According to Social Explorer, Hermosa hosts about 25,489 people. To calculate Hermosa’s population, I combined the populations of census tracts 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.01, 2004.02 and 8312, since they almost perfectly align with Hermosa’s perimeter (as defined by the Chicago Encyclopedia).
Stretching about 1.17 square miles, Hermosa is one of Chicago’s smallest and most densely populated Community Areas (Google Earth). Geographically, Hermosa exceeds Perry’s ideal neighborhood unit size (1 square mile) only slightly (Perry). Hermosa's population, however, qualifies more as a 'sub-district than a neighborhood unit: bigger than a street neighborhood but smaller than a city (Jacob). With over 25,000 people, Hermosa can both self-govern on local issues and also receive City services.
To understand Hermosa spatially, we can study the other types of districts surrounding and encompassing Hermosa's borders. Below, I have broken Hermosa into census tracts and elementary school districts.
Census Tracts: Hermosa follows 2014 census tracts rather closely. Census tracts 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.01, 2004.02 and 8312 all fall within Hermosa’s boundaries.
Elementary School Districts: three public elementary schools serve the Hermosa Community: William Penn Nixon, Barry, and McAuliffe (Schools in Hermosa). Below, I have drawn the district lines. In Perry’s neighborhood unit, he suggests that each neighborhood have one elementary school. Hermosa has three, however they each serve 600-1000 students, as Perry suggested.
Bordered by three railroad tracks and a busy commercial street, Hermosa has clear and distinct boundaries. Within Hermosa’s boundaries, there are three parks, three elementary schools, and three commercial streets, all equitably spaced, giving the neighborhood a pattern and sense of uniformity. Between the schools and commercial areas, small brick bungalows and colorful two-story flats form a tight grid. While the bungalows vary in color, their shape, style and green spaces are almost identical. Even the schools and apartment complexes mirror the homes' architecture: brick, simply shaped, and low to the ground.
Due to Hermosa’s spatial and stylistic repetition, I, as an outsider, do not notice any sub-groups or neighborhoods. If anything, I notice a slight wealth and ethnic gradient running north to south. In the southern third of Hermosa, especially along Armitage Ave., every store operated in Spanish. The houses in this area were loved, but often warn down. As I walked north, stores and signs were in both English and Spanish. Homes were slightly more up-kept, hinting at an increase in wealth. Walking north still, the houses grew. Parked cars seemed newer and in better condition, and the social demographic shifted from almost completely Hispanic to a well-mixed group of Hispanic, black, and white residents.
Despite this slight gradient, Hermosa’s repetition of services, signage, street pattern and architecture gives the neighborhood coherence and charm. Every commercial street has an enormous selection of services—medical clinics, laundromats, beauty salons, childcare centers, grocery stores, restaurants, hobby shops, community centers, clothing stores, and churches—all catered to the community’s needs. Since residents are never more than a five-minute walk from these services, I anticipate strong ‘weak’ ties.
In addition, the Hermosa community seems to adhere naturally to its borders. The neighborhoods to the west and east of Hermosa have similar commercial areas, however there is a visible racial divide between Hermosa and Kelyvn Park (its western neighbor). North of Belmont, the houses quickly grow in size and variety, and the demographic shifts from majority Hispanic to majority white. Additionally, a new and towering apartment complex lines Belmont, loudly announcing Hermosa’s north-most boundary.
Lastly, several community improvement organizations
unite and decorate Hermosa’s public spaces. Throughout the neighborhood, the
Hermosa Neighborhood Association has posted signs encouraging residents to
maintain the parks and care for their neighbors. Other organizations planted
small green spaces in-between busy streets. In all, these community efforts, as
well as the unified architecture and strict borders, give Hermosa a noticeable
but modest sense of identify.
Hermosa: beauty in Spanish, home in Chicago. Resting about six miles northwest of the Loop, Hermosa hosts one of Chicago’s oldest and most historically rich residential communities.
Settlement in Hermosa began around 1855 when the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul (CM&SP) Railroad built stop in the area (Perry, Marilyn). In the following decades, Hermosa’s sweeping flat lands and proximity to downtown attracted factory owners and manufacturers. Seeking employment, Scottish immigrants soon followed. By the end of the 19th century, several factories operated in Hermosa, including the Expanded Metal Company and Eclipse Furnace (Hermosa).
