Avondale

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Avondale is recognized as one of the 77 official community areas in Chicago, positioned on the city's Northwest Side. Its geographical boundaries are marked by Addison Street to the north, stretching from the north branch of the Chicago River in the east to Pulaski Road in the west, and then extending westward along Belmont Avenue up to the Union Pacific/Northwest Line. The southern edge of Avondale runs along Diversey Avenue, from the Union Pacific/Northwest Line to the Chicago River.

Historical Overview

The area known today as Avondale saw its first European settler, Abraham Harris, three years following its incorporation into Jefferson Township in 1850. By 1869, it emerged as an incorporated village, believed to be named by John Lewis Cochran, a developer from Pennsylvania, in homage to the victims of the Avondale coal mine fire. Distinctively, Avondale was a racially integrated community in the 19th century, welcoming twenty African American families who contributed to the area's development by establishing its first church in the 1880s. In 1889, Avondale, along with the entire Jefferson Township, became a part of the City of Chicago.

The turn of the 20th century saw a surge in industrial growth around Avondale, spurred by the proximity to the Chicago River and the establishment of an extensive network of transportation corridors in the 1870s, which saw further enhancements post-annexation. This industrial boom, coupled with the advent of electric powered streetcars replacing cable cars, attracted a wave of European immigrants to the area due to the abundance of jobs.

Among Chicago's "Seven Lost Wonders" was Avondale's Olson Park and Waterfall complex, located at Diversey and Pulaski, marking a notable point of interest in the area's rich history.

The neighborhoods of Jackowo and Wacławowo, collectively known as the Polish Village, represent one of Chicago's most significant and lively Polish communities. These areas derive their names from the adjacent Polish Roman Catholic parishes: Saint Hyacinth's Basilica and St. Wenceslaus Church. The main commercial artery of the district is Milwaukee Avenue, dotted with sausage shops, restaurants, and bakeries, earning the area the moniker Polish Village, prominently displayed on street lamps throughout the district. Pulaski Avenue, named after a Polish Revolutionary War hero, cuts through the heart of the area.

Jackowo and Wacławowo emerged as Polish enclaves in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, growing alongside Milwaukee Avenue's northwest expansion. The neighborhoods thrived as cultural epicenters for Chicago's Polish community in the 1980s and 1990s, bolstered by the Solidarity and Post-Solidarity migration waves, including numerous political refugees. A notable local tradition was the CTA bus driver's announcement of "Yats-koh-voh" for St. Hyacinth Basilica on Sunday mornings, a signal for Polish attendees heading to Mass. The area witnessed a renaissance, with landmarks and institutions revitalizing to serve the new Polish arrivals, such as the historic Milford Theatre, dubbed "Cinema Polski," which became a hub for Polish cinema arts similar to today's Gateway Theater in Jefferson Park.

Avondale's Polish Village became a sanctuary for Polish arts and culture, a place where freedom of expression flourished away from the scrutiny of government censors and political oppression. The vibrant community activities here contributed to the broader movement that led to the fall of Communist rule in Poland, marking a significant chapter in the history of European liberation. A decaying mural titled "Razem," located in a McDonald's parking lot and painted by Caryl Yasko in 1975 with support from the Polish American Congress, stands as a testament to this cultural flowering near Belmont and Pulaski.

North of Jackowo is Wacławowo, with St. Wenceslaus Church at its core, surrounded by brick two-flats and bungalows built before World War II, near the Villa District to the north.

Belmont Gardens

Belmont Gardens lies at the intersection of Logan Square and Avondale, home to Kosciuszko Park and bordering the Pulaski Industrial Corridor. Its boundaries stretch from Pulaski Road eastward to the Union Pacific/Northwest rail line, and from Belmont Avenue northward to Fullerton Avenue southward.

Originally rural "truck farms" filled the space between Fullerton and Diversey Avenues and Kimball Avenue to the Union Pacific/Northwest rail line until its annexation in 1889, ahead of the World's Columbian Exposition. The area's urbanization began with the industrial village of Pennock, Illinois, envisioned by Homer Pennock as a major industrial and residential district, a vision that ultimately faded, leaving behind only historical footnotes.

However, the early 20th century saw Belmont Gardens and Avondale transform, becoming integral parts of the Milwaukee Avenue "Polish Corridor," a testament to Chicago's expanding Polish community. Belmont Gardens not only offered a spacious living environment but also thrived industrially, thanks to its railway proximity. One of its most memorable landmarks was the Olson Park and Waterfall Complex, created by Walter E. Olson, a 22-acre garden and waterfall complex that remains a cherished memory for many Chicagoans.

