Ford Heights, Illinois
East Chicago Heights, Illinois
Flag of Ford Heights, Illinois
Official seal of Ford Heights, Illinois
Location of Ford Heights in Cook County, Illinois.
Location of Ford Heights in Cook County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 41°30′33″N 87°35′17″W / 41.50917°N 87.58806°W / 41.50917; -87.58806
Country United States
 • MayorCharles R. Griffin
 • Total1.95 sq mi (5.04 km2)
 • Land1.95 sq mi (5.04 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  0%
 • Total1,813
 • Density931.65/sq mi (359.65/km2)
Standard of living (2007–11)
 • Per capita income$12,217
 • Median home value$80,200
ZIP code(s)
Area code(s)708
FIPS code17-26710

Ford Heights (formerly East Chicago Heights) is a village and a suburb of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The population was 1,813 at the 2020 census.[2] Many of the area’s first settlers were African American and since its incorporation in 1949 the village has remained predominantly Black. Due to the lack of commercial activity and financial stability, the village has declined over the years. Urban renewal efforts were attempted in the 1960s, although the village has continued to decline.


Ford Heights is located at 41°30′33″N 87°35′17″W / 41.509285°N 87.587938°W / 41.509285; -87.587938.[3]

According to the 2021 census gazetteer files, Ford Heights has a total area of 1.95 square miles (5.05 km2), all land.[4] The village lies on the edge of the Tinley Moraine.

Surrounding areas

  Chicago Heights Lynwood
  Chicago Heights   Lynwood
  Chicago Heights Sauk Village
  Sauk Village


The area that would eventually become Ford Heights was first settled in the late 1840s.[5] It served as a stopping point on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves fleeing to freedom.[6][7] By the early 20th century, the area had developed into an agricultural community of farms operated mostly by Poles, Lithuanians, and Italians. After World War I, African Americans from the Southern U.S. migrated to the area and worked on the farms.

A new subdivision known as the "Park Addition" was created on a farm road from Chicago Heights to Indiana, and it attracted residents to the area during the early 1920s. In 1924, 40 families successfully petitioned for electrical service. Soon after, the main east–west road became a two-lane concrete highway designated as U.S. Route 30, part of the transcontinental Lincoln Highway. By the 1930s, the Park Addition had telephone service and was known as East Chicago Heights.[5] During the 1940s, Alberta Armstrong and others organized both black and white women in the community to raise funds for a new fire truck. By 1948, they had become the East Chicago Heights Citizens Association.[5]

East Chicago Heights was incorporated as a village in 1949.[6] The first mayor was Charlie Williams.[8] In the 1950 census, 1,548 people lived in the village – 76.9% of whom were black. The Ford Motor Company opened a stamping plant adjacent to the village in 1956. The company offered minorities an equal opportunity for well-paying jobs, and East Chicago Heights developed into a blue-collar community inhabited mostly by middle-class black families whose housing choices in suburban Chicago were severely limited at that time.[6] The village's population more than doubled to 3,270 by 1960. That growth continued throughout the decade, with one of the biggest successes being the Sunnyfield subdivision, which opened in 1964 and became one of the most popular neighborhoods in East Chicago Heights.[5]

Towards the end of the 1960s, over 60 acres (24 ha) of housing deemed substandard were cleared and replaced by federally subsidized public housing. These developments attracted lower income residents to East Chicago Heights, which strained the village's resources, already limited by little commercial activity and a small tax base.[5] The population rose to 5,000 in 1970 and peaked at 5,347 in 1980. In an attempt to annex the unincorporated site of the Ford Stamping Plant, the village of East Chicago Heights changed its name to Ford Heights in 1987. The move was unsuccessful, and the land eventually was annexed by the neighboring city of Chicago Heights.[9]

Often viewed as one of Chicago's most impoverished suburbs and at one point the poorest suburb in the United States,[10] Ford Heights has experienced high levels of political corruption, decaying infrastructure, and an elevated crime rate. In 2008, the Cook County Sheriff's Department took over law enforcement duties for the village.[11] Between 1980 and 2020, the population of Ford Heights declined by more than 66%.


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[12]
2010[13] 2020[14]

As of the 2020 census[15] there were 1,813 people, 885 households, and 567 families residing in the village. The population density was 931.65 inhabitants per square mile (359.71/km2). There were 692 housing units at an average density of 355.60 per square mile (137.30/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 91.73% African American, 2.81% White, 0.50% Native American, 0.22% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 2.04% from other races, and 2.70% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.70% of the population.

There were 885 households, out of which 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 13.33% were married couples living together, 42.82% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.93% were non-families. 30.51% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.67% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.05 and the average family size was 3.06.

The village's age distribution consisted of 24.6% under the age of 18, 5.9% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 28.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39.0 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.9 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $37,083, and the median income for a family was $40,082. Males had a median income of $22,263 versus $33,819 for females. The per capita income for the village was $17,494. About 36.9% of families and 37.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 66.2% of those under age 18 and 18.1% of those age 65 or over.

