A southwest side haven of tranquility, Morgan Park's quiet cul-de-sacs and roundabouts are edged with leafy trees, Prairie-style bungalows and beautiful parks, offering families a suburban-esque quality to their big city lifestyle. The community planning commission has seen to it that Morgan Park maintains its historic homes, which include a mix of architectural styles beside the classic, brick Chicago bungalow. Oversized lots surrounded by green grass and verdant vegetation are prime properties in Morgan Park. They are also among the most expensive real estate in the area. Smaller residences, courtyard condominiums and townhomes supply less pricey housing that still boast larger-than-average yards and nearby community playlots. Morgan Parkers enjoy privacy at home, but like to get together at the 410-seat neighborhood arts center for a local play production, film screening or music concert.
Like many others Thomas Morgan was an early English settler in the south Chicago area. However, unlike the others, Morgan’s desire to establish a homestead led to much more than the simple deed of planting some roots and building a house to call 'home.' In 1844 he purchased the land that would become the town that assumed his name, and later become one of the many Chicago city neighborhoods.
Mr. Morgan passed the land on to his heirs when he died and it is from them that the Blue Island Land and Building Company acquired it in 1869. This company began developing the area for residential and commercial purposes. To this end the company donated land for the Mount Vernon Military Academy (present day Morgan Park Academy) and even persuaded the Baptist Theological Union to relocate to the area which counted William Rainey Harper among its faculty—Harper would go on to become the first president of the University of Chicago. In 1882 the town was incorporated. Unlike the stringent grid most of Chicago’s city streets adhere to, Morgan Park is an anomaly. The layout was designed in the manner of an English country town. Small parks, roundabouts and curving nonlinear streets give the neighborhood a distinct English feel.
In contrast to many other former suburbs of Chicago, Morgan Park was late in its annexation to the city. It wasn’t until 1914 when this hotly contested union took place after years in the courts and much protest from Morgan Park residents. It was the promise of police and fire stations and better schools that won voters over prompting them to finally approve the annexation.
Morgan Park started out as a Baptist community and was home to many Protestant churches in the late 1880s. Between 1930 and 1960 Morgan Park’s population grew to include Irish Catholics and a large number of African American families. Today, Morgan Park is a stable and diverse community that good old Mr. Morgan would be proud of.
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