A Brief History Behind Chicago’s Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park is a neighborhood and community on the West Side of Chicago. Humboldt Park is also the name of its namesake park of 207 acres that is situated on the northeast part of the neighborhood. Officially becoming a part of the Windy City in 1869, Humboldt Park has an interesting history that shares insight into the diverse, active and artistic community it is today. Find out more about the history behind Chicago’s vibrant and communal Latino neighborhood below.

The namesake park was named for Alexander von Humboldt, a German naturalist and geographer famed for his five-volume work Cosmos: Draft of a Physical Description of the World. (Sadly, his one and only visit to the US actually did not include Chicago!) The park is lined with graystone houses and now enjoys landmark status via Kedzie Avenue. The park itself has 3 major historical public buildings, including the Boat House (designed by Schmidt, Garden, and Martin), the Field House, and the Historic Stables.

Chicago annexed most of the neighborhood in 1869, the year the park was laid out because the area lay just beyond the city’s fire code jurisdiction, something that would later they might come to regret. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 indirectly helped the building of Humboldt Park’s homes and architecture as the demand for housing increased dramatically. Due to the Humboldt Park neighborhood being outside the zoning, it made low-cost construction possible to do quickly in response.
While much of downtown Chicago was rebuilding and altering its infrastructure planning, homes in Humboldt Park were steadily rising, storefronts and factories were popping up and thus job opportunities arose. This, in turn, attracted many German, Scandinavian, Italian, Polish and Russian immigrants to the neighborhood. Its community developed as an international melting pot, welcoming Puerto Ricans in the 1950s. Unfortunately, this enhanced America’s cultural divides and led to riots and civil unrest in Humboldt Park, mirroring the civil rights protests nationwide. The 1959 fire at Our Lady of the Angels School and the Division Street Riots of 1966 were violent and traumatic events that formed today’s close-knit and strong community which still fights for societal equality to this day. 

Its ethnically diverse makeup and strong history have inspired international artists, authors, and comedians throughout the years. We understand why Humboldt Park’s residents are very protective of their neighborhood’s popular street art as it illustrates its rich history and culture. Today, the neighborhood remains diverse in its residential, retail, and community offerings. It’s become a pinnacle for the food and beverage industry which hospitality giants like Lettuce Entertain You making the neighborhood its hub for many of its most noted eateries. 

 

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