Prior to the completion of the Union Stock Yard in 1865, Brighton Park was home to one of Chicago’s premiere stockyards and livestock trading centers. Although Brighton Park’s yards closed shortly after the opening of the Union Stock Yard, the community was able to quickly attract other industries. Brighton Park soon had a horse shoeing company, a cotton mill, and a silver smelting and refining company.
Brighton Park’s location was particularly attractive to gunpowder manufacturers, who wanted their plants and warehouses far from the city’s densely populated Loop. However, Brighton Park’s powder mills came quickly to an end on August 29, 1886, when lightning struck a local gunpowder warehouse. The blast left a 20-foot crater, damaged property for miles, and killed three. After heated exchanges with residents, the mills were relocated to Blue Island, Illinois. However, at least one remnant of the gunpowder industry remains in Brighton Park. Located at 3358 S. Artesian Avenue is an Italianate-style residence designed by Oscar Cobb in 1876 for Junot Whitehouse, the Superintendent of the DuPont Explosives Company. In 1920 it was moved one block west from its original location at 36th and Western.
Industrial parks opened in the neighborhood beginning in early 20th century, which made Brighton Park a desirable residential location for laborers and their families. Eastern European Jews, Poles, Lithuanians, and Italians settled in the neighborhood, drawn by employment opportunities.