Of all the industries that fled into Hermosa, the Schwinn Company may be the most famous. Schwinn, the country’s leading bike manufacturer until the 1980s, attracted thousands of factory workers, all of which needed homes (Tour). These workers built small bungalows near the CM&SP tracks, within walking distance from the factories. Designed for families living off blue-collar salaries, these home were small, brick, often one or two stories, and pressed closely to each other. Confined by the two CM&SP lines, families fit their homes into a tight geometric grid, creating the street structure and house design that defines Hermosa today.
During this inflow of industrial development, Hermosa residents referred to the area as ‘Garfield’ after the late president. In 1885, however, when residents wanted to establish their own post office, a Garfield office had already been taken. In order to build a new post office, they needed to rename themselves (Perry, Marilyn). Although the story behind Hermosa has been disputed, some say that Mr. Peebles, the Secretary to the Superintendent of CM&SP, suggested the name because he believed the town was beautiful and inviting, such as the Spanish translation.
Before 1889, Hermosa did not fall within the City of Chicago’s limits. Instead, it was under the Jefferson Township, a separate municipality in Cook County. Once annexed into Chicago, Hermosa grew rapidly due to City’s services and transportation system. Consequently, a slew of newcomers arrived, all seeking employment in Hermosa’s factories. Proactive real estate developers recognized Hermosa’s potential and began development in southwest Hermosa. This new patch of homes developed into Kelyvn Grove, which still neighbors Hermosa. To this day, various elements of Hermosa are named after Kelvyn Grove, including Kelvyn Park.
Possibly more catalytic to residential growth than the annexation was the development of the street car. In 1907, streetcar lines extended into Hermosa. With access to West and South Chicago, Polish, Irish and Italian families flooded the already-full neighborhood. By 1920, there were over 15,000 people living in within Hermosa’s relatively permanent boundaries (Perry, Marilyn).
By the mid 1930s, Hermosa’s population had swollen to 23,500 people, most German or Scandinavian (Perry, Marilyn). Each decade brought more Poles, Austrians and Hungarians, making Hermosa a melting pot of European migrants. Enclosed on two sides by the railroads and dead ends on the other, Hermosa inevitably cultivated community ties. Not only were residents geographically bounded, but many of their homes had 25-foot frontages. With little space between homes, I speculate that neighbors interacted regularly.
Despite Hermosa’s efficiency in production, it could not withstand America’s period of de-industrialization. As the economy globalized in the 1960s, more and more of Hermosa’s industries were either demolished or reused for store fronts and housing (Chicago Gang History). No longer in need of blue collar workers, Hermosa attracted new waves of immigrants, mostly Spanish-speaking. By the late 1960s, Puerto Ricans held the majority in Hermosa.
Unfortunately, wages dropped after the de-industrialization and Hermosa’s economy suffered. Property value declined and many affluent white families fled, bringing their wealth and resources with them. The sudden change of population caused a shift in community organization and activity. By the late 1970s, crime and gang behavior seeped into Hermosa. Residents, concerned for their safety and the future of Hermosa, soon took action (Chicago Gang History). In 1982, community members formed the United Neighbors in Action to campaign for subsidized and affordable housing (Perry, Marilyn). To hinder gang violence and affiliation, residents policed their own streets.
In the past two decades, crime and gang behavior have dropped significantly. Residents send their children to one of three Hermosa pubic schools, and can find most of their daily needs within Hermosa’s boundaries. Today, the Hermosa Neighborhood Association (HNA) gives residents the voice to advocate for better schools, services and resources. Whether because of hard boundaries or tight residents, Hermosa has always delineated itself from its surrounding communities, and thus survived the test of time. Through changes in economy, organization, ethnicity and disorder, the residents have organized themselves into a compact but malleable community.
