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Chicago – Canaryville


O’LEARY’S ON SOUTH HALSTED STREET, 1906

“Canaryville” enjoyed a reputation as one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city from the late nineteenth through much of the twentieth century. A largely Irish community on the South Side adjacent to Bridgeport in the New City community area, it stretches from Fortieth to Forty-Seventh Street between Wentworth Avenue and Halsted, with the “ Black Belt ” to the east and the late Union Stock Yard to the west. Given its close proximity to the stockyards, the area’s physical environment and economic life were shaped by livestock and meatpacking from the 1860s until the industry’s decline in the postwar era. Canaryville’s name may originally have derived from the legions of sparrows who populated the area at the end of the nineteenth century, feeding off stockyard refuse and grain from railroad cars, but the term was also applied to the neighborhood’s rambunctious youth, its “wild canaries.” Gangs helped establish the neighborhood’s truculent reputation and were active in attacks on African Americans during the 1919 Race Riot. Boasting a strongDemocratic Party machine throughout the twentieth century, Canaryville also embraced a rich Roman Catholic cultural life centered on St. Gabriel’s Parish. With the closing of the stockyards and the International Amphitheatre, the population in the area began declining in the 1960s. Still populated largely by Irish, Canaryville now includes a sizeable Mexican community.

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