Bronzeville 2017-11-17T03:18:47+00:00
Bronzeville
Bronzeville Retail Initiative

History Map Showing the Boundaries of All the Neighborhoods in Chicago

Bronzeville is a neighborhood with a rich and storied tradition. It is located on the south side, or near south side, of Chicago and has long been called home by some of the most prominent men in the city. Before it became Bronzeville its lush green boulevards and magnificent plots were home to some of Chicago’s captains of industry and political elites, such as the Swifts and the Marx Brothers. There was a Great Migration in the early 1900’s that resulted in many African-Americans moving to Chicago and settling on the south side. Bronzeville immediately saw a surge in population growth with many musicians, businessmen, politicians, and entrepreneurs relocating to the area. Bronzeville has the distinction of being home to the first black owned and operated bank and insurance company. Many famous people were associated with the development of the area including: Andrew “Rube” Foster, founder of the Negro National Baseball League; Ida B. Wells, a civil rights activist, journalist and organizer of the NAACP; Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot; Gwendolyn Brooks, famous author and first African-American recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, actress Marla Gibbs, the legendary singers, Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls, and Louis Armstrong, the legendary trumpet player and bandleader who performed at many of the area’s night clubs. The neighborhood contains the Chicago Landmark Black Metropolis-Bronzeville District.

After World War II, Bronzeville’s image of a thriving community began to change. Lack of investment and social change spread negatively throughout the neighborhood. Businesses shut their doors and unemployment started to head up. African Americans moved further south due to the elimination of restricted housing covenants. This resulted in nearly one-third of Bronzeville’s housing stock becoming vacant or abandoned.

Today, Bronzeville is making a strong comeback as professionals, many of them African-American, have picked up the run-down graystones at bargain-basement prices and rehabbed them to their former glory. By 2007, the public housing developments had nearly vanished, with the last building of the Robert Taylor Homes facing demolition in March 2007. Thousands of displaced public housing residents were relocated or received Section 8 vouchers to subsidize  their rent in private apartments; five mixed-income, low-rise developments are planned to replaced 7,300 of the homes Bronzeville lost when the old projects were demolished. The attractive new buildings that are already completed have proved popular.

In 2001, Chicago instituted the African-American Showcase of Homes to encourage residents to rebuild Bronzeville. The city donated land and the African-American Home Builders Association donated two million dollars to assist local builders in creating market-rate homes on South St. Lawrence Avenue. Driving south on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, the contrast between old and new is remarkable. From 26th St. to 35th St, the new developments tower overhead, but they are surrounded by large open spaces. South of 35th, you feel like you’ve stepped back a hundred years. The houses are spectacular, with intricate stonework and wrought-iron fences, a perfect complement to this wide, tree-lined boulevard. Bronzeville remains primarily, and proudly, an African-American neighborhood, with historical awareness continuing to increase along with property values. However, word is spreading, and improvements are bringing demographic changes to the community. The Chicago Reporter found that, in 2003, 34% of those buying homes near the sites of the former Robert Taylor and Stateway Garden projects were white, while another 6% were Latino or Asian.

Today, the neighborhood is seeing major community-driven revitalization efforts, mostly by wealthy and entrepreneurial African-Americans who value the neighborhood’s historic importance. Historic clubs are reopening, and there are a handful of nice coffee shops and restaurants that have opened in recent years. More so than the present, however, the principal attraction remains the neighborhood’s rich history. As a rule, the revitalization efforts have not extended below 47th Street or west of the Dan Ryan Expressway into the Washington Park and Fuller Park neighborhoods, which remain very blighted, with an extraordinary amount of vacant lots and the highest violent crime levels in the city. Unfortunately, this means that 47th Street, which has some major draws, can be a little edgy after dark. But don’t worry about Washington Park the park (as opposed to the neighborhood) — is perfectly safe during the day. So the next time you’re in the area…or just visiting the city. Make sure to take the time to stop by an check out what Bronzeville has to offer. It may not be the most well known, or most popular, tourist destination, but it will surprise you with what it has to offer.

Demographic Information for Bronzeville

Cuisine

Even though Chicago has a long history of producing high-quality food, not every single neighborhood can live up to that reputation. Bronzeville is one of the places that has lagged behind the overall city in that regard. It hasn’t been a go-to destination for people who seek good food, but they’re trying to change that image.

On a budget, check out Alice’s BBQ. Open very late and offering some of the best cue in the city, Alice’s would be a great take-out stop if there were fewer people inside bumming for money. Ignore them, though, and you’ll be treated to a fantastic meal. The other cheap option you won’t want to pass up is Harold’s Chicken Shack. The great South Side fried chicken chain is cheap, usually a little dirty, and always delicious. Harold’s was born right near here on 47th street, by the way, in north Kenwood, although the original location (at Greenwood) closed long ago.

Want something that’s a step up, you can’t go wrong with Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. A great little place serving all sorts of different combinations of, as you might expect, chicken and waffles, as well as your standard soul food menu, expertly executed. The neighborhood is underserved by such nice establishments, though, and given the small space that means there’s a significant wait to be seated virtually any time of the week. Oh, and the extra “s” in Roscoe’s is to forestall lawsuits from the L.A. chain. The pretty building the place inhabits was a hotel back in the days when blacks could not stay at “white hotels” around the city, so this one played host to some big African-American celebrities, including local Muhammad Ali.

  • Alice’s BBQ – 65 E 43rd St

  • Harold’s Chicken Shack – 108 E 47th St

  • Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles – 3947 S MLK Jr Dr

  • Mississippi Rick’s – 3351 S MLK Jr Dr

  • Ms Biscuit – 5431 S Wabash Ave

  • Pearl’s Place – 3901 S Michigan Ave

  • Yassa African Restaurant – 3511 S King Dr

  • Ain’t She Sweet – 526 E 43rd St

  • Truth Italian Restaurant – 56 E Pershing Rd

  • Peach’s Restaurant – 4652 S King Dr

  • Honey 1 BBQ – 746 E 43rd St

  • Norman’s Bistro – 1001 E 43rd St

  • Bronzeville Jerk Shack – 5055 S Prairie Ave

  • Southtown Sub – 240 E 35th St

  • Miller Pizza Company – 17 W 35th St

  • DeMichael’s Market – 42 E 26th St

  • Talon’s – 3241 S Federal St

  • Chicago Rib House – 3851 S Michigan Ave

  • Jimmy John’s – 3506 S State St

  • Pritzker Club – 3201 S State St

Nightlife

Bronzeville may not be the first place you think of when you want to have a great night out…but that doesn’t mean it will disappoint you. The neighborhood offers some great spots to check out no matter what you’re interested in doing. Looking for some decent wings and beer while you’re watching the game…check out ChiSox Bar and Grill. If you’re the type of person who can’t imagine a night out without laughing so hard you’re rolling on the floor, then you’ll want to head to Jokes and Notes, a comedy club. For something a little more casual, a place that’s upscale, yet laid-back you can always go to M/X, a sleek club that has good music playing and craft beer on tap.

  • ChiSox Bar and Grill – 320 W 35th St

  • Good Times – 200 E 35th St

  • Swagger – 5050 S Prairie Ave

  • Jokes and Notes – 4641 S King Dr

  • Sunset Cafe – E 35th St

  • Room 43 – 1043 E 43rd St

  • M/X – 2233 S King Dr

  • Willie’s Hideaway – 3659 S Indiana Ave

  • SL Sports Lounge – 11 W 26th St

  • Feeltrip Studios – 2215 S Michigan Ave

  • Rocky’s Sports Bar – 234 W 31st St

  • Cork and Kerry – 3259 S Princeton Ave