Chicago's Bucktown From Polish Prairie to Arts, Retail and Upscale Lofts

Bucktown, a Polish neighborhood north of Wicker Park, has been transformed from an agrarian community into a residential haven with a mix of older single family homes and new condos with edgy architecture and converted industrial lofts.

Not a Billy Goat, but?

What is it about Chicago and goats? No offense to Mr. Wrigley, but Bucktown, curiously, gets its name from the large number of goats that were once raised in the neighborhood during the 19th century. That was when Bucktown was the center of the city's famed Polish Downtown. The original Polish term for the neighborhood was Kozie Prery (Goat Prairie). Located directly north of Wicker Park and northwest of the Loop, Bucktown is in the eastern end of the Logan Square community area in Chicago. Its boundaries are Fullerton Avenue to the north, Western Avenue to the west, Bloomingdale Avenue to the south, and the Kennedy Expressway to the east. Its original boundaries were Fullerton Avenue, Damen Avenue, Armitage Avenue and Western Avenue.

Not surprisingly, the neighborhood's origins are rooted in the Polish working class, which first began to settle in the area in the 1830s. A large influx of German immigrants arrived in 1848 and in 1854, they established the town of Holstein, which was