Stephen A. Douglas, a powerful lawyer and politician during the Civil War era, purchased 70 acres of land in 1852 along the lakefront a few miles south of what is now Chicago's downtown and built his home on 35th Street. Douglas "liberally donated his property to what he considered worthwhile causes, such as schools and churches," and when the Civil War broke out in 1861 "he Union army set up Camp Douglas on his property between 31st and 33rd Streets. This camp was first used as a training facility for the Illinois regiment, but it was later turned into a prisoner of war camp for Confederate soldiers.
The area saw a great deal of change after the war ended. "Wealthy Chicagoans began speculating on property in the Douglas region," and several streetcar stops and a commuter rail station on the Illinois Central Railroad were soon opened. These links between Douglas and the city's center caused a steady stream of new residents, ranging from Chicago's elite to the working-class that were "employed in the nearby meatpacking industry, railroad shops, and breweries," all who wanted to take advantage of the neighborhood's proximity to downtown and the surrounding industrial areas.