Re: Kenwood Line Embankment
Date: November 04, 2012 08:48PM
Most of the rails on the old Kenwood Line are still in place but covered over by heavy over-growth. The end-of-the line terminal at 42nd Place and Oakenwald Ave is long gone. According to the CTA, The Kenwood line was discontinued in December of 1957. The entire 42nd Place terminal yard was demolished shortly there after by 1962 to make way for the construction of three public housing 16-story high-rise projects (affectionately known as "The Horseshoe" because these three high rise buildings circled their joint-use playground area).
[There is a scene in the movie "Mahogany" with Diana Ross, where her character comes home from work only to find the character portrayed by Billy D Williams out in the middle of the street with a bull horn informing residents of a voter registration drive at the near-by Oakenwald School. In the background of the camera shot of Billy D Williams is one of the buildings of "The Horseshoe." Out of the camera shot behind him is a row of houses and behind them, the now defunct CTA Kenwood Line.]
The concrete embankment on 41st street, from Lake Park east to the Illinois Central tracks, stood between these high rise buildings and the Oakenwald Elementary School -which occupied the north side of 41st street between Lake Park and Oakenwald Ave.
This concrete embankment on 41st street became the defacto "gang turf border line" between Jeff Fort and the Black P Stone Rangers (to the north), and Larry Hoover and the Devil's Disciples (some of whose members, along with one David Barksdale) lived in and around the "Horseshoe" projects between 41st and 42nd street.
Community activism eventually got the city to demolish this concrete embankment to remove gang-related tensions in the neighborhood. Heading west, the embankments between Lake Park and Ellis, and Ellis and Drexel are still there -although they were also a part of the defacto turf border, and contributed to the heightening of the street gang violence throughout the 1970s.
Due to housing developments, the embankment from Drexel west to Cottage Grove was removed many years ago. The embankments from Cottage Grove west to ML King Drive and from ML King Drive west to Indiana Ave., are still standing.
Street gang violence in this Oakland community has been diminished almost to the point of non-existence. The former gang leaders, Jeff Fort and Larry Hoover, will probably die in federal prison. David Barksdale has been dead for decades.
Demolition of the Oakenwald Elementary school and nearby dilapidated housing, and the ceremonial TNT-razing of the high-rise projects of the "Horseshoe" and at 4040 So. Oakenwald Ave., paved the way for construction of more urbane and upscale townhouses and condos -well beyond the financial grasp of former residents uprooted by the massive demolition campaign who might have dreamed of returning to their old neighborhood.
Today, the danger of getting caught up in the cross-fire of a street gang turf war is very unlikely. The complexion of this neighborhood (no pun intended) has been drastically changed.
An exploration of the tops of these still-existing embankments will probably reveal rusted out rails, rotting wooden pilings and a jungle of overgrowth. Without a permit, you might attract the attention of the police. This is, still, City property. Good luck.