Searching for signs of the Underground Railroad on Chicago’s Northwest Side

CHICAGO -- An urban archaeological dig is underway in Chicago's Old Irving Park neighborhood.

Lake Forest College Professor Rebecca Graff is leading a team of students searching for signs that the site may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The property at the corner of Grace Street and Kostner Avenue once belonged to John Gray, a Cook County sheriff who is said to have been an abolitionist.

Gray built a home there in 1856, in the years after Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

A four-year, $800,000 grant from the Andrew Mellon Fund is helping to support this effort.

No definitive clues have been found just yet. But an odd brick-lined room in the basement and neighborhood lore about underground tunnels, is fueling speculation that John Gray or others may have used this property to hide fugitive slaves trying to work their way to Canada and refuge from fugitive slave trackers on the U.S. side of the border.