The Calumet region was once one of the largest steel-producing regions in the world. Steel mills and other industry first sprang up along Lake Michigan in the late 19th century; by the mid-twentieth century the mills employed over a hundred thousand people in Illinois and Indiana. Immigrants and migrants of different races and ethnicities came to the region in search of a better life. When Southeast Chicago’s mills began to close in the 1980s, it disrupted lives and communities and ushered in a new, less certain era. It also sparked an urge to reflect on the past.
While other neighborhoods emerged later, this website focuses on the old steel mill neighborhoods of Southeast Chicago. These include: South Chicago, South Deering, the East Side, and Hegewisch.