Neighborhoods for the rest of us: New City

4179 S Lowe Ave, New City, ChicagoBeing a young transplant, just about everything I know about New City (and its sub-neighborhoods, Back of the Yards and Canaryville) comes from the history books on my shelf. Perhaps for my parents’ generation, and most definitely for my grandparents’ and back, however, the sights and smells of this South Side community defined Chicago.

Community Area 61, bounded roughly by Pershing Road, Garfield Boulevard, Western Avenue, and the Dan Ryan Expressway, was once the heart of the country’s meatpacking industry. It was the setting of The Jungle, the center of Saul Alinsky’s community organizing, and the site of the first Chicago Bulls game. And although Grant Park and the Hilton were where the kids and cops clashed in 1968, it was inside New City’s Chicago Amphitheatre where the first Mayor Daley heckled Abe Ribicoff as Dan Rather took punches to the gut.

The packinghouses and stockyards are long gone, but New City remains an industrial zone lined with rails, but it’s also a residential neighborhood, especially in Canaryville and the area south of 47th. A full two-thirds of the 231 residential properties for sale in New City are multi-unit buildings priced from $3,500 up to the $590s.

More than half of the single-family homes there are priced below $100,000, although there’s one — a six-bedroom / five-bath with 10,000 square feet (pictured) — going for almost $2.4 million. (The next highest price is in the $570s.) Ten one- to three-bedroom condos are also listed from the $120s to $260s.

Normally I’d direct you to our set of New City photos on Flickr, but it doesn’t look like we have any. Guess it’s time to take a camera down there and have a new look around, huh?


  • Joe,

    Here’s a video I shot at the southern edge of the neighborhood.

    I’ve driven through a number of times, and I have to tell you that absolutely nothing about the demeanor of the locals encouraged me to stop and take photos – or even point a camera in their direction. Be careful out there.

  • Ah, Canaryville. One of the few neighborhoods in Chicago where some natives consider it perfectly normal to walk around with socks loaded with billiard balls in their hands. Just in case someone they don’t recognize is in the neighborhood and needs encouragement to leave.

    The horrible thing is that is the NICE part of “New City”.

  • the urban politician 9 years

    Joe and Irish,

    Is it the black people doing this, the Hispanic people, the white folks, or all three?

  • tup,

    The area is majority Latino, about 30% black and about 10% white.

    Not having spent a lot of time there, beyond the occasional drive-through, I can’t add much. And, I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking.

  • About 10 years ago or so a white guy in Canaryville had some type of “beef” with one of his white neighbors. He beat the guy to death with a sock filled with billiard balls.

    Tom McNamee wrote a piece about it in the Sun Times while profiling Canaryville. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be in the archives. McNamee’s dad grew up there and moved out because of similar stupidity.

    Canaryville is roughly 50/50 white/hispanic. It makes up a relatively small piece of the overall neighborhood.

    This link will give you some idea of the incident I am referring to.

    Lotsa good people there surrounded by lotsa idiots.

  • One other thing Canaryville is infamous for is that around 1991 two Chicago cops dropped off some black kids in the neighborhood. Said kids were immediately attacked by some residents who took offense at their presence and skin color.

    The cops were fired. The main attacker was convicted. Some pasty Irish kid named Fitz? something or other.

    Tomorrow expect hordes of web savvy Canaryville residents to pounce on my comments. Thankfully, I am anonymous so they won’t be able to send the “Canaryville Social Club” after me.

  • the urban politician 9 years

    Wow, mean Irish streetfighting types…

    What is this, 1885?

  • Joe 9 years

    We lived in Canaryville for about seven months in 2005 and 2006 — we had been renting a house in Bridgeport, weren’t sure we were going to stay in Chicago, and the landlord we were renting from let us go month-to-month in a Canaryville place until we decided (we decided we would stay, bought a nice house in Bridgeport, then promptly had to move when my wife got a great job in another city — that’s $20k I’ll never see back again).

    I have several fond recollections:

    1.) The neighborhood frequently smelled like ham. I was just telling my daughter (conceived in C-ville) that that’s the reason she loves ham so much.

    2.) The house was REALLY crooked. But rather than fix that, the owner just built a shell around the outside to make it look like it was straight. The problem is that birds used to get in between the shell and the real walls, and then find their way into the house proper. God, our dog hated that. You’d be sitting in the living room watching TV, and a bird would come flying down the hall.

    3.) I never really got any crap for being an “outsider.” Granted, aside from Pizza Nova I never really went anywhere, much less somewhere I might get crap — especially not the bars, where I hear it is much more common — but I never felt like I was about to get beat up for being unfamiliar. The neighbors were nice enough, except for a bunch of hillbillies a few doors down.

    4.) The neighborhood is very, very racist. The African-Aemrican kids from the other side of the aquaduct (from Fuller Park) had to go to school in Canaryville, and they frequently were abused on the walk over. I’m talking older white people (mostly women — this was during working hours) screaming “go home darkie!”, but they didn’t say “darkie.” It was basically like you see in the old footage of the students at Little Rock High School, albeit to a lesser degree — except these were elementary school kids, and it was 2006. That said, a number of residents (my wife included) told the chaperones that they could come in and call the cops if it ever got really hairy. The chaperones said that they had dozens of similar offers. Strangely enough, there was a mixed-race couple in the neighborhood, and she used to walk her dogs alone pretty frequently. Never got any gruff. I’m guessing that he was a bigwig of some sort (he looked it — big, middle-aged, balding, with a mustache, probably a cop or firefighter would be my guess).

    5.) Everyone is a Cubs fan. I was told that this is based on the animosity between C-ville and Bridgeport — working-class Irish vs. “lace curtain” Irish, which is funny because I don’t think anyone else in the city would classify Bridgeport as the snobby neighborhood.

    6.) Demographically speaking, C-ville proper (41st to 49th, acquaduct to Halstead) seemed to be about 75% white and 25% latino. Though that could be off — it was more white the further north and east you got, and I lived in the NE part.

  • Carter 9 years

    Sounds like Chicago’s version of Hell’s Kitchen. How many people actually live in Canaryville? It certainly does sound, um, insular.

  • the urban politician 9 years

    Thanks for sharing, Joe.

    What a strange little time capsule from 1960 these near SW side neighborhoods are…

  • Folger 6 years

    I live in the mount greenwood area in the southwest side people call the area south cannaryville. It sounds the exact same except people in mount greenwood have a little more class