A History of Cabrini-Green

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Francis Cabrini Homes was constructed in 1941 and 1942. The first family moved in Aug. 1, 1942. The Cabrini Homes, commonly known today as the row houses, are bounded by Chicago Avenue on the south, Oak Street on the north, Cambridge Avenue on the west and Hudson Avenue to the east.

In 1900, the area where Cabrini-Green is located was crowded with frame and brick tenements and industrial buildings with two or even three buildings on a single lot. The area had a large Italian population and was often called “Little Sicily.” By 1940, the Black population in the area had grown to 20 percent, and by 1950 to 79 percent. There was still a 75 percent white population in the surrounding area.The Cabrini Homes were actually built for families of war industry workers during World War II and a small group of low-income families. A total of 55 two- and three-story buildings were built and remain standing today. The units were built in two architectural styles. Some have outward-facing entrances with stairways leading up to duplex row houses on the second and third floors. Other units have apartments on the first floor as well as English-style basements with garden apartments. Both styles of apartments stand approximately four feet from street level. The row houses are very regimental in appearance. Each tenant has a small yard.

Francis Cabrini Homes was the first, but certainly not the last, development where CHA began to economize. It was the first development where residents were expected to provide their own refrigerators. Each unit has its own separate heating plant. The purpose of the project design was to keep CHA maintenance cost to an absolute minimum.

The row houses were designed by Henry Holsman, Geirge Burniester, Maurice Rissman, Ernest Grunsfeld Jr., L.R. Solomon, G.M Jones, K.M. Vitzhum, I.S. Loewenberg and Frank McNally.

Cabrini Extension was completed in 1958 and added 1,925 units in fifteen buildings of seven, ten and nineteen stories.

Located at Division and Sedgwick streets, its building have exposed concrete frames and red brick infill with two perpendicular wings at the rear of each building. When Cabrini Extension opened, it was the largest development in Chicago.

The buildings have one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments. Its elevators are exposed to the cold weather in winter. The 7- and ten-story buildings have only one. They were designed by A. Epstein and sons.

William Green Homes was completed in 1962 and was the final component of the Cabrini-Green complex. Green Homes is situated north of Division Street, north and west of the Cabrini Extension. The eight buildings are fifteen and sixteen stories tall. The buildings have concrete panels, middle and precast concrete panels below the windows on the front and rear walls. There are 1,096 family units. All of the five bedroom apartments are located in duplex units on the first and second floors. The three- and four-bedroom apartments occupy the third through sixth floors with smaller units on the upper floors. They were designed by Pace Associates.

(The above article includes excerpts from “The Poorhouse”)

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