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Chicago's Block Clubs Have Welcomed — And Warned — Visitors Since 1900

By Justin Breen | March 27, 2017 5:32am
 Signs of Block Clubs all over Chicago
Block Club signs
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CHICAGO — The dozens of block clubs across Chicago shows words of welcoming and warning to those who enter.

For example, the club at 1700 N. Luna list banned activities, like drugs and alcohol consumption, and reminds you: "God is watching."

The 9800 Ingleside block club welcomes you, but with caveats: "Please enjoy our block and help us respect and dignify it by not playing loud music, repairing or washing cars in the street, loitering, speeding or littering. Thank you!"

According to the Chicago Police Department: "Traditional block clubs are groups of people who have homes and families on any given block in the city and have organized to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. People who form block clubs are concerned and care about their communities and share information, identify concerns and act collectively to address those concerns."

Block Clubs were created by the Chicago Urban League in the early 1900s, according to Chicago Magazine. Amanda Seligman, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor, wrote a book about Block Clubs in 2016 dubbed "Chicago's Block Clubs" that delved into the history of the neighborhood associations. A summation of the book describes Block Clubs as "sometimes the major outlets for community organizing in the city — especially in neighborhoods otherwise lacking in political strength and clout."

Signs welcome visitors but also warn them not to gamble, speed, play loud music, loiter, repair cars among a hodgepodge of other examples.

The oldest existing Chicago Block Club is Winona Foster Carmen Winnemac Block Club, which was founded more than 50 years ago, according to Chicago Magazine.

You can register to form a Block Club here.