West Town Community Collection

Dates: 1860-2007
Size: 1 linear foot, 82 photographs, 3 oversize folders
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center, Special Collections, 400 S. State St., Chicago, IL 60605
Collection Number: NHRC_WT
Provenance: Before being transferred to Special Collections, the records from before 1970 were collected by the Legler Branch of the Chicago Public Library. Those from after 1970 were collected by the Eckhart Park Branch.
Access: No restrictions
Citation: When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is: West Town Community Collection, [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections, Chicago Public Library
Processed by: The material in the collection from before 1970 was processed by CPL staff in the mid-1980s. The material from after 1970 was processed by Johanna Russ in 2013.

Historical / Biographical Note

According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, West Town, Community Area 24, is about three miles northwest of downtown Chicago, with its official boundaries roughly corresponding to Bloomingdale on the north, Kinzie on the south, the Chicago River on the east, and a shifting western boundary that can go as far as Kedzie. West Town is comprised of all or part of several smaller neighborhoods including Bucktown, Wicker Park, Humboldt Park, Noble Square, Logan Square, Ukrainian Village and East Ukrainian Village.

Much of the West Town area east of Wood Street was within the limits of what was incorporated as the City of Chicago in 1837. During the 1860s, homes were constructed near the railroad shops and yards and near newly constructed factories by the river and along Milwaukee Avenue. Poles had begun to settle the area, and the 1869 establishment of Humboldt Park in West Town’s northwest corner, as well as Humboldt station by the Milwaukee Railroad, led to a settlement of primarily Germans and Scandinavians north of the park. The area attracted many workers after the Fire who wished to build cheap frame homes, and in the following decades Polish immigration to the area increased, along with Russian Jews, Ukrainians and Germans.

As ethnic groups became more affluent, they moved further north along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor. As the Germans and Scandinavians moved north, the Poles moved in. During the second half of the twentieth century, Poles began moving north, as Puerto Ricans and Mexicans moved in. The makeup of the neighborhood in 2013 is largely Hispanic, though there is still a strong Polish presence, especially surrounding the Polish Catholic parishes, many of which were established in the 1800s.

The 1950s saw not just a demographic shift in West Town, but also urban renewal efforts by the City of Chicago, including subsidized housing projects and construction of the Kennedy Expressway, Interstate 94. Ethnic communities organized against many urban renewal projects and met with some success, though several projects were realized despite community opposition. Toward the end of the twentieth century, sections of West Town, most notably Wicker Park and Bucktown, experienced gentrification, and their ethnic residents have been largely displaced.

Material in this collection from before 1970 was originally part of the collections of the West Side Historical Society, which formed at the Legler branch of The Chicago Public Library in 1930 to promote and collect the history of Chicago’s west side. Upon the dissolution of the Historical Society in the 1950s, its records and materials remained at the Legler branch where they suffered the mistreatment and depredations of unsupervised use and inadequate storage facilities. To protect the materials, an agreement was struck in 1976 with the University of Illinois-Chicago Campus for the temporary custody of the collection at the University of Illinois. As agreed, the materials were transferred to the Chicago Public Library’s Special Collections Division ten years later, where they were divided up by community area, processed under the auspices of a grant from the Dr. Scholl Foundation, and placed in the Neighborhood Research Collection.

Material in the collection from after 1970 was amassed by the Eckhart Park branch of the Chicago Public Library (CPL), which was located at 1330 W. Chicago Ave. in Chicago’s Noble Square neighborhood, a part of the larger West Town community area. Librarians at Eckhart Park kept newspaper clippings, brochures, articles and other files about the organizations, businesses, issues and history of West Town. In 2008, these files were transferred to CPL’s Digitization Working Group for possible digitization. They were not scanned, and the files were then transferred to CPL’s Special Collections. The Eckhart Park Branch closed in 2009.

For an overview of West Town, see:

  • "West Town," Encyclopedia of Chicago
  • "CA24 -- West Town," Local Community Fact Book, Chicago Metropolitan Area, 1990

Scope and Content

The material in this collection from before 1970 is mostly comprised of newspaper clippings, programs, historical sketches, school newspapers and similar materials. Notable features of the West Town Community Collection from before 1970 include:

  • Chicago Artesian Ice Company
  • Hochspeier Funeral home
  • Milwaukee Avenue
  • Northwest Division High School
  • Polish Roman Catholic Union of America
  • Quarries in the West Town area

The collection also includes a number of photographs, listed at the end of the Box and Folder Inventory, which have been removed from the manuscript portion of the collection and placed in the Neighborhood History Research Collection/Audiovisual Collection. Cross references have been provided for related subjects appearing in different series. Newspaper clippings in the original collection that were duplicated in the library’s newspaper holdings have been indexed in this guide, but not physically included in manuscript collection.

