Original Sears Tower


The tower was at the center of the Sears, Roebuck & Co., compound that was the largest employer in North Lawndale and Garfield Park from 1906 to the 1960s. At its peak, Sears headquarters and distribution center (shown in the accompanying photograph) in North Lawndale employed more than 35,000 people. When large numbers of African Americans settled in North Lawndale between the late 1940s and 1960s, Sears continued to employ a nearly all-white workforce. White workers commuted into the plant, while black workers in the area struggled to find jobs. Beginning in 1954, Sears was the largest supporter of the Greater Lawndale Conservation Commission [GLCC], a group of local residents and business leaders that sought to maintain the middle-class character of the neighborhood and to stem the tide of large-scale black migration. The leaders of the Association of Block Councils of Greater Lawndale such as Gloria Pughsley, Dorothy Sutton Branch, and L. C. Branch, grew frustrated with the limits Sears officials placed on the GLCC programs, and broke away from the GLCC to form the Lawndale People's Planning Action Committee (LPPAC). As LPPAC member Rose Marie Love put it, the LPPAC "wanted to do something the conservative portion of GLCC did not want to get involved in," to build housing and develop jobs for low-income residents. In 1974, Sears moved its offices back to the Loop, and in 1987, closed down the distribution facility. In the 1990s, on 54 acres of land formerly used by Sears Roebuck as parking lots, a mix of public and private funds created the Homan Square development, which offers rental and owner-occupied housing, a community center, and office space.

Labor Trail





900 S Homan Ave

Chicago History Museum, DN-0007193

Labor Trail

The Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies (CCWCS) is proud to present the Interactive Labor Trail, made possible by a generous grant from the Illinois Humanities Council. This on-line history resource builds on “The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle,” a map of 140 significant locations in the history of labor, migration, and working-class culture in Chicago and Illinois. The Labor Trail is the product of a joint effort to showcase the many generations of dramatic struggles and working-class life in the Chicago area's rich and turbulent past. The Trail's neighborhood tours invite you to get acquainted with the events, places, and people -- often unsung -- who have made the city what it is today. In addition, the statewide map is just a starting point for further exploration of Illinois' labor heritage. This Interactive Labor Trail expands the number of locations and provides a greater depth of information, while giving map users the chance to add their knowledge of locations and events in the Chicago area’s working-class history.

We invite all individuals, groups, and institutions interested in the labor and working-class history of Chicago, Cook County, the Calumet Region, and Illinois to contribute to the map. Users can add new sites, edit or build upon existing entries with additional text, photographs, primary sources, audio and video files, as well as links to related websites.

Easy-to-use instructions for adding to the on-line version of the map are available at www.labortrail.org.

More information on the Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies is available at: www.workingclassstudies.org

The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle

Project Director:
Leon Fink, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Advisors:
Tobias Higbie, Newberry Library
Lisa Oppenheim, Chicago Metro History Education Center
Liesl Miller Orenic, Dominican University

Administrative Director:
Jeffrey Helgeson, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Assistants:
Aaron Max Berkowitz, University of Illinois at Chicago; John H. Flores, University of Illinois at Chicago; Erik Gellman, Northwestern University; Dan Harper, University of Illinois at Chicago; Emily LaBarbera-Twarog, University of Illinois at Chicago

Web Design:
William Atwood and Melissa Palmer