Entering South Shore

The area we know as South Shore was mostly swampland in the 1850s when truck farmers utilized trails along the area's high ground to transport their goods to Chicago. Many of the first settlers were farmers and florists.

Before the community came to be known as South Shore in the 1920s, it was a collection of settlements in southern Hyde Park Township. The names of these settlements—Essex, Bryn Mawr, Parkside, Cheltenham Beach, and Windsor Park—indicate the British heritage of the Illinois Central Railroad and steel mill workers who had come to inhabit them. Most of these settlements were already in place when the Illinois Central built the South Kenwood Station in 1881 at what is now 71st and Jeffery Boulevard.

As with many South Side Chicago communities, the two events that sparked commercial and residential development were annexation to Chicago in 1889 and the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. The location of the fair in nearby Jackson Park prompted the sale of land and building lots and subsequently housing explosion.

The housing boom in the 1920s really established the neighborhood which came to be called South Shore. This housing boom generated not only a large increase in population, but a greater diversity among its residents and in housing stock. By 1940 South Shore contained 15 Protestant churches, 4 Roman Catholic churches, and 4 Jewish synagogues.

Bryn Mawr Community Church (7000 S. Jeffery) Gothic Revival architecture built in 1916.

Our Lady of Peace (79th and Jeffery), Roman Catholic, was organized in 1919 to serve the 78 Catholic families living in the area at that time. The grammar school opened in 1923. The church is in the Italian Renaissance style.

Avalon Theater (79th and East End) opened in 1927. With 2250 seats, it was famous for its elaborate and exotic interior, which was designed for the Cooney Brothers circuit in the Middle Eastern style. It became part of the Warner Brothers circuit during the 1930s and 1940s. The Avalon closed in the 1970s and found new life as a church. In 1987, it was restored and reopened as a performing arts center called the New Regal Theater which closed its doors in June 2003. The theater reopened in October 2007 as a venue for live performances. It currently is boarded up.

St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (7621 S. Dorchester)

Jackson Park Hospital (7531 S. Stony Island) The community hospital’s service goes back as far as World War I when it provided care to returning wounded veterans. Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center is a not-for profit, 336-bed acute, short-term care facility that offers a wide range of inpatient and outpatient diagnostic, therapeutic and ancillary services.

Greek Orthodox St Constantine and Helen Church (73rd and Stony Island – east side) was built in 1953 when the congregation moved from 61st St & Michigan Ave. The school, located behind the church, was one of only three Greek Orthodox schools in Chicago.

Parkside Elementary (6938 S. East End Ave)

The Republic, aka Golden Lady. This is a 24-foot high gilded replica of the Daniel Chester French 65-foot high Statue of the Republic which originally stood at the foot of the Court of Honor (southwest of the present Beach House at 63rd/Hayes Drive) at the Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Jackson Park Golf Course – Jackson Park featured the first public golf course west of the Alleghenies which opened in 1899.

La Rabida – For the Chicago World’s Fair Colombian Exposition in 1893, the government of Spain constructed its exhibition hall as a replica of Spain’s La Rabida Monastery – the embarkation site of Columbus’ new world exploration in 1492. After the fair, the Spanish Consulate donated the building to the city of Chicago for use as a fresh air sanitarium for sick children. A group of volunteer women led the effort to equip and staff the facility. Today, LaRabida’s mission is to treat children with lifelong medical conditions.


South Shore Cultural Center – Unfortunately, we are unable today to tour the South Shore Cultural Center, formerly South Shore County Club. They are having a Jazz Fest this weekend, and we can’t enter the grounds. During the 50’s and 60s many who lived in South Shore were not allowed to join or even enter the grounds as Jews and blacks were not allowed.

The country club was founded in 1906 and rebuilt in 1916. It was designed to resemble an Italian Summer Resort Club, and its 58 acre site encompassed a nine hole golf course, bathing beach, and tennis courts. Membership peaked in the late 50s. Simultaneously, many African-Americans began settling in South Shore. Because the club excluded black members, it went out of business in the 70s.

In 1974, the Chicago Park District purchased the property to expand its lakefront facilities. They planned to demolish the clubhouse. However, community members rallied to save the historic building. It was placed on the National Historic Register in 1975.   The Obamas were married in the Grand Ballroom in 1992.

