In this series of blog posts, we provide a summary of the neighborhoods where we’re currently listing and developing homes. In this post, I’ll be focusing on West Town Chicago.
The boundaries of West Town are the former railroad tracks on Bloomingdale Avenue on the north, the Chicago River on the east, the Union Pacific railroad tracks on the south, and a jagged western border that includes Humboldt Park proper.
West Town is a large community area that includes a handful of distinct neighborhoods: East Village, Noble Square, Polish Downtown, Pulaski Park, Smith Park, Ukrainian Village, and Wicker Park. It also includes River West and East Humboldt Park (though some sources don’t consider the latter a separate neighborhood).
Importantly, the area that falls under the umbrella of “West Town” varies depending on the source, but this is the definition of the West Town community area according to the city of Chicago. Some resources consider Chicago Avenue as West Town’s northern border, and the expressway as its eastern border, greatly reducing the size of “West Town.” When “West Town” is referenced, it’s most often used to refer to the areas of East Village and Noble Square, which will be the primary focus of this neighborhood guide.
Regardless of where you draw the boundaries, it’s always a beautiful day in West Town. Read on to see why.
Entertainment and Eating
West Town is also known for its plentiful boutiques along Chicago, Ashland, Grand, and Damen. This area includes gems such as quirky gift shop RR#1, vintage and handmade boutique Dovetail, local art and women’s clothing at AD HOC, 1930s to 1980s decor and clothing purveyor Seek Vintage, and industrial-chic boutique Study Hall, which is housed in a building that was built in 1884.
West Town has its fair share of green spaces. In the East Village and Noble Square areas, Eckhart Park is the largest at just over 8 acres. There’s a fieldhouse and indoor swimming pool, baseball diamonds, athletic fields, a playground, and a community garden. Movies in the Park, plays, concerts, and other Nights Out in the Park events are held at Eckhart Park throughout the year.
Pulaski Park is smaller, tucked into a densely populated neighborhood at the neighborhood’s eastern edge, near the Kennedy Expressway. It was built in 1912 in the middle of a predominantly blue collar Polish neighborhood and is named for Polish war hero Casimir Pulaski. Its three-story brick fieldhouse is iconic. According to the Chicago Parks District, “architect William Carbys Zimmerman designed the three-story brick field house to emulate Eastern European architecture familiar to the immigrant community.”
A typical commute to The Loop from West Town using public transportation is around 30 minutes, door to door. To O’Hare Airport, it’s about 50 minutes. By car, a typical drive to The Loop without traffic would take about 10 to 20 minutes, and a trip to O’Hare would be 20 minutes, sans traffic.
Walkscore.com refers to West Town as a “walker’s paradise” meaning daily errands don’t require a car.The easternmost part of West Town is the most walkable. The neighborhood is also considered a “biker’s paradise” and has excellent public transit.
According to Zillow, home values in West Town rose 3% in the past year and are projected to increase by 5.1% in the next year.
Note: Walkscore.com and Zillow use different boundaries for West Town than does the city of Chicago.
A Bit of History
1062 N. Ashland, built circa 1900. This photo was taken in April 2009, when this building was La Iglesia de Dios Alfa y Omega. It was the Galician-Austrian Congregation before that. Today, it’s home to apartments. Photo by Eric Allix Rogers via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Many different immigrant communities originally settled in what is now West Town. The portion of the neighborhood east of Wood Street was mostly within the original city limits of 1837. Settlers were attracted to the area in the 1840s for railroad and factory jobs.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the population included Germans and Scandinavians in the north and northwest, Polish around Division and Ashland Streets, Russian Jews near Humboldt Park, Italians in the southeast, and Ukrainians in what is now Ukrainian Village. Latino populations moved into the area in the second half of the century. African Americans had lived in the neighborhood since the 1930s but more moved to the area, specifically Noble Square, in the 1970s.
Some parts of West Town have experienced gentrification, but it remains a diverse neighborhood with plenty of great pockets to live, work, and play.
Joseph Medill Public Bath. 2138 W Grand Ave. Charles F. Hermann, 1905. Learn more about this and Chicago’s other public baths on Forgotten Chicago. Photo by Eric Allix Rogers via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
If you’d like to learn more about West Town, I recommend exploring the following resources:
- West Town Neighbors Association
- West Town Chamber of Commerce
- East Village Association
- Chicago Grand Neighbors Association
- Tour West Town with Chicago Magazine’s Ian Spula (video from 2015 — some of its content is dated)
- The Encyclopedia of Chicago West Town entry
- Chicago Public Library’s West Town Community Collection (referenced and summarized online; available in-person at the Harold Washington Library Center in Special Collections)
Interested in living in West Town? Check out the Smith Park Collection of homes that we’re working on in the West Town neighborhood of Ukrainian Village. Feel free to contact me for more information on buying a home in West Town.