The files in this collection from after 1970 cover the history of the neighborhood and its institutions including churches, businesses, charitable organizations, settlement houses, schools and libraries through articles, brochures, newspaper clippings and reports. Community newspapers and organizational newsletters also appear. Issues such as demographic shifts, gentrification, and homelessness are covered in these files.

Arrangement

Files are arranged in eleven series. Folders within series are arranged alphabetically.

Series 1: Biographical Data, 1929-1941

This series is mostly comprised of newspaper clippings, providing researchers with information on West Town residents.

Series 2: Business Establishments, 1867-1997

This series consists of newspaper clippings, historical sketches and printed material and ephemera.

Series 3: Religious Institutions, 1906-2003

This series contains information on a handful of mostly Roman Catholic, Eastern European churches in West Town.

Series 4: Clubs and Organizations, 1920-2002

The records documenting West Town’s many clubs and organizations consist of newspaper clippings, organizational newsletters and historical sketches. Many of the organizations in the records after 1970 provide social services to the residents of West Town.

Series 5: Historical Essays and Sketches, 1936-2002

This series contains historical essays and sketches about West Town, as well as reports and newspaper clippings about a variety of social issues experienced by West Town residents.

Series 6: Hospitals, 1930

This small series contains a souvenir book from West Town’s Norwegian-American Hospital.

Series 7: Parks, 1936, 2000

This small series contains maps and information about some of West Town’s parks and gardens.

Series 8: Residences, 1909, 1979

This small series contains a postcard and a descriptive tour of West Town’s residences.

Series 9: Schools, 1860-2000

This series contains brochures, programs, yearbooks, class and faculty lists, newspaper clippings and publications.

Series 10: Street Scenes, 1891-1941, undated

This small series consists of newspaper clippings and historical sketches.

Series 11: Transportation, 1940, 1980

This series contains information about various transportation issues in West Town’s history.

Related Materials

Container List

Series 1: Biographical Data, 1929-1941

Box 1 Folder 1 Boyles, George R.: Newspaper clippings, 1936, 1946
Chisholm, Thomas McKay: Newspaper clipping, 1931
Eggleston, Ruth Chessman: Newspaper clipping, 1929
Hochspeier, F. W., see Business Establishments: Hochspeier Funeral Home
Horth, Edward: Biographical Sketch and reminiscences, 1935
Mills, Joseph: Newspaper clippings, 1929, 1931
Mitchell, Nellie, see Chicago Daily News, 1939 February 10
Pierce, Dr. Paul, see Chicago Tribune, 1939 January 13
Rice, George W., see Historical Sketches and Essays: “The West Side Stone Quarries”
Sloan, Percy H.: Newspaper clipping, 1941
Sztuckzo, Rev. Casimir: Newspaper clipping, 1940
Thiel, Otto H., see Chicago Tribune, 1936 October 5

Series 2: Business Establishments, 1867-1997

  Oversize Folder 1 Artesian Well Ice House. Pen-and-ink with watercolor sketch by Garnset. 9 5/8 x 18 inches. Paper, cloth-backed.
Box 1 Folder 2 Chicago Artesian Ice Company: Business card, 1886
Chicago Artesian Ice Company: History of the Chicago Artesian Wells by George A. Shufeldt, Jr., 1867
Chicago Artesian Ice Company: Newspaper clippings, 1891, 1936
Chicago Artesian Ice Company: Pen-and-ink with watercolor sketch by Garnset. 9 5/8 x 18 inches. Paper, cloth-backed in Oversize Folder 1
Box 1 Folder 3 Café Central, undated
Box 1 Folder 4 Erickson’s Dry Goods: Notes on, undated
Hochspeier Funeral Home: History of, 1939
Humboldt State Bank: Postcard, 1922
Jewelers, see WS/Business Establishments: Jewelers
Quarries: Hand-drawn maps of Rice’s Quarry and the Artesian Quarry by Henry W. Evan [?], 1926 [See also photo CCW 1.22]
W. T. B. Read’s Sons Ice, see Chicago Artesian Ice Company
Stearn’s Drug Store: History of, 1939
Medicine bottle labels, circa 1920
Box 1 Folder 5 Goldblatt Brothers Department Store, submitted to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, 1997 April 2
Box 1 Folder 6 West Town Shopping Mall, 1979-1982

