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LaSalle Park

9) "The Lake" – LaSalle Park

3419 W. Washington St.

“The Lake” is the popular name for this west side neighborhood surrounding LaSalle Park that was home to many African American residents who went on to careers in business, government, and education despite the poverty that defined life in this community. The Lake was the only area where African Americans could purchase land during the first Great Migration and thus became the heart of African American life in South Bend during the city’s booming industrial period. Named “Beck’s Lake,” the original source of the Kankakee River, this former wetland also served for a time as a dump for the Bendix Corporation, creating unhealthy conditions which activists successfully fought to change yet the Environmental Protection Agency still lists the site as a potential Superfund site. This was a low income African American community on the banks of a dump – something that today is considered Environmental Racism.

The Lake residents demanded a recreation area for the community. African American families and black-owned businesses formed this tight-knit community that nurtured many leaders in the city and nation. Annette Brodie was a neighborhood leader who organized pickets for paved streets and other improvements. The site known today as LaSalle Park (managed by South Bend Parks and Recreation) was the first redeveloped area in South Bend and contains a playground and sports fields as a result of the activism of Mrs. Brodie, Charles Maxwell and the Rev. Dave Davis. The B.G. Smith Recreation Center was the first and only such center before the 1960s. The Charles Black Recreation Center was named to honor this local athlete, Lake Resident, and staff member.