Ancestry in Hermosa, Chicago, Illinois. (2017, October 7). Statistical Atlas. Retrieved from https://statisticalatlas.com
Chicago Gang History. (2017, October 9). Chicago Gang History Hermosa. Retrieved from https://chicagoganghistory.com
Hermosa. (2017, October 9). The Chicago Neighborhoods. Retrieved from http://www.thechicagoneighborhoods.com
HNA. (2017, October 9). Hermosa Neighborhood Association. Retrieved from https://www.ourhermosa.org/
Perry, Clarence A. Neighborhood and Community Planning. New York City: Regional Plan of New York and its Environs, 1929. Print.
Perry, Marilyn E. “Hermosa.” Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 2005. Web. October 10, 2017.
Schools in Hermosa. (2017, October 13).Trulia. Retrieved from https://www.trulia.com
Social Explorer. (2017, October 9). Social Explorer My Reports. Retrieved from https://www.socialexplorer.com
Source: “Hermosa.” Google Earth. October 9, 2017.
Tour of Belmont-Cragin and Hermosa. (2017, October 9). The Chain Link. Retrieved from http://www.thechainlink.org
Below, I have organized data on Hermosa's social demographics and diversity. The Social Demographics table showcases Hermosa's age, education, housing value, housing tenure and housing type distribution. The Diversity Table dives more deeply into Hermosa's distribution of race, income and housing type, and measures each of variable on the Simpson Diversity Scale.
Below, I have organized data on the social demographics and diversity of the Northwest Region of Chicago. As for Hermosa, I included the region's age education, housing value, housing tenure and housing type.
Below, I have organized data on the social demographics and diversity of the City of Chicago. As for Hermosa, and the Northwest Region, I included the city's age education, housing value, housing tenure and housing type.
Hermosa hosts some, however not much, diversity. According to the tables above, Hermosa community members vary in age, income and education. In addition, Hermosa hosts a fairly even spread of income levels, from under $20,000 to over $150,000. Most Hermosa residents live in two, three and four bedroom homes worth about $150,000 to $299,999. Unlike the Northwest Region and the City of Chicago, Hermosa is not very diverse racially. The vast majority of its members identify as Hispanic or Latin American. Compared to the rest of the city, Hermosa is not very diverse.
Hermosa has three parks, each of which serve and unite Hermosa residents. Over the weekend, I visited Kelvyn Park (Image 1), Hermosa’s largest (and seemingly most-used) park, and was refreshed by its variety of social interactions, child play, and community services.
Kelvyn Park covers nine acres, or about seven football fields. It has two playgrounds (one for toddlers and one for older children) (Image 2), a large grass area, spray pool, basketball court, volleyball court, baseball diamond (Image 3) and soccer field. Surrounded by residential streets (Image 4) and brick bungalows —Hermosa’s signature feature— the park feels very connected to and integrated with the Hermosa community.
The park’s variety of public spaces and play areas attract people of all ages. When I arrived on a Saturday afternoon, a slew of families and children filled the playground (Image 5). Beyond the play area, a group of older boys—middle school or junior high—kicked a soccer ball. Two others practiced their swing on the diamond.
Connecting all sides of the park are long paved paths (Image 6), shaded by aging trees. These paths lead to the parks’ several entrances, which welcome community members from all directions. When I visited, residents, both single and alone, sat on the benches (Image 7) lining the paths. Some read; others spoke on the phone; everyone smiled as I walked by.
Kelvyn Park’s greatest feature might be its Fieldhouse (Image 8). Open every day of the week, the Kelvyn Fieldhouse provides Hermosa residents with a fitness center, auditorium, kitchen, gymnasium and open community rooms. Community members host events, parent trainings, and other local meetings in the Fieldhouse, and students paint their school mascots on the outside brick (Images 9 and 10). Warn-down and well-loved, the Fieldhouse seems to anchor the park to the neighborhood, and provide its residents with valuable services.
Overall, the park is very comfortable and well-kept: trimmed grass, fresh plants, un-littered paths. Throughout the park, colorful signs encourage community members to keep the parks clean, respect each other, and attend elementary school events and high school theatre premiers (Images 11 and 12). Community organizations, including the Hermosa Neighborhood Association and the Neighborhood Watch, have made visible efforts to ensure that the park remains safe, clean and inviting.
The park did, however, feel slightly off-balanced spatially. When I visited, almost all park members used the southern half of the space, near the play area and sports fields. Very few used the sprawling grass area (Image 13) in the middle and north-end of the park. This uneven distribution activity might suggest potential for a spatial redesign, or for the addition of another service or pathway that can pull people into the unused space.
