Stockyards Industrial Park
Some of the buildings at Stockyards Industrial Park, a grouping of businesses in the area where the stockyards used to be Credit: Melinda Fries for the Chicago Reader

For our Best of Chicago 2019 issue, I wrote about meeting someone in my south-side neighborhood who had grown up outside of the Chicago stockyards, and had memories of a cow that escaped the corral and was chased south on Racine Street by a stockyard worker on horseback. I’ve since heard from several neighbors and others who grew up around here that crafty animals trying to escape the clutches of Armour and Swift was a fairly common occurrence in the decades before the yards closed for business in 1971. Some have shared stories about pigs showing up and rooting through people’s trash cans, and a small flock of sheep that somehow got as far as Sherman Park. 

Stockyards Industrial Park is still home to some food-related industry, like the distributor Testa Produce and a few meat wholesalers’ home offices, but it’s no longer a place where live animals are held for slaughter. On Sundays, its streets are especially quiet, the relative stillness sometimes interrupted by drag racers. While there isn’t an official place to hang out in the park proper, it’s still a trip to walk or bicycle between the mostly dormant factories. Once you’re there, just breathe in the air that is confusingly layered with the scent of hair products and meat-processing facilities, and you might be rewarded by an ethereal visitation with a group of cow spirits who’ve been released to the universe.

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