Ford Heights, Illinois – Racial and ethnic composition
Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos may be of any race.
Race / Ethnicity (NH = Non-Hispanic) Pop 2000[16] Pop 2010[13] Pop 2020[14] % 2000 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 47 40 44 1.36% 1.45% 2.43%
Black or African American alone (NH) 3,296 2,635 1,651 95.37% 95.37% 91.06%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 1 6 7 0.03% 0.22% 0.39%
Asian alone (NH) 3 3 4 0.09% 0.11% 0.22%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 0 0 0 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 1 0 3 0.03% 0.00% 0.17%
Mixed Race or Multi-Racial (NH) 21 37 37 0.61% 1.34% 2.04%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 87 42 67 2.52% 1.52% 3.70%
Total 3,456 2,763 1,813 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%


US 30 in Ford Heights

Ford Heights is in Illinois's 2nd congressional district.

Mayors of Ford Heights


Public education in the village of Ford Heights is provided by Ford Heights School District 169 and Bloom Township High School District 206: Ford Heights School District 169 operates two campuses: Medgar Evers Primary Academic Center (grades PK-4) and Cottage Grove Upper Grade Center (grades 5-8). High school students in Ford Heights attend Bloom Trail High School, which is part of Bloom Township High School District 206.


Pace provides bus service on routes 357 and 358 connecting Ford Heights to Chicago Heights and other destinations across the Southland.[33]


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  2. ^ "Ford Heights village, Illinois". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
  3. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  4. ^ Bureau, US Census. "Gazetteer Files". Retrieved June 29, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Ford Heights, IL". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved March 18, 2009.
  6. ^ a b c History – Village of Ford Heights, Illinois, USA. Accessed March 18, 2009.
  7. ^ The Chicago Southland Communities: Ford Heights Archived September 20, 2005, at the Wayback Machine – Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce. Accessed March 18, 2009.
  8. ^ Illinois blue book, 1951-1952. State of Illinois. p. 708.
  9. ^ "Suburbs and Cities as a Dual Metropolis". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved March 18, 2009.
  10. ^ Dirk Johnson (April 30, 1987). "The View from Poorest U.S. Suburb". The New York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  11. ^ "Ford Heights loses police dept". ABC7 News. April 21, 2008.
  12. ^ "Decennial Census of Population and Housing by Decades". US Census Bureau.
  13. ^ a b "P2 Hispanic or Latino, and Not Hispanic or Latino by Race – 2010: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) – Ford Heights village, Illinois". United States Census Bureau.
  14. ^ a b "P2 Hispanic or Latino, and Not Hispanic or Latino by Race – 2020: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) – Ford Heights village, Illinois". United States Census Bureau.
  15. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  16. ^ "P004: Hispanic or Latino, and Not Hispanic or Latino by Race – 2000: DEC Summary File 1 – Ford Heights village, Illinois". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 26, 2024.
  17. ^ Veronico, Nicholas (April 7, 1949). "Group Plans to Secede from Village". The Chicago Tribune – via
  18. ^ Illinois blue book, 1951-1952. State of Illinois. p. 699.
  19. ^ a b "President of East heights Dead at 49". The Chicago Heights Star. February 5, 1952 – via
  20. ^ a b "Harvey Adair To Run For Mayor OF East heights". The Chicago Heights Star. March 25, 1952 – via
  21. ^ "Incumbernts Elected in So. Heights". The Chicago Heights Star. April 24, 1953 – via
  22. ^ Illinois blue book, 1953-1954. State of Illinois. p. 720.
  23. ^ Illinois blue book, 1955-1956. State of Illinois. p. 750.
  24. ^ Illinois blue book, 1957-1958. State of Illinois. p. 895.
  25. ^ McGrath, Paul (March 13, 1966). "Outlook Brighter for "Poorest Town"". The Chicago Tribune – via
  26. ^ "Beck Takes Office, Names Committees". The Chicago Heights Star. May 6, 1973 – via
  27. ^ a b "6 mayors lose in bid for reelection". The Chicago Tribune. April 6, 1989 – via
  28. ^ "Chicago Suburb is a Definition of Poor". The Belleville News-Democrat. May 26, 1987 – via
  29. ^ Bowean, Lolly (April 10, 2009). "6 mayors apparently shown door". The Chicago Tribune – via
  30. ^ Berg, Austin (August 23, 2018). "One of the state's poorest communities is already facing enormous financial pressures".
  31. ^ Nickson, Giavonni (March 21, 2021). "Ford Heights Mayor Annie Coulter Seeks Re-Election". The Southland Journal.
  32. ^ Gibson, Tammy (April 8, 2021). "Illinois Election Results and History Made in the South Suburbs". Chicago Defender.
  33. ^ "RTA System Map" (PDF). Retrieved January 31, 2024.