But, on the contrary, some residents may appreciate this seemingly ‘dead’ space, since it is one of the only untouched areas in the neighborhood. As one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Chicago, Hermosa lacks variation from its tight grid and small lawns. This open green area, even if unused, may feel refreshing to Hermosa residents, many of whom sat on the park benches and enjoyed the view.
In all, Kelvyn Park looked and felt like a community space—actively used by people of all ages, aesthetically pleasing, multi-functional, safe, and social. Kelvyn Park’s ability to give and cultivate neighborhood identity, combined with its multi-functional spaces, hosted. Although it has some dead space, it seems cohesive with and appreciated by the rest of Hermosa.
Hermosa, despite its strict boundaries and dense population, serves its community well. Three streets—Belmont, Fullerton, and Armitage—provide the majority of Hermosa’s services.
Belmont Avenue, Hermosa’s north-most service-provider, also serves as Hermosa’s northern border. Restaurants, bars, grocery stores and hobby shops line Belmont Avenue. Stretching only about .35 mile, Belmont Avenue provides the least number of services between the three service-providing streets.
Fullerton, Hermosa’s second service-provider, splits the neighborhood almost in half. As depicted in Image One, Fullerton sits one mile south of Belmont and ¾ mile north of the Chicago & North Western Railroad. Fullerton provides most ‘daily services’ imaginable: laundromats, restaurants, grocery stores, liquor stores, electronic equipment shops, beauty salons, day care centers, and religious centers. In addition, Hermosa residents can receive medical attention and support in Fullerton’s medical center, sports therapy center, women’s health center, and dental office. Walking down Fullerton, I even found a ‘Love Specialist,' for those lost in love and emotion.
Hermosa’s third and south-most commercial center is Armitage. Armitage Avenue, like Fullerton, provides a wide variety of resources and services, including (but not limited to) restaurants, grocery stores, beauty salons, insurance companies, car washes, clothing stores, family clinics, dental clinics and religious centers. Running about .9 miles, Armitage is Hermosa's longest service-providing street.
Between Belmont, Fullerton and Armitage, Hermosa equips its residents with most services that residents need in their daily lives. Apart from these ‘daily services,’ these streets also provide more specific services, such as immigration law offices and immigrant welfare centers. Also lining these streets are many automobile-related services, such as car washes, auto-repair shops, window tainting providers and auto-insurance companies. Considering Hermosa's high immigrant population and car-owner population, these services tend to the neighborhood's specific needs.
Three elementary schools educate Hermosa families: Nixon, Barry and McAuliffe. As depicted in Image Three, these schools are (relatively) evenly spaced throughout the community and between the service-providing streets.
Both Hermosa’s schools and services are very walkable. In Images One and Two, I have shown the distances and resident populations between each service-providing street. At any place in the neighborhood, people are no more than .5 mile from at least one service-providing street. Although Perry’s suggested that all daily services be within ¼ mile of neighborhood residents, I commend Hermosa for giving all residents near-by services. In fact, about 20,000 (of Hermosa’s 25,000) residents live within ¼ mile of at least one service-providing street. This number includes the ~5,000 residents living South of Armitage, the ~10,600 residents living between Armitage and Fullerton, and ~2,500 residents living within ¼ mile north of Fullerton (see Image Two).
From my experience, Hermosa’s stores, schools and services are safe and pedestrian friendly. According to the Chicago Gang History (link below), Hermosa began experiencing gang violence and drug problems in the mid 1960s. To combat violence and drug abuse, concerned citizens began policing Hermosa streets in the ‘80s and creating community organizing in the ‘90s. Now, the Hermosa Neighborhood Association (NHA) posts signs throughout the neighborhood, encouraging friendly interactions and respectful maintenance of public spaces. According to the Chicago Tribune (link below), property and quality-of-life crime has decreased steadily since the mid 2000s.
In all, Hermosa provides its residents with safe, accessible and community-specific services, strengthening the overall unity of the neighborhood.