Beth Am was a breakaway temple from K.A.M. in Hyde Park. K.A.M. was established in 1847 and claims to be the first synagogue in the Midwest. After much of its congregation moved away, Beth Am merged with Temple Shalom on Lake Shore Drive and Addison. Now Robert A. Black Magnet School (7133 S. Coles)

Faulkner School for Girls (7110 S. Coles)

South Shore Public Library (73rd and Exchange) opened in May 1929. It features Tudor style architecture and was designed by the same architect who designed Lane Tech and Cook County Hospital.

Congregation Habomin (76th and Phillips) was a Conservative synagogue built in the early 1940s.

B’nai Bezalel (76th and Phillips) was established in the 1950s.

Young Men’s Jewish Council (76th and Phillips – SE corner) opened in 1954. Now the CYC (Chicago Youth Center) Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center, it gives youths individual attention to help them with academic achievement and social and life skills development.

Shore Theater (75th St between Essex and Kingston) was opened in 1927. Like the other larger South Shore movie houses, the Jeffery and the Hamilton, the Shore was operated by Warner Brothers from the 30s until the 50s. It has been closed and torn down.

Bradwell Elementary School (7736 S Burnham) was named for Myra C. Bradwell the first woman lawyer in Illinois. She passed the Illinois bar exam in 1869 but was denied a license because of her sex. Bradwell appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court but lost, with Justice Joseph Bradley writing,” The paramount destiny and mission of woman is to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. That is the law of the Creator.” She represented Mary Todd Lincoln and got her released from the insane asylum to which her son, Robert, had had her committed. She finally won her law license in 1890.She decided that she was too busy to use it full time. She lived from 1831 to 1894.

In 1890, a new school was constructed called Duncan School. In 1895 the name was changed to Myra C. Bradwell. The first principal, Miss Irene Fort, along with two other teachers were victims in the December 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire. In 1904, the graduating class picked the school colors. They picked black for mourning and gold for the fire as a memorial to their principal and teachers.

Rainbow Beach & Park, which was named for the U.S. Army’s 42nd Rainbow Division that fought gallantly in WWI, began as two separate municipal beaches. The first, known as Rocky Ledge Beach, was a small site at 79th and Lake Michigan. In 1914, the city began efforts to expand the beach and acquired land between 75th St and Rocky Ledge Beach. The new site was named Rainbow Beach in 1918. The two beaches were consolidated in 1959 when the Chicago Park District began leasing the site from the city.

South Shore Baptist Church (79th St and Coles)

Church of St. Bride, (7811 S. Coles) the oldest Roman Catholic parish in South Shore, was organized in 1893. It was initially established to serve the 45 or so Catholic families living north of 87th St. Land purchased on the east side of Coles Ave near 78th St was home to the first church building, and, in 1911, became the site for the first Catholic elementary school on the south side. Ground was broken in 1907 for the French Gothic structure that was to be the main building.

Eckersall Stadium (79th and Yates) is named for Walter Eckersall (1884-1930) an all-American football player who played for Hyde Park High School and the U. of Chicago under Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. He was arguably the best college football player in the history of the U of Chicago and in all of football for the 1900-1910 era. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951. After college, Eckersall became a football referee and a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune.

Coles Elementary School (8441 S. Yates) was named for Edward Coles who was the second governor of Illinois from 1822 to 1824. He defeated the pro-slavery effort in Illinois.

Temple Bnai Yehuda (Tee-Pee Temple) (82nd and Jeffery)

Reformation Lutheran Church (80th and Jeffery)

Horace Mann Elementary School (8050 S. Chappel) was named for Horace Mann, an American educator born in Massachusetts and a pioneer in the American education system. He created the first Board of Education in the U.S., advocated teacher training schools, and strongly influenced the evolution of modern education. He lived from 1796-1859.

South Shore United Methodist Church (74th and Jeffery) formerly St. John Methodist Church

Bryn Mawr Elementary (7355 S. Jeffery). Bryn Mawr, Welsh for “big hill”, opened in 1913 and was renamed Bouchet (boo-shay) Math and Science School in 1999. Between 1962 and 1967 Bryn Mawr opened the Bryn Mawr Annex in the classroom section of South Shore Temple. Greenberg Hall, the gym and classrooms for South Side Hebrew Congregation, is part of Bouchet. It was renamed for Dr. Edward Alexander Bouchet who in 1873 was the first African –American to graduate from Yale and was the first African-American to earn a doctorate from an American university when he received a PhD in physics in 1876.

