The Polish community has had a significant presence in Chicago since the arrival of Polish political exiles in the early 1800s. This steady trickle became a wave in the late 19th century as Poles fled extreme economic and religious persecution in Europe. These immigrants settled all over the city, establishing Polish neighborhoods and landmarks including “Old Polonia” located on the northwest side.
Polish communities also had a significant role in the industrial growth of the city. By the 1930s, there were more than 400,000 people of Polish heritage in Chicago and the heart of Old Polonia (nicknamed “Polish Downtown”), centered where Division, Milwaukee, and Ashland Avenues intersect. This area was filled with Polish American shops, restaurants, cultural institutions, alliances, religious centers and philanthropic organizations.
After Nazi Germany devastated the country of Poland in WWII, Chicago experienced another large wave of 450,000 Polish immigrants. The last significant wave of Polish immigrants occurred in the 1980s and 1990s as many professionals, artists and educators fled from an oppressive communist regime. These three major waves have had a lasting effect on Chicago’s identity and traditions as evidenced by annual events such as Polish Constitution Day Parade, Taste of Polonia, the Polish Film Festival of America and Casimir Pulaski Day.
We invite you to celebrate Polish American Heritage Month with CPL and explore Chicago’s Polish landmarks and immigrant history.
Tours of Chicago’s Polish Landmarks and History
- Chicago’s Polish Triangle Walking Tours with Chicago Detours
- Tour Historic Avondale and Chicago's Polish Village with Chicago Detours (online)
- Tour Chicago's Polish Triangle with Chicago Detours, opens a new window (online)
- City of Chicago’s Self-Guided Polish Neighborhood Tour
Maker Arts and Crafts
- Make a Wycinanki Star with the Electronic Cutter
- Take and Make Kit: Decorative Clay Dish
- Adult Craftnoons: 'Tis the Season to Craft, opens a new window