Hermosa makes use of the elongated block, set within a Savannah network of streets and avenues. These three elements—the elongated block, Savannah network, and street and avenue thoroughfares—work together to give Hermosa a strong overall connectivity.
First, Hermosa consists of a tight grid of elongated blocks: a block formation dating back to Hermosa’s 19th-century-America roots. The elongated block provides two types of frontages, one short and the other long (Image One). The short frontage usually lines higher-traffic thoroughfares, such as commercial avenues, while the long frontages line quiet or residential streets. The elongated block, more so than the square or irregular block, can control street depth and provide mid-block alleys (Image Two) for parking and other uses.
Second, Hermosa is set within a Savannah network pattern.
The Savannah network consists of an orthogonal grid, which creates right
angles at each intersection (Image Three). Because all of Hermosa’s
thoroughfares run North-South or East-West, pedestrians have strong directional
orientation within the grid. As mentioned before, the Savannah pattern also
creates alleys between back-to-back streets, which pedestrians can use for
parking, garbage storage, or shortcuts in their daily treks.
Third, Hermosa has only two thoroughfare types: streets and avenues. By avenues, I refer to thoroughfares of high-automobile capacity and low-to-moderate automobile speed. In Hermosa, these avenues have four lanes and ~35 mph speed limits. Belmont, Fullerton, Armitage and Kostner are all avenues within Hermosa, and they contain most of Hermosa’s commercial frontages (Image Four). All other thoroughfares within Hermosa are streets. By street, I refer to thoroughfares of low-automobile capacity and speed. Streets are most typically found in urban areas and usually host offices, homes and apartment buildings. I found no highways, drives, roads or boulevards within Hermosa’s boundaries.
In terms of block, network and thoroughfare type, Hermosa has high neighborhood connectivity. Hermosa’s elongated block increases neighborhood connectivity by decreasing block length and variability, which encourages walking and biking. Because Hermosa’s blocks are short (250-300 ft. by 600-630 ft.) pedestrians can walk to and from their daily needs with ease. In addition, Hermosa’s three commercial avenues (Belmont, Fullerton and Armitage) are (relatively) evenly spaces within Hermosa, creating equal walking access to all Hermosa residents.
Hermosa’s network type also enhances neighborhood connectivity. The Savannah pattern provides multiple routes for travelers, which improves walkability and reduces automobile use. In addition, it creates mid-block pedestrian shortcuts, which residents use to park cars and store garbage, which keeps the streets clean. Some argue, however, that the invariable block pattern increases monotony for pedestrians. Others say that the Savannah pattern does not easily compensate for environmental interactions. But, Hermosa’s is so small (1.17 square miles) and so flat, that I do not think these concerns significantly limit Hermosa’s overall connectivity.
Hermosa’s thoroughfare types have mixed effects on its overall connectivity. On one hand, Hermosa’s streets and avenues allow for strong connectivity in that they minimalize automobile capacity, speed and traffic, which increases neighborhood walkability. In addition, they do not include cul-de-sacs, which decrease neighborhood connectivity by complicating travel routes. Hermosa does, however, have poor external connectivity (as in connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods) due to its series of dead ends. These railroad tracks and dead ends act (almost) as gates in a gated community would, in that they restrict both automobile and pedestrian access to roads outside the community. In this way, some could argue that Hermosa has strong internal connectivity and weak external connectivity.
Most notably, the combination of Hermosa’s block, network and thoroughfare types increase the likelihood of casual or spontaneous social interactions. The short blocks and tight grid increase walkability, which will inherently increase daily social interactions between residents. These ‘weak ties’ will, overtime, increase neighborhood connectivity. In all, Hermosa’s elongated blocks, orthogonal grid, and low automobile capacity roads increase the neighborhood’s walkability, navigability, and capacity for social interaction, all of which contribute to its overall connectivity.
Image One - Elongated Block
Above, see the elongated block. These blocks are rectangular, as opposed to square or curved, and have both a long and a short frontage. These blocks are set neatly into a tight grid.
Image Two – Mid-Block Alleys
Above, see the mid-block alleys, which are created by the double-backing of the elongated block within the Savannah pattern. These alleys provide shortcuts for walkers and bikers, as well as parking space and garbage storage.
