26th Street: Not Just a Street, But a Neighborhood

Although 26th Street runs from Lake Michigan to Twenty-Sixth Street Woods in west suburban Broadview, a mention of 26th Street usually means the neighborhood around 26th Street between California Avenue and Chicago’s western city limit. This neighborhood is known as Little Village, or La Villita (the Spanish equivalent) by people who live there.

Officially this area is called South Lawndale—one of Chicago’s 77 community areas. According to Census data, five of every six people in the area are of Hispanic origin, many recent immigrants. Businesses catering to Spanish speakers flourish along 26th Street’s vibrant commercial strip, leading the Little Village Community Development Corporation to call it Little Village: Capital of the Mexican Midwest.

A search of our catalog under “Little Village” and “South Lawndale” yields a number of studies and books about the area. The Municipal Reference Collection has an extensive newspaper clipping file about the South Lawndale community area. Special Collections’ South Lawndale Community Collection documents the area’s past as a portal for Bohemian immigrants.

In another example of Chicagospeak, 26th and California is not just a street corner, but is also a common euphemism for the Cook County Jail and Criminal Courts.