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Little Hell Sharks | Little Sicily Sharks

History of the Little Hell Sharks

Sharks Video, 1948-50 photos: Sharks Youtube video

The Sharks were an Italian gang that started out in the Little Hell area of Chicago in the 1940s and ended up around Mohawk Street and Chicago Avenue in the early 1950s. Their early hang out was the corner of Chicago Avenue and Cambridge. These youth’s families lived in the early row houses in the Little Hell area which eventually would become the Cabrini Green housing projects.

Cabrini Green was built in sections over a span of twenty years: Frances Cabrini Rowhouse (1942), Cabrini Extension North and Cabrini Extension South (1958), and the William Green Homes (1962). As Cabrini Green was being built, it removed more-and-more of the original tenements apartments and houses which housed the Italian families in Little Hell/Little Sicily. In the 1940s, many of the early Rowhouses in the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses were the Italians from the original neighborhood.

The Sharks started out as a defensive gang who defended their turf against the early black gangs which started to appear in the section-8 housing. Early on, the demographics Cabrini Green was 75% white and 25% black. The projects became more black as the CHA expanded the housing projects by tearing down the original apartments and replacing them with towers.

As Cabrini Green expanded, most of the Italian families were forced out of what was their original home – Little Hell. The Italian families would eventually settle in three areas in Chicago: Grand and Ogden, Grand and Harlem (Spaghetti Hill), and the area north of North Avenue away from the projects. The area north of North Avenue was a German/Polish neighborhood. At that time, Taylor Street was overcrowded and the Italians from Little Hell had to find housing elsewhere. A few years after this migration, the cousins and nephews of the original Sharks started their own gangs: Mohawks, Hudson, and the Cleveland Jammers. Most of the original Sharks ended up going into the military due to the Korean War, and marrying and starting families. The newly formed gangs would takeover as the second generation of gangs. The Mohawk’s, Hudson’s, and Cleveland Jammers would eventually unite in the early 70s under the CORP gang becoming the third generation of gangs spawned off of the Little Hell Sharks.     

Little Hell History

Cabrini at this particular time which is in the Near North neighborhood was probably about 75% white and 25% between black and Hispanic. The original population of Cabrini-Green reflected the area's prior ethnic mix; poor Italians, Irish, Puerto Ricans, and African Americans lived among the war workers and veterans. Racial segregation overtook Cabrini-Green by the early 1960s. The difficulty blacks had finding better, affordable housing gave Cabrini-Green a permanent population.

Originally in 1880, Little Hell's area included: Division Street on the North by Chicago Avenue on the south; Lasalle BLVD on the east by the Chicago River on the west. Little Hell died for good in the late fifties in what was called “the extension” – which was the northern construction of towers in the Cabrini Green housing projects. By the early sixties all whites had left the projects.

Shark Emblem

Shark 1950 - home on leave from the Army

Shark Emblem - a shark standing up with a cigarette in his mouth. The Shark in this photo is home on leave and has his jacket over his military uniform.

Shark Press

1952: Four members of the Sharks attempted to rob the Montgomery Wards Department Store on Chicago Avenue by bringing a cantaloupe in a paper bag into the store and telling the cashier that it was a bomb.

1953: one of the Shark’s married member was jumped coming out of an Uptown movie theatre by a gang who claimed the corner of Grace Street and Broadway Avenue. The Shark made a phone call and 30 Sharks showed up in Uptown armed with sticks in which a fight occurred.

Cabrini Green's Final Hour Videos

Last Cabrini Highrise Demolition by Artistmac

A series of videos showing the demolition of the last Cabrini-Green highrise building.

Gangs from the same area

Chicago CORP Gang - Cabrini Green

Italian Chicago - Some of Chicago's Italian neighborhoods

Little Hell/Cabrini Gangland History

Little Hell/Cabrini Green - Gangland History - of the Cabrini Green Projects

Hymie Weiss gang, and mobster Charles O'Banion. Both O'Banion and Hymie Weiss were raised in "Little Hell".