Wicker Park Bucktown East Village
Produced and edited by Candace Kuzmarski
Wicker Park is a Chicago neighborhood northwest of the Loop, south of Bucktown and east of Pulaski Park. The borders of the neighborhood are generally accepted to be North Avenue to the north (at 1600 N) (but the official boundary is the Bloomingdale Trail train tracks just north of North), the Kennedy Expressway on the east north of North Avenue and the Chicago River south of North Avenue, Division to the south (at 1200 N), and Western Avenue to the west (2400 W). Both the East Village and Ukrainian Village are to the south, Humboldt Park is to the west, and Bucktown is to the north.
Charles and Joel Wicker purchased 80 acres of land along Milwaukee Avenue in 1870 and laid out a subdivision with a mix of lot sizes surrounding a 4-acre park. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 spurred the first wave of development, as homeless Chicagoans looked to build new houses.
By the turn of the twentieth century, Germans and Scandinavians tended to live in the north and northwestern sections. Wicker Park became the abode of Chicago’s wealthy Northern European immigrants. Wicker Park proved especially popular with merchants, who built large mansions along the neighborhood’s choicest streets—particularly on Hoyne and Pierce, just southwest of North & Damen, known then as Robey. Hoyne was known as “Beer Baron Row,” as many of Chicago’s wealthiest brewers built mansions there.
At the end of the 19th century the area was subsumed into the surrounding Polish Downtown and became known as “the Polish Gold Coast”. In the 1890s and 1900s, immigration from Poland and the completion of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Lines greatly boosted the population density of West Town, especially in areas east of Wicker Park. The corner of Division, Milwaukee, and Ashland once known as ‘Kostkaville’, retains the moniker “Polish Triangle” to this day, and the provisional government of Poland met in Wicker Park during World War I. The area is home to many of the most opulent churches in the Archdiocese of Chicago, built in the so-called ‘Polish Cathedral style’.
Efforts by community development groups like Northwest Community Organization (NCO) to stabilize the community through new affordable-housing construction in the 1980s coincided with the arrival of artists attracted by the neighborhood’s easy access to the Loop, cheap loft space in the abandoned factories, and distinctly urban feel.
Today, the neighborhood is best known for its numerous commercial and entertainment establishments and being a convenient place to live for downtown workers due to its proximity to public transportation and the Loop. Gentrification has made the area much more attractive to college-educated white-collar workers, although it faced considerable resistance from the working-class Puerto Rican community it displaced. Crime has decreased and many new homes have been built as well as older homes being restored. This has led to increased business activity, with many new bars, restaurants, and stores opening to serve these individuals. Property values have gone up, increasing the wealth of property owners and making the neighborhood attractive to real estate investors.
Bucktown is a neighborhood located in the east of the Logan Square community area in Chicago northwest of the Loop. Bucktown gets its name from the large number of goats raised in the neighborhood during the 19th century. A male goat is a buck. The original Polish term for the neighborhood was Kozie Prery (Goat Prairie). Its original boundaries are Fullerton Ave. to the north, Western Ave. to the west, Armitage Ave. to the south, and Damen Ave. to the east. Real estate agents later extended it boundaries to the Kennedy Expressway to the east, Western Avenue to the west, North Avenue to the south and West Fullerton Avenue to the north as a selling point and to capitalize on the up and coming “Bucktown” name. This Realtor expanded Bucktown crosses south into the West Town Community Area by 2 1/2 blocks. It is primarily residential, with a mix of older single family homes, new builds with edgy architecture, and converted industrial loft spaces. The neighborhood’s origins are rooted in the Polish working class, which first began to settle in the area in the 1830s. A large influx of Germans began in 1848 and in 1854 led to the establishment of the town of Holstein, which was eventually annexed into Chicago in 1863. Additional population influxes include European Jews, Mexican immigrants and Puerto Rican migrants. Puerto Ricans concentrated along Damen and up Milwaukee Avenue from the 50′s until the 80′s. They supported the Young Lords and other groups that campaigned in the 80′s and voted strongly for Harold Washington’s victorious mayoral campaign which called for “Neighborhoods First” not city hall. In the last quarter of the 20th century, a growing artists’ community led directly to widespread gentrification, which brought in a large population of young professionals. Bucktown is directly north from Wicker Park.
East Village or “East Ukrainian Village” is a neighborhood directly east of Ukrainian Village. The generally accepted boundaries of East Village are Ashland (1600 W) on the east, Damen (2000 W) on the west, Division (1200 N) on the north, and Chicago (800 N) on the south (although some people extend the southern border to Grand Ave). This area’s historic proximity to the elevated train and higher population density gave it a more working-class population than Ukrainian Village. Much of the original housing stock has been torn down for new construction in recent years. Several blocks of East Village have recently been designated a Chicago Landmark district to preserve its character with these development pressures.