Series 3: Religious Institutions, 1906-2003

Box 1 Folder 7 First St. John Evangelical Lutheran, [1997]
Box 1 Folder 8 Holy Family Church, 1974 August 21
Box 1 Folder 9 Saint Boniface, 1999-2003
Box 1 Folder 10 St. Matthew’s Evangelical & Reformed, 55th anniversary, 1944
Box 1 Folder 11 St. Peter’s Evangelical Postcard, 1906
St. Peter’s Evangelical Programs, 1911-1944
St. Stanislaus Kostka, see Chicago Daily News, 1942 April 11
St. Stephen’s (old): Newspaper clippings, 1943, undated
St. Stephen’s (old): Postcards, 1937
St. Trinite: Postcard, undated
Wicker Park Methodist: Program, 1935
Box 1 Folder 12 Santa Maria Addolorata, 1998

Series 4: Clubs and Organizations, 1920-2002

Box 1 Folder 13 American Legion, Paul Revere Post No. 623: Newspaper clippings, 1939
American Legion, Paul Revere Post No. 623: Program, 1939
Association House: Newspaper clippings, 1939, 1943
Chicago Commons: The Comrade (newsletter), 1940 April 26
Chicago Commons: Invitation, 1944
Chicago Commons: Newspaper clipping, 1939
Deborah Boys Club, see Chicago Daily News, 1939 December 2
Emerson House Association, see Chicago Herald & Examiner, 1938 July 17
Erie Neighborhood House, see Chicago Herald & Examiner, 1938 July 24, 1939 March 4
Laird House, see Chicago Tribune, 1937 September 19
Box 1 Folder 14 Masons (D. C. Creiger Lodge, No. 643.): Souvenir book, 1920
Northwestern University Settlement Flyers, undated
Northwestern University Settlement Invitation, 1941
Northwestern University Settlement Newspaper clipping, 1941
Onward Neighborhood House: Newspaper clippings, 1937, 1939
Polish Roman Catholic Union of America: History of, circa 1930s, see Chicago Daily News, 1937 January 10
Box 1 Folder 15 Association House, 1984-1999
Box 1 Folder 16 Chicago Avenue Business Association (CABA) News, 1997 Spring
Box 1 Folder 17 Chicago Journal: News of Bucktown, Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, and West Town, 2006 May 18; 2007 September 13
Box 1 Folder 18 Circa: Newsletter of the Old Wicker Park Committee, 1982-1987
Box 1 Folder 19 Community Resources Listing, undated
Box 1 Folder 20 East Village News: A Monthly Publication for Residents and Friends of East Village, 1990-2002
Box 1 Folder 21 Erie Cooperative, undated
Box 1 Folder 22 Erie Family Health Center, undated
Box 1 Folder 23 Erie Neighborhood House, 1997
Box 1 Folder 24 Esperanza Community Services, undated
Box 1 Folder 25 “Follow Me: A Chicago Guide for West Town Teens,” undated
Box 1 Folder 26 Near Northwest Chamber of Commerce newsletter, 2001
Box 1 Folder 27 Nitty Gritty News, 2005 March
Box 1 Folder 28 Northwestern University Settlement Association, 1991-1999
Box 2 Folder 1 Our Village Voice: The Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association Newsletter, 2001-2002
Box 2 Folder 2 Polish Museum of America, undated
Box 2 Folder 3 Ruiz Belvis Center, undated
Box 2 Folder 4 Ukrainian National Museum of Chicago, undated
Box 2 Folder 5 West Town Chamber of Commerce, circa 2003
Box 2 Folder 6 West Town Chamber of Commerce nominations for membership, undated
Box 2 Folder 7 West Town Libraries, 1983-2005
Box 2 Folder 8 West Town Library Exhibit, circa 1999

Series 5: Historical Essays and Sketches, 1936-2002

Box 2 Folder 9 Descriptions of “Little Poland” tours, 1938-1940“The West Side Stone Quarries” by George W. Rice, 1936
Box 2 Folder 10 Architecture Contest, 1997
Box 2 Folder 11 East Humboldt Park Plan – Community 21, undated [1973]
Box 2 Folder 12 Gentrification Issues, 2001-2002
Box 2 Folder 13 Homelessness in West Town, 1987
Box 2 Folder 14 West Town annexations, before 1889
Box 2 Folder 15 “West Town Story: A Puerto Rican Community in Profile,” 1971

Series 6: Hospitals, 1930

Box 2 Folder 16 Norwegian-American Hospital: Souvenir book, 1930

Series 7: Parks, 1936, 2000

Box 2 Folder 17 Nelson’s Park, 1936
Box 2 Folder 18 Village Garden Walk, 2000 July 9

