Bordered by Edgebrook Golf course on the north and running to Montrose Ave on the south end, Jefferson Park is named for its neighborhood green space and is known for its Polish heritage and its family-friendly community. Some homes within the Jefferson Park neighborhood fall within the school attendance zone of Beaubien Elementary, which is consistently ranked among Chicago’s top schools. Other community schools rank well, too. For the academically minded of all ages, Jefferson Park has its own neighborhood library branch.
Read on for a deeper dive into what it’s like to live in Jefferson Park Chicago.
Entertainment and Eating
Jefferson Park is full of quintessential Chicago bungalows, but it’s also home to some quirky local businesses. I’m talking about places like Chris’s Billiards, famous for its depiction in the 1986 rendition of The Color of Money, with Tom Cruise and Paul Newman. The pool hall sits above Cosmic Bikes, which used to be in Wicker Park and moved out to Jefferson Park a handful of years ago.
The Copernicus Center is Jefferson Park’s arts hub. The venue used to be the Gateway Theater, which was built in 1930 and was the first theater in Chicago made to show “talkies”. It was remodeled as a Polish Cultural Center with programming beginning in 1982. Since 1985, according to the Copernicus Center’s Facebook page, “the theater has been utilized for a wide variety of programs, not only Polish in nature, but also those of other ethnic groups which do not have their own facilities, e.g. East Indian, Spanish, Korean, Philippine, etc., as well as various Chicago communities and organizations.”
The neighborhood is also home to The Gift Theatre, whose mission is “is to tell great stories onstage with honesty and simplicity.” They put on shows ranging from improv to avant garde. And the Ed Paschke Art Center, which serves as both a museum/gallery for the eponymous artist’s work and as an educational resource center for community youth, is reopening this year.
Jefferson Park food highlights include standby Gale Street Inn, where they’ve been serving ribs since 1963; Cafe Marbella Tapas for an old-world Spanish tapas experience (and BYOB!); and Andy’s Deli, an institution that’s been providing Polish sausages and other specialty meats for Jefferson Park residents since 1918. Lastly, I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the annual event Taste of Polonia. People gather from far and wide every September to celebrate the neighborhood’s Polish roots.
A Bit of History
Both Kennedy Expy, which runs through the neighborhood from NW to SE, and the central bus terminal hark back to Jefferson Park’s history as a transportation hub. Native American trails converged on what is now Jefferson Park back in the 1800s. Furthermore, Milwaukee Avenue used to be a trail into Chicago’s heart, and Jefferson Park was on the way. Today’s bus terminal is where the Wentworth Tavern, a meeting point for those heading into the city and the area’s “first business,” used to stand.
If you’d like to learn more about Jefferson Park, I’d recommend exploring the following resources:
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