About Wicker Park
Wicker Park is a Chicago neighborhood northwest of the Loop, near Bucktown. Charles and Joel Wicker purchased 80 acres of land along Milwaukee Avenue in 1870 and laid out a subdivision with a mix of lot sizes surrounding a four-acre park. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 spurred the first wave of development, as homeless Chicagoans looked to build new houses. Wicker Park proved especially popular with German and Swedish merchants, who built large mansions along the neighborhood’s choicest streets–particularly on Hoyne and Pierce, just southwest of North & Damen (then Robey). At the end of the 19th century, the area was known as “the ethnic Gold Coast” and Hoyne was known as “Beer Baron Row,” as many of Chicago’s wealthiest brewers built mansions there. In the 1890s and 1900s, immigration from Poland and the completion of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Lines greatly boosted the population density of West Town, especially in areas east of Wicker Park;the corner of Division,Milwaukee, and Ashland retains the moniker “Polish Triangle” to this day, and the exiled government of Poland met in Wicker Park during World War I.
After World War II, many Poles moved to newer, less crowded housing further northwest, and Wicker Park became more ethnically diverse with an influx of Puerto Rican immigrants. Some urban renewal projects were undertaken to combat “urban blight” in some parts of the neighborhood, but disinvestment continued at a rapid clip. Chicago and Wicker Park reached a nadir in the 1970s, a decade when the city overall lost 11% of its population; during the 1970s, hundreds of insurance arsons were reported in Wicker Park, and many small factories in the area (many in woodworking) closed or moved away. Efforts by community development groups to stabilize the community through new affordable-housing construction in the 1980s coincided with the arrival of artists attracted by the neighborhood’s easy access to the Loop, cheap loft space in the abandoned factories, and distinctly urban feel.
Today, the neighborhood is best known for a lively hipster community of artists and musicians; however, gentrification has recently brought some of the yuppie population into the area.
The borders of the neighborhood are generally accepted to be Ashland to the east (at 1600 W), the above-grade Bloomingdale Line to the north (at 1800 N), Division to the south (at 1200 N), and California to the west (at 2800 W). These boundaries are not hard and fast, and may change slightly over time. Both the East Village and Ukrainian Village are to the south, Humboldt Park is to the west, and Bucktown is to the north.
Notable residents include Nelson Algren, who lived on the third floor at 1958 W. Evergreen Ave between 1959-1975. Much of Wicker Park was designated as a Chicago Landmark District in 1991.