Pill Hill

Pill Hill

There’s a tiny Chicago neighborhood on the far South Side called Pill Hill. It is nothing more than a handful of residential streets and a train yard, but its history is rich with different waves of inhabitants. Pill Hill has a similar story to much of the city’s outward expansion prompted by America’s great Industrial Revolution. To this day, it is a pocket of single-family homes that tells the tale of blue-collar foundation succeeded by middle-class migration.

Although it wasn’t called Pill Hill at the time, this little section of the larger Calumet Heights neighborhood started out as a bedroom community for factory workers from nearby industrial hotspots, such as Pullman Railcars and the Calumet and Chicago Canal and Dock Company. As production expanded, so did the number of laborers needed to run these large manufacturing plants. Before long people who worked in the factories were in need of a place to live. So development of the land west of Calumet River (which was previously deemed too swampy to farm) was initiated. As a result, workers and their families started taking up residence in the sturdy homes constructed there in the 1870s. By 1889, the population of this pocketsize settlement caught the attention of Chicago and it was incorporated as a part of the city.

In the 1940s, the Calumet region’s manufacturing business was slowing down and the blue-collar laborers began moving out of the area. As they vacated the neighborhood, white-collar workers came in and the small enclave turned into a solidly middle-class community. Thirty years later, the neighborhood had become a favorite among doctors who worked out of nearby South Chicago Hospital. It wasn’t until this time that Pill Hill got a reputation for having a lot of physicians and surgeons in the area, which led to its unique name. Needless to say, the nick-name stuck, even though it is no longer a stomping ground for South Chicago medical professionals.

Today, Pill Hill is home to all sorts of people, including business types and other middle-class workers. It has a fairly diverse stock of architecture that ranges from split-level residences and bungalows to townhomes and some new construction. The short, sidewalk-lined blocks make for an intimate feel and the private garages and small yards offer a bit of suburban comfort, without being far from the city center.

Located in between the I-90 Chicago Skyway and I-94 Bishop Ford Expressway, Pill Hill is well connected to the downtown Loop—and other parts of the Chicagoland area. Olive Harvey College is just southwest of the neighborhood as is the campus of Chicago State University. There are some places to grab a bite along 95th Street (Pill Hill’s southern border), although the road is separated from the neighborhood’s residential blocks by an expansive stretch of undeveloped land and railroad yards.

Pill Hill’s other border streets are 92nd Street to the north, Paxton Avenue to the east and Cregier Avenue to the west. It is approximately 13 miles from the Loop and has less than half a mile square of land mass.