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Neighborhood Spotlight: Auburn Gresham / Englewood

Auburn Gresham is located on the south side of Chicago, only nine miles from the downtown area. The neighborhood grew out of a cluster of three original settlements founded by German, Dutch, and the Irish railroad workers. Auburn Gresham's accessibility made the neighborhood attractive to families who were trying to escape older and more congested sections of the city. The community was known for bustling commercial activity, quality schools, and plentiful jobs. Local parks like the scenic Auburn Lakes, a swampy area that was turned into a series of three fishing lagoons in the 1890s, added to Auburn-Gresham’s charm.

photo "8100 block S. Damen" (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by  reallyboring
Auburn Gresham

Between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, Auburn Gresham experienced a decline in economic investments. Many businesses and financial institutions moved to other areas of the city and to the suburbs. However, community forces quickly mobilized to maintain and strengthen Auburn Gresham’s image, improve neighborhood safety, and bring strong businesses back to the community. Local leaders like Betty Jo Swanson, then-Alderman Terry Peterson and Fr. Mike Pfleger of St. Sabina Church fought to regain control of the neighborhood and bring back viable retail stores, restaurants, banks, and equitable resources.

Today Auburn Gresham is a predominantly African-American community, where more than 47% of the residents are homeowners. Neighborhood residents continue to be the backbone of the Auburn Gresham community with their involvement in block clubs, political and civic organizations, homeowners’ associations, and religious institutions. The annual 79th Street Renaissance Festival and Peace Jam, a vibrant community event, is held in Auburn Gresham on the second Saturday of September. Local landmarks include the Highland Theater, once home to vaudeville and the beautiful St. Sabina Church. Watch the video below to learn more about this exciting community.

Auburn Lakes home facades

The Pillars of Auburn Gresham

The Pillars of Auburn Gresham Project, as developed by NHS of Chicago, is a video narrative of Auburn Gresham as seen through the eyes of community members. NHS enlisted local resident and organization participation in this project in order to research the area’s history on a more personal level. Video interviews were conducted with long-time residents and documents, photographs, advertisements, and community group newsletters were also collected from many Auburn Gresham families. The short documentary is a collection of video clips showcasing local history and little-known neighborhood treasures, such as Saint Leo’s Bell Tower and Veteran’s Park. This project promotes a positive image of Auburn-Gresham and influence current residents to make investments in their homes and community, which supports the revitalization of the neighborhood.


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Neighborhood Office
449 W. 79th Steet
Chicago, Illinois 60620

Telephone: (773) 488-2004
Fax: (773) 488-2126
Contact Us



  • Shirley Bryant
  • Alice Duncan
  • Gerald Goodlow (Keller Williams) (Secretary)
  • Kimberly Cannon (Fifth-Third Bank)
  • Amanda Norman
  • Betty Jo Swanson (Chairperson)
  • Barbara Young
  • Betty Clayton
  • Camille Garrett (State Farm Insurance)
  • Carlos Nelson (GAGDC)
  • Juanita Love
  • Renee & DeAndre Estes
  • Steve Casey (Vice-Chair)
  • Kham & Arlecta Beard (Walomahk Management)
  • Naomi Ragland
  • Yvonne Newson
  • Eugen Khaan
  • Paul Thompson
  • Monique N. Dockery
  • Barbara Washington

Office Staff

Janece Simmons

Neighborhood Director
(773) 488-2004 Ext. 5202
Janece Simmons began working with NHS as a local advisory council member in West Humboldt Park. She received the NHS Neighborhood Hero's Award in 2010 for her work in Community Development and Outreach, and became the Auburn Gresham Neighborhood Director in 2012.

Gabriella Nichols
Administrative Assistant
(773) 488-2004 Ext. 5200

Jerome D. Baker
Customer Service Specialist
(773) 488-2204 Ext. 5204

Jose Pletz
Loan Originator
(773) 488-2004 Ext. 4115