Michelle Obama graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1977. She went to Whitney Young High School from which she graduated in 1981.

South Side Hebrew Congregation (Conservative) (74th and Chappel), founded in 1888, moved to the near north side in the 1970’s and is now known as Central Synagogue of Chicago. Now meet in Water Tower.

St. Philip Neri (2110 E. 72nd St) celebrated its first mass on Easter Sunday 1928. Designed by the same architect as OLP at 79th/Jeffery, the style has been called “South Shore Gothic.”

South Shore Temple (72nd and Jeffery), a Reform temple, was founded in 1922. When the congregation moved downtown, it became Kol Ami meeting in Water Tower. In April 2009, the 87 year old congregation dissolved due to rising debt and declining membership.

O’Keeffe Elementary School (6940 S. Merrill) was named for Isabelle C. O’Keeffe. A native Chicagoan, she was a teacher at Graham School for 6 years and was a member of the Chicago Board of Education. Her most important contribution to the public schools was the establishment of kindergarten as a staple of the Chicago school system. She died in Chicago in 1922.


The Hamilton Theater (north side of street between Paxton and Merrill) opened in 1916 for the Cooney Brothers circuit and featured vaudeville as well as movies for a number of years. It sat just under 1,000 and was remodeled in 1936. It was demolished in 2002.

South Shore Bank (71st and Jeffery – NW corner) was renamed ShoreBank in 2000. It was the oldest and largest community development bank founded and headquartered in Chicago. In the late 1960s – early 1970s it was instrumental in stabilizing the South Shore neighborhood during the rapid change taking place at that time. The bank faced significant losses in 2009 and in August 2010, the bank was declared insolvent, closed by regulators, and most of its assets were acquired by Urban Partnership Group. It is currently boarded up.

The Jeffery Theater opened in 1924 in the heart of South Shore’s then bustling commercial center, at 71st St between Euclid Ave and Jeffery Blvd, as a vaudeville and movie house also for the Cooney Brothers circuit. The neo-classical style theater could seat almost 1800 and was operated by Warner Brothers in the 30’s and 40’s. It was later run by the Coston family, which also operated the Beverly and the Hamilton. The Jeffery was demolished in the late 1990’s.

South Shore YMCA (1833 E.71st St) The Chicago Park District purchased the former YMCA in 1991. At the time, the surrounding South Shore community suffered from a severe shortage of recreational facilities. The area parks included neither gymnasiums nor swimming pools. The former YMCA offered both a central location in the community and approximately 35,000 square feet of space, nearly twice that of the average modern Chicago park fieldhouse. After purchasing the property, now the Don Nash Community Center, the park district extensively remodeled the building, which had been constructed by the YMCA in the 1940s. Donald Jordan Nash (1935-1992), for whom the park is named, joined the Coca Cola Company in 1962 as a route helper, rising through the ranks to become the company's first African-American to serve as Vice President of Community and Governmental Affairs.

South Shore High School (7627 S. Constance), our original school, was opened in 1940. It’s being renovated this year for the first time.

The newer building (north of the original building – 75th and Constance) was considered state of the art when it was built in 1969. In 2001, the school campus was divided into four smaller, specialized high schools: The School of Entrepreneurship, the School of the Arts, the School of Leadership, and the School of Technology. It is scheduled to be demolished this year.

The newest school at 75th and Jeffery is called South Shore International College Prep and will have its first freshman class this fall. It will serve 1200 students in a 300,000 SF three-floors plus lower level will include music art and athletic functions.

Rosenblum Park, a 9-acre park located between 75th and 76th Sts and Jeffery and Constance, and originally known as South Shore Park, was one of many parks created as part of a ten-year plan to provide additional recreational space for post-World War II Chicago. The process of land acquisition for the three- block site began in 1946, but obtaining the property proved somewhat difficult, and the process was not completed until 1953. The park district soon added a small recreational building and tennis and shuffleboard courts to supplement the existing softball field, and planted numerous red oaks and other new trees.

In 1965, the park district sold a small portion of its land to the Board of Education for an addition to South Shore High School. The new new school was also built on park land.

In 1965, the park district renamed the site Rosenblum Park in honor of J. Leslie Rosenblum , a long-time South Shore resident. Rosenblum, a local pharmacist, was an active participant in the South Shore Chamber of Commerce and the area Lions Club. A strong supporter of the Neighborhood Boys' Club, he left his estate to the organization upon his death.