Friday, April 29, 2022

Chicago Mag: ‘This is the end of Chicago’ (Geographically)

Map of Hegewisch and nearby area 

From Ed McClelland at Chicago Magazine regarding the southeast side of Chicago.

To reach the southeasternmost corner of Chicago, you have to take bumpy, potholed Boy Scout Road out of Hegewisch, then turn onto a set of tracks belonging to the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad. With Powder Horn Lake to your right, follow the tracks between tall stands of reeds, still in their winter blondeness, toward a railyard where black tankers idle. Then turn onto a disused rail spur, weeds growing between its ties. Ahead, just across the state line, in Hammond, Indiana, are the rusted sheds of some long-abandoned industrial concern.

Chicago’s southern border is, perhaps, the wildest, most undeveloped part of the city, a hinterland that, in some places, looks more rural than urban, despite lying within the boundaries of America’s third-largest city. Like the nation’s southern frontier, it is a no-man’s land that crosses woods, lakes, rivers, and federal facilities off limits to the public. It would have made sense to set the southern city limits at the Little Calumet and Grand Calumet rivers. Instead of respecting natural boundaries, though, surveyors drew a straight line that corresponds with the middle of 138th Street and is often impossible to follow, even by bicycle or on foot. Last weekend, I tried, and, for most of its length, I failed.

After leaving the Belt Railroad yards, the city limits travel west across Powder Horn Lake and through Burnham Woods. I only had a bicycle, not a canoe or a machete, so I couldn’t paddle and bushwhack through those wild barriers. To pick up the line again, I pedaled south to the village of Burnham, and into the dirt alley behind 138th Place, a street of vinyl-sided workers’ cottages and a long-shuttered Old Style bar. Running along the north side of the alley is a fence entangled with vines — a border fence between the city and suburbs, as flimsy as any in the Sonoran Desert, barring the way to Mexico. On the other side is Chicago.

The alley dead ends near the south bank of the Grand Calumet River, the body of water that lends its name to the Calumet Region. From there, the city limits cross the confluence of the Grand and Little Calumets. When they hit land again, they slice through the northern tip of Burnham Park. A few square feet of that suburban park actually lies inside Chicago, although the village of Burnham still mows the grass. Such is what happens when man’s Euclidean determinations impose themselves on nature’s beguiling irregularities.

They go from about Altgeld Gardens which is contained within Ward 9 and further east into the area known as Hegewisch as you see in the above map. Read the whole thing.

 

No comments:

Post a Comment