EAST CHICAGO - In 1918, Inland Steel Co. built 200 housing units for their
employees in an area which became known as the Sunnyside subdivision.
But those first units were only the beginning. Following World War II, a
growing housing shortage in the late 1940s prompted Inland to build 100 new
housing units adjacent to the original subdivision.
Inland rented these properties to both supervisory and hourly paid employees
at a bargain rate that was so low that there was very little turnover of
tenants, and a long waiting list of applicants, according to news clips from
Inland Steel that date back to the 1950s. The rent on these brick duplexes was
$95 per month in 1957. Rent was $65 per month for six-room, three bedroom units
in the orginal frame duplexes.
But Inland eventually decided to get out of the landlord business and, in
1963, turned over operation of the development to the Purdue-Calumet
Development Fundation. In 1969, Inland began selling the units, first to its
employees, and later to the general public.
Resident Dorothy O'Keefe moved to Sunnyside 25 years ago, while an employee
at Inland Steel.
"Inland was renting the houses out back then," she said. "But a month later,
I got word that Inland was selling the property, and I had to either move or
She made the decision to buy, and has lived in several houses within the
"I met my husband here, who lived across the yard, and also worked at
Inland," she said. "When we got married, I moved into his house, and we rented
this house to his son, who was married. Back then, there were quite a few
neighbors who you lived next to and then you saw at work."
Although Inland cut its ties from the neighborhood years ago, many of the
original residents occupy the same homes.
"The neighborhood is quiet, and everyone keeps their property up," O'Keefe
said. "We don't visit with each other a lot, but everyone looks out for each
other. It's a melting post where all nationalities, blacks, whites and
Hispanics, all get along peacefully."
Although originally scheduled for demolition, in 1971, Inland made a
three-year committment to renovate the 200 original frame duplexes, which
became one of the Midwest's largest housing rehabilitaion projects at the time.
Heating, plumbing and electrical service was updated. The exteriors gained new
steel siding, windows and roofs.
But that wasn't the end for Sunnyside. The new Evergreen Estates mini
subdivision with six luxury homes was developed in 1974, and the remaining
Inland land was developed by Oscar Swanson in 1976.
When Dr. Charles Comer wanted to move to a new, larger home, yet longed to
stay within East Chicago, he contacted Inland about buying the vacant tract of
land, and became the developer of Evergreen Estates.
"The timing was just right and Inland sold us 5.2 acres, which was developed
into land to build six homes," Comer said. "I never thought of myself as a
developer. I just wanted to stay in East Chicago, yet I wanted a certain type
of home that wasn't available."
Comer went to the mayor's office for help in planning the streets and
sewers. Each of the homeowners found their own builder. Many of those residents
occupy the same home they build in the mid 1970s.
"People told me I was nuts for building an expensive home in East Chicago,
that I'd never sell it for what I paid," Comer said. "It probably would be
worth more had I built it in Munster, but I've been able to enjoy it all these
years, so I don't care."
Today, the phases of development within Sunnyside are obvious. While the
original duplexes remain, the area also includes some of East Chicago's largest
residences. Home prices range from about $35,000 for the earliest duplexes
built by Inland, to homes well over $100,000.
Sunnyside, on the city's eastern edge, is conveniently located. The
neighborhood's proximity to Cline Avenue makes for quick access to the Borman
Expressway and to Inland Steel, as was originally intended.
"It's a very unique community," said Edward Williams, a Sunnyside resident
for the past 16 years. "This is a close, warm community with a strong ethnicity
that is home to all races and relgions."