Kosciuszko Park, affectionately termed "Koz Park" or the "Land of Koz" by locals, stretches across the Chicago Community Areas of Logan Square and Avondale, including a portion of Belmont Gardens near the bustling Pulaski Industrial Corridor. This green oasis is a testament to the vision of Chicago's Progressive Era civic leaders, who aimed to enrich the city with public parks.

Defined by Central Park Avenue to the east, Pulaski Road to the west, George Street to the north, and Altgeld Street to the south, Kosciuszko Park's history is deeply interwoven with the city's development. Originally, the land between Fullerton Avenue and Diversey Avenue, and between Kimball Avenue and Pulaski Road, was mostly unoccupied, filled with "truck farms" until its annexation in 1889, in preparation for the World's Columbian Exposition.

The park's urban evolution began with the industrial ambitions of Homer Pennock, who established Pennock, Illinois, centering around what was then known as "Pennock Boulevard." Despite initial acclaim, including a mention in the "History of Cook County, Illinois," Pennock's project dwindled, leaving a "Deserted Village in Chicago," as reported by the Chicago Tribune in 1903.

Nevertheless, the city's expansion and the boom in settlement transformed the area, situating Kosciuszko Park and Avondale at the northwestern end of the Milwaukee Avenue "Polish Corridor." This corridor was a vibrant stretch of Polish settlement extending from the Polonia Triangle to Irving Park Road.

Kosciuszko Park became more than just a residential area; its proximity to rail lines spurred industrial growth that remains part of the Pulaski Industrial Corridor. St. Hyacinth Basilica, near George Street and Lawndale Avenue, stands as a spiritual landmark established in 1894. The area's Polish community was further supported by the Polish Franciscan Sisters, who established St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled in 1898, Chicago's first Catholic nursing home, alongside a church vestment workshop opened in 1909.

Kosciuszko Park itself, dedicated in 1916 and named after the Polish patriot Tadeusz Kosciuszko, was a key development of the Northwest Park District. Architect Albert A. Schwartz designed its Tudor revival-style fieldhouse, which became a central community hub following its expansion in 1936. The park has hosted a variety of community activities, from festivals to ice skating rinks, serving as a beloved gathering place for generations.

The park's evolution continued into the 1980s with the addition of a new natatorium, enriching the community's recreational offerings. Moreover, Kosciuszko Park was home to one of the first Polish language Saturday schools in Chicago, the Tadeusz Kościuszko School of Polish Language, emphasizing the area's cultural heritage.

Today, Kosciuszko Park, or "The Land of Koz," is a vibrant, diverse community reflecting the ongoing changes in Chicago's urban landscape. It remains a focal point for residents old and new, embodying the spirit of community and cultural heritage amidst the city's dynamic growth.

The Villa District

The Villa District, or Villa Historic District, known as Polskie Wille in Polish, stands as a testament to architectural heritage on Chicago's Northwest Side, nestled within the Irving Park community area. It is framed by Pulaski Road to the west, the Union Pacific/Northwest rail line to the north, Hamlin Avenue on the east, and Addison Street to the south. Just north of Avondale's Wacławowo area, the district enjoys convenient access to the city via the Blue Line's Addison Street station.

Established in 1902 by various architects, the district showcases a strong influence from Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style. Among the architectural gems are bungalows crafted by Hatzfeld and Knox, with Clarence Hatzfeld later contributing to the design of Portage Park's field house and natatorium. Originally termed as the "Villa addition to Irving Park," the area is distinguished by its Craftsman and Prairie Style homes, set along scenic boulevard-like streets. While St. Wenceslaus church, a striking combination of Romanesque and Art Deco styles, attracts visitors, it is technically located just outside the district's defined borders.

The Villa serves as the northern anchor of Chicago's celebrated Polish Corridor, stretching along Milwaukee Avenue to the Polonia Triangle at Division and Ashland Avenue, earning the nickname "the Polish Kenilworth" from journalist Mike Royko, referencing a luxurious Chicago North Shore suburb.

Gaining recognition for its historical significance, the Villa Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 11, 1979, with its boundaries expanded on March 10, 1983, to include the Villa Apartments at 3948-3952 and 3949-3953 W. Waveland Ave. Further cementing its status, the district was designated a Chicago Landmark on November 23, 1983, preserving its unique architectural and cultural heritage for future generations.

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