Prior to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the neighborhood that would become Englewood had a very small, working-class populace. The fire left thousands homeless and led to an unimaginable rush to develop the predominantly German and Irish immigrant community. Despite the influx, Englewood continued to be a blue-collar and immigrant neighborhood. Nearly one-fifth of the residents were still foreign born, the majority coming from northwestern European countries.
Located at 611 West 63rd Street is the Englewood Post Office. Although the site looks innocuous today, it was once home to Englewood’s most notorious resident and America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes. Holmes designed his hotel at this location to attract young women visiting Chicago for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The hotel was a maze of secret rooms and vaults, and even housed a crematorium. When he was apprehended, Holmes confessed to the murder of 27 women, although the actual body count could be higher.
As happened in other South Side neighborhoods, changes in population demographics led to racial conflict and tension. In the 1960s, African-Americans accounted for 69 percent of Englewood’s population, but German and Irish Americans continued to control local politics. Within a few years, Englewood became a community of abandoned homes, deteriorating buildings, poverty, and violence.
Residents and civic leaders continue to attempt to transform this neighborhood. At the intersection of 63rd and Halsted, once the second busiest shopping district in Chicago, a mall was constructed in 1969, but the project was unsuccessful and much of the mall was demolished. In 1999, a $256 million revitalization plan for Englewood was announced by Richard M. Daley. It included relocating Kennedy-King College to 63rd and Halsted streets. The community college brings approximately 4,000 students to the area, creating the opportunity for new commercial and residential developments.