Series 8: Residences, 1909, 1979

Box 2 Folder 19 1530 Otto Street: Postcard announcing change of house number, 1909
Box 2 Folder 20 Historic Homes of Old Wicker Park, 1979

Series 9: Schools, 1860-2000

Box 2 Folder 21 Bancroft School: Program, 1895
Chopin School: Program, 1940
Columbus School Class list, 1940
Columbus School Columbus Clipper (newsletter), Jan. 1940
Columbus School Picture of, circa 1890s
Columbus School Programs, 1938, 1940
Humboldt School: Program, 1891
Box 2 Folder 22 Holy Trinity High School, undated
Box 2 Folder 23 Lafayette School: Program, 1939
Mitchell School: Programs, 1939, 1940
Moos School: Moos Chronicle (yearbook), June 1941, see also Humboldt School
Box 2 Folder 24 Noble Street Charter School, 1999-2000
Box 2 Folder 25 Northwest Division High School: Class and faculty lists, 1901, 1905
Northwest Division High School Directory, 1901
Northwest Division High School Programs, 1901-1904
Northwest Division High School The Review (magazine), 1899-1903 (not inclusive)
Box 2 Folder 26 Sabin Junior High School: Programs, 1915, 1925
Schley School: Program, 1901
Tuley High School: Handbook, 1931
Tuley High School Newspaper clippings, 1938
Tuley High School Programs, 1937
Von Humboldt School: Programs, 1896-1898
Washington School: Programs, 1860, 1885, 1886, 1938
Box 2 Folder 2 St. Stanislaus Kosta High School Class Play program; 1949
  Oversize Folder 2 Tuley High School. Tuley Review, Vol. 16, No. 1. February 25, 1938. Right half of pp. 3-4 missing.
  Oversize Folder 3 Tuley High School. Tuley Review Supplement. Senior class, June, 1937. 247 individual photographs with identifications. Gusek Studio. 2 copies.
Box 2 Folder 32 Von Humboldt School: Von Humboldt Chronicle newspaper graduation editions, 1960, 1962

Series 10: Street Scenes, 1891-1941, undated

Box 2 Folder 28 Ashland Avenue, see WS/Streets: Ashland Avenue
Augusta Boulevard: Newspaper clippings, 1939, 1941 [See also ACC/Transportation: Augusta Boulevard]Bickerdike Street, see WS/Streets: Bishop Street
Bishop Street, see WS/Streets: Bishop Street
Damen Avenue, see WS/Streets: Damen Avenue
Division Street: Newspaper clipping, 1937
Milwaukee Avenue: Histories of, 1891, 1922, 1936, undated
Milwaukee Avenue: Newspaper clippings, circa 1906, 1927
Box 2 Folder 29 North Avenue: Newspaper clippings, 1928-1940
Box 2 Folder 30 Street Names, undated

Series 11: Transportation, 1940, 1980

Box 2 Folder 31 Vaulted Sidewalks, 1980
Subway (Halsted-Grand/Milwaukee station), see Chicago Daily News, 1940 March 30
Toll gates, see Streets: Milwaukee Avenue

Oversize Folders

Series 2: Business Establishments

Oversize Folder 1 Artesian Well Ice House. Pen-and-ink with watercolor sketch by Garnset. 9 5/8 x 18 inches. Paper, cloth-backed.

Series 9: Schools

Oversize Folder 2 Tuley High School. Tuley Review, Vol. 16, No. 1. February 25, 1938. Right half of pp. 3-4 missing.
Oversize Folder 3 Tuley High School. Tuley Review Supplement. Senior class, June, 1937. 247 individual photographs with identifications. Gusek Studio. 2 copies.

Photographs

Series 2: Business Establishments

1.1 Edward Ahlswede Dry Goods, North Avenue & Campbell, exterior, 1886
1.2 Chicago Artesian Ice Company, exterior, stereograph, circa 1870
1.3 Hochspeier Funeral Home, horse-drawn child’s hearse, 1908
1.4 Hochspeier Funeral Home, office interior, 1912
1.5 Hochspeier Funeral Home, hearse, 1912
1.6 Hochspeier Funeral Home, hearse, 1917
1.7 Hochspeier Funeral Home, hearse, 1921
1.8 Hochspeier Funeral Home, exterior, 1939
1.9 Hochspeier Funeral Home, hearse, 1939
1.10 Hochspeier Funeral Home, hearse, 1939
1.11 Stearn’s Drugs Store, exterior, 1939

Series 3: Religious Institutions

1.12 St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church, laying cornerstone, at 921 Noble Street (at Milwaukee), 1902

