’ll find plenty of nearby options to satisfy your craving in this far-south side Chicago neighborhood. Pudgy’s Pizza (13460 S Baltimore Ave, 773-646-4199) offers thin crust and deep-dish pies in inventive combos like taco, BLT, and our favorite—Bob’s Mistake, which is made with red and green peppers, sausage, and lots of fresh garlic. We never know when that intense urge for a piece of pizza is going to hit, so it’s best to stock up on some frozen pies from Doreen’s Pizza (13201 S Baltimore Ave, 773-646-0063), that way you can cook them at home whenever you want. With real mozzarella and only the freshest ingredients, you’ll never be able to justify buying the supermarket stuff again.
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Night on the Town

After a hard day’s work, there is nothing like pulling up a barstool at your favorite local haunt. Luckily for you, if you live in Hegewisch, your favorite spot is centrally located, prime for people-watching, and always welcoming.

Every neighborhood has that one bar—the dive where everyone knows your name, the bartender doles out worldly wisdom, and the beer is always flowing. For Hegewisch, that bar is Mugs Bunny (13401 S Baltimore Ave, 773-646-4560). Tucked into downtown Hegewisch, Mugs Bunny offers karaoke, darts, and faithful screenings of both White Sox and Cubs games, in addition to friendly regulars and a whole lot of brews.
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Getting Around

The geographical chasm between Hegewisch and downtown Chicago has caused a lot of problems for this neighborhood in the past, but luckily for you, this is a new age! Whether you prefer to travel in a car or by train, Hegewisch is nowhere near as isolated as it once was.

Having a vehicle is a handy thing in this section of Chicago. Owning your own wheels makes getting to and from the Loop a snap—not to mention tooling around your own residential streets. With I-90 (Chicago Skyway) and I-94 (Bishop Ford Freeway) flanking the neighborhood on each side, getting downtown isn’t a problem, and getting to southern suburbs and Indiana is just as easy. Many houses in Hegewisch have garages, and street parking is widely available, so you’ll never have to worry about finding a spot for your car when you get home from work or come back from an errand in this Chicago neighborhood.

Of course this area was built on the railroad industry, and if you want to pay homage to that history when traveling about, you can hop aboard Metra’s South Shore Line. Located on Brainerd Avenue at 136th Street, the Hegewisch train station will easily and quickly connect you to all points in Chicago and northern Indiana.
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School’s in Session

Families that live in the neighborhood will be delighted with Hegewisch’s top-notch primary schools that are just around the corner from home. In addition to the following list, check out our Chicago Guide Schools page for more information on Chicago area schools.

Burnham School - 13945 S Green Bay Ave (708) 862-8636
Grissom Elementary School - 12810 S Escanaba Ave - (773) 535-5380
Henry Clay Elementary School - 13231 S Burley Ave - (773) 535-5600
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Basic Needs

Although the vibe here is very small-town, the neighborhood itself is pretty large. To help you find those necessities of everyday life we’ve compiled a list that includes where to get everything from butter to Band-Aids, burritos to beer.

Chicago Transit Authority - (888) 968-7282


Libraries

Hegewisch Public Library - 3048 E 130th St - (312) 747-0046


Post Offices

US Post Office - 13234 S Baltimore Ave - (773) 646-6721


Grocery Stores

Baltimore Food Store - 13322 S Baltimore Ave - (773) 646-5520
Hart’s Food Center - 13209 S Baltimore Ave - (773) 646-2405


Shopping

Anoil True Value Hardware - 13416 S Baltimore Ave - (773) 646-0730


RESTAURANTS

American Cuisine
Tom’s Restaurant - 2701 E 130th St - (773) 646-6065
Darcy’s Dogs - 3146 E 133rd St - (773) 646-5100
Steve’s Lounge - 13200 S Baltimore Ave - (773) 646-1071

Mexican Cuisine
Dona Martha - 13177 S Brainard Ave - (773) 646-1687
Los Cantinaritos - 13343 S Baltimore Ave - (773) 646-4015

Pizza
Doreen’s Pizza - 13201 S Baltimore Ave - (773) 646-0063
Mancini Pizzeria - 13508 S Brandon Ave - (773) 646-2783
Pucci’s Pizzeria - 13258 S Avenue O - (773) 646-3191
Pudgy’s Pizza & Sandwiches - 13460 S Baltimore Ave - (773) 646-4199

Nightlife/Bars
Club 505 - 13505 S Brainard Ave - (773) 646-9819
Club 81 Too - 13157 S Avenue M - (773) 646-4292
Goergie’s Tavern - 13359 S Avenue M - (773) 646-1524
Mugs Bunny - 13401 S Baltimore Ave - (773) 646-4560
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There’s a lot of mystery involved in searching for a new home-it starts with the property and expands outward to encompass the street, the block, the neighborhood, the entire city! Every little thing matters from the color of the walls to the attractions of the town. That’s why a guide like this one on Hegewisch is so helpful to potential homebuyers. Without leaving the comfort of your desktop computer or laptop, you’ve got an extensive pool of information on all of Chicago’s neighborhoods that includes first-hand descriptions of dining, entertainment, shopping, bars, and events, in addition to lists of schools, hospitals, post offices, and gyms. We’ve done all the research to carefully craft this one-stop online spot, and create your hub for the real deal on Hegewisch. So as soon as a Chicago loft, condo, townhome or house catches your eye, you know where to come for the low down on the digs around that prime piece of real estate.
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