Chicago's Albany Park Vibrance in Diversity

One of Chicago's greatest assets is its diversity, exemplified in the multitude of ethnic communities such as Polonia Triangle, Chinatown, Little Italy and Greektown. Although there may be a predominant cultural group in each neighborhood, each is populated with a multitude of other nationalities, resulting in a medley of cultures.

Albany Park, located on Chicago's northwest side is one of the most ethnically-diverse neighborhoods in the city. The Middle Eastern bakeries alongside Swedish restaurants and Spanish bodegas illustrate how in this neighborhood, the various ethnic subcultures are inclusive but also encouraged to embrace and cultivate their individual traditions and customs.

A 2008 study by the School of Public Service Policy Study at DePaul University in Chicago determined that Albany Park is the fifth most diverse neighborhood in the city in terms of ethnicity, income and age diversity and that 58% of the population is foreign-born. Over 40 different languages are spoken in its public schools. The many cultures create a rich and thriving community, a global palette of restaurants and specialty shops that contribute to a unique and constantly changing neighborhood.

From Farm to City

As most Chicago neighborhoods, Albany Park began as a homogenized, European farm settlement in the 1800s. In 1868, local entrepreneur Richard Rusk transformed a 10-acre investment into a large farm including a brickyard along the Chicago River and a racetrack. In 1889, the city annexed the area, and then six years later, a group of affluent investors purchased 640 acres of the farm to build a development. The team included streetcar magnate DeLancy Louderback, John J. Mitchell of Illinois Trust and Savings Bank, Northwestern Elevated Railroad owner Clarence Buckingham, and transportation mogul Charles T. Yerkes. The settlement was named Albany after the Louderback's hometown of Albany, New York.

While horse and by foot were the preferred methods of transportation during that time, the investors wasted no time in upgrading the way residents got around. The group of savvy businessmen purchased several transportation lines that were pivotal in establishing the area's first and expansive public commuting system with electric streetcars running along Lawrence Avenue between Broadway and Milwaukee. Beginning in 1904, the Chicago Sanitary District widened and straightened the meandering north branch of the Chicago River from Belmont to Lawrence Avenues, improving sewage disposal and giving more definition to property lines. A key point in improving commuting was the extension of the Ravenswood Elevated train to Kimball and Lawrence by 1907. In order to further improve transportation, the Kedzie line was extended in 1913.

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