In 1835, Henry DeKoven purchased prairie land in the region. In 1857, a group of citizens formed the Town of Cicero, a ten-member local governing body that covered modern day Cicero, Oak Park, Berwyn and Austin. Eight years later, DeKoven’s land was bought by Henry W. Austin. Austin, a businessman and real estate speculator, developed the namesake Austinville subdivision. Its population grew exponentially as the area’s attractive amenities and access to suburban railroad service drew in population. In 1870, the Town of Cicero placed its town hall in Austin. However, by the 1890s, the heavily populated Austin area dominated town politics, but did not constitute a majority of voters. The Austin controlled township government allowed the Lake Street Elevated to extend into Oak Park. Outraged, the other residents of Cicero Township voted to allow Chicago to annex the Austin area in an 1899 referendum. The residents of Austin voted against the referendum.
After its annexation, Austin continued to maintain an independent, suburban identity. By the 1920s, the area had developed significant street railways to serve its commuter population. This infrastructure attracted a large group of European immigrants to the community. In 1926, it was estimated the area had approximately 140,000 residents. In 1923, Austin Hospital opened. In 1938, the hospital, now called William Temperance Hospital, was taken over by Sisters of Saint Casimir who operated the hospital as Loretto Hospital.
In 1949, construction began on the Eisenhower Expressway which bisected the southern portion of Austin.
After World War II, African-Americans increasingly moved into the surrounding community areas of East Garfield Park, North Lawndale, West Garfield Park. Despite white flight in the surrounding neighborhoods, in 1960, the Austin community was near exclusively white.
In the mid-1960s, African-Americans began moving into Austin proper. This created animosity amongst the white residents who opposed integrated schools. By 1970, despite the aggressive blockbusting efforts of realtors, the Austin community was 32% black. A decade later, it was 73% black. This trend would continue for the rest of the twentieth century.