Austin is area number 25 of Chicago’s 77 community areas. It sits 7 miles west of the loop. One of the largest areas by size in all of Chicago, it is also its most populated. Arguably, it is by a per capita basis, its most neglected. Given the great history of this area, and the remarkable legacy of its built environment, and the great human cost of years of neglect, it is a true shame. The best argument for reclaiming our city’s lost virtue and glory can be found in Austin. The history that is being allowed to rot away, be torn down, and the poor conditions and services for the neighborhoods of Austin are excellent reasons to prompt true urban renewal. This ride is designed to show you everything about Austin. We are getting on our bikes and riding through our city.
Austin itself began in 1865 when Henry Austin purchased about 500 acres of land for a temperance settlement he named “Austinville”. This is the area bounded by current Chicago Avenue to Madison Avenue and from Austin on the west to Laramie on the East. By the 1890s, there were over 4,000 residents in what had become the defacto government seat for Cicero township, much to the chagrin of other villages like Oak Park and Berwyn. It grew thanks to its location along rail lines and aided by destinations on the west like Oak Park and on the east like Garfield Park. By 1899, this rivalry had intensified to the point that Oak Park, Berwyn and the rest of Cicero township voted Austin out, and it was annexed by Chicago.
Like a lot of west side areas, Austin has experienced more than its share of hard times. After the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, the area was never really rebuilt. Its infrastructure deteriorated, businesses and residents left for the suburbs and it experienced prolonged and pronounced disinvestment, demolition and housing deterioration, a loss of jobs and commerce and in turn opportunity. Hopefully some recognition from more of us about the greatness of all of our city will inspire some of us to bring every part of it along.
Past dates of the Tour of Austin
- May 31, 2009
- October 9, 2010
- November 5, 2011
- May 11, 2013