Series 6: Hospitals

1.13 Tabitha Hospital, 1040 N. Francisco Ave., circa 1910

Municipal Agencies

1.14 Fire Department, horse-drawn truck # 19, May St. & Chicago Ave., 1899
1.15 Fire Department, horse-drawn hook and ladder # 19, undated
1.16 Fire Department, chemical truck # 19, May St. & Chicago Avenue, 1899
1.17 Fire Department, horse-drawn engine # 3, 855 W. Erie St., undated

Portraits

2.1 Hackley, Manning T. (Alderman, 28th Ward), undated
2.2 Read, William T. B. (1809-1898), undated

Series 8: Residences

1.18 Burke home, 2028 Pierce Ave., 1937
1.19 Niedart home, N. Hoyne & Pierce Ave., undated
1.20 Niedert home, N. Hoyne & Pierce Ave., undated
1.21 Read home, 2424 W. Chicago, 1876
1.22 Read home, 2424 W. Chicago, 1936
1.23 Schulz home, Robey & Park St., (now Damen and Wicker Park), 1876

Series 9: Schools

1.24 Carpenter School, 3rd or 4th grade, class photo, 1883
1.25 Chopin School, class of 1940
1.26 Humboldt School, California & Wabansia, room 19, class photo, 1890
1.27 Humboldt School, faculty, 1893
1.28 Humboldt School, 2nd grade, class photo, 1893
1.29 Humboldt School, 4th grade, class photo, 1893
1.42 Humboldt School, faculty, 1895 in Photo Oversize Box 1
1.43 Humboldt School, 1711 N. California, 3rd or 4th grades “problem children,” 1895 in Photo Oversize Box 1
2.3 Lafayette School, room 10, class photo, 1891
1.30 Mitchell School, class of February 1940
1.31 Moos School, faculty, circa 1890
1.32 Moos School, class of June 1941
1.33 Northwest Division High School, art class, 1893
1.34 Northwest Division High School, art class, undated
1.35 Northwest Division High School, art class, 1910
1.36 Northwest Division High School, art class, undated
1.36a Peabody School, classroom interior, 1903
1.37 Sabin School, exterior, undated
1.38 Sabin School, class photo, 1938
1.39 Sangamon Street School, exterior, circa 1880
1.40 Washington School, room 3, class photo, 1882
1.41 Washington School, class of June 1938
1.44 Northwest Division High School, faculty, 1901 in Photo Oversize Box 1
1.45 Northwest Division High School, Silent M Fraternity, 1905 in Photo Oversize Box 1
1.46 Sabin School, faculty, circa 1930 in Photo Oversize Box 1
1.47 Sabin School, class of 1938 in Photo Oversize Box 1
1.48 Tuley High School, fire damage, collage of 18 photographs, 1938 in Photo Oversize Box 1

Series 10: Street Scenes

1.53 906-914 W. Erie St., (at Milwaukee), undated
1.54 Hirsch & Maplewood, 1936
1.50 Irving Ave. at [Schiller Ave.? LeMoyne Ave.?], circa 1930 in Photo Oversize Box 1
1.51 Leavitt Street, 1400 block North, circa 1930 in Photo Oversize Box 1
1.52 801 N Milwaukee Ave., circa 1930 in Photo Oversize Box 1
1.55 North & Fairfield Ave., circa 1900
1.49 Western & Chicago Avenues, 1876

Series 11: Transportation

1.56 Ashland Avenue bridge opening, Ed Kelly prepares to cut ribbon, 1936
1.57 Ashland Avenue bridge opening, speakers’ platform, 1936
1.58 Ashland Avenue bridge opening, parade, 1936
1.59 Ashland Avenue bridge opening, parade at Belmont, Ashland and Lincoln, 1936
1.60 Ashland Avenue bridge opening, parade passing Stille-Young Corporation, 1936
1.61 Ashland Avenue bridge opening, parade passing Atlantic Brewing Company, 1936
1.62 Ashland Avenue bridge opening, parade nearing bridge, 1936
1.63 Ashland Avenue bridge opening, parade over bridge, 1936
1.64 Ashland Avenue bridge opening, people in costume, 1936
1.65 Ashland Avenue bridge opening, crowd at bridge, 1936
1.66 Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Yards, taken from Milwaukee Ave. viaduct, circa 1916
1.67 Citizens Line car # 217, Milwaukee Ave., 1874
1.68 Chicago River at North Avenue Bridge, looking north, undated
1.69 10 unidentified snapshots of various buildings in West Town, undated [after 1970]
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