Image Three – Savannah Pattern
Above, see the Savannah network pattern. Hermosa’s blocks are set within a tight grid that creates right angles at each intersection. This pattern does not vary.
Image Four – Hermosa Avenues
Above, see Hermosa’s four avenues: Belmont, Fullerton, Armitage and Kostner. These thoroughfares have high-automobile capacity and low-to-moderate automobile speed. Belmont, Fullerton and Armitage serve as Hermosa’s main service, resource and commercial providers.
After studying Hermosa for ten weeks, I have found that the neighborhood thrives where other neighborhoods struggle: walkability, neighborhood delineation, local servicing and community identity. Hermosa’s small size, short blocks, and tight street grid encourage walking and stranger interactions. In addition, Hermosa's services meet the specific needs of Hermosa residents. As a result, community members have little reason to leave the neighborhood. Residents cultivate 'weak' social ties in their parks, restaurants, and neighborhood association. As a result, Hermosa has strong internal connectivity.
Externally, however, Hermosa struggles to connect. The very railways that delineate Hermosa also isolate it from the people, services and wealth in surrounding neighborhoods. Further, Hermosa’s services, although localized, fail to serve diverse populations or invite outsiders into Hermosa. Very few Chicago residents know of Hermosa, and even less feel inclined to visit. In short, Hermosa has achieved internal, but not external, connectivity.
Moving forward, I suggest Hermosa make active steps to enhance its external connectivity. I propose a three-pronged solution to attract visitors to Hermosa: urban integration, sidewalk destination, and mixed-use spaces. With each suggestion, I hope to weave Hermosa into Chicago’s urban framework, thus attracting outsider consumers and social diversity.
First, I suggest Hermosa alter its physical environment to weaken neighborhood boundaries. More specifically, I suggest Hermosa install streetlights and guiding trees along Koster and Fullerton Avenue to welcome outsiders into the neighborhood. Below, I have provided an example of street trees and lights, as well as highlighted Kostern and Fullerton Avenues in yellow on the map.
The lights and trees would visually guide visitors into Hermosa. Kilbourn and Fullerton both serve as key commercial streets within Hermosa, thus attracting potential consumers to Hermosa's local businesses and restaurants. By continuing the lights and trees from Hermosa and into its neighboring communities, this intervention would weaken Hermosa's strict boundaries, despite the railroad tracks.
Second, I suggest Hermosa feature sidewalk destinations in its rich urban pathways. In research on neighborhood connectivity, Hess and Hata capitalize on the changing roles of sidewalks in urban America: from practical spaces for travel to therapeutic pathways for activity or entertainment. The researchers urge communities to decorate sidewalks with “artifacts,” such as statues or parks, to engage walkers, runners, bikers and families. To attract active outsiders, I suggest Hermosa to include artifacts as sidewalk destinations.
In making these destinations, I suggest Hermosa utilize the parks, schools, churches, neighborhood centers, statues and commercial streets that already exist. Below, I have highlighted in yellow possible sidewalk destinations, along with potential paths for walkers in red. Hopefully, with this intervention, residents can highlight meaningful and authentic destinations, thus making Hermosa itself a destination.
My third and final suggestion creates a mixed-use public space on Kilbourn and Fullerton. Currently, Hermosa’s lacks social diversity. The majority of residents are low-to-middle income families, blue-collar and non-white Hispanic. Although Hermosa’s services effectively cater to community needs, they fail to serve diverse outsiders. To appeal to both Hermosa and non-Hermosa residents, I suggest we convert the open lot on Kilbourn and Fullerton to a public and private mixed-use social space.
On this block, I imagine a public building for Hermosa Neighborhood Association (HNA) meetings, language programs and other public services, alongside local restaurants and bars. Here, I hope to attract diverse outsiders at different times of day, as Jacobs, a key urban thinker in American history, would suggest. In all, the mixed-use space would diversify Hermosa’s services, and thus inspire unique social mixing and external connectivity. Below, I have provided an example of a public-private space for residents to socialize.
In all, I suggest we use urban integration, sidewalk destinations and mixed-use spaces to enhance Hermosa’s external connectivity. Hopefully, through these interventions, we can make Hermosa a strong and vibrant thread in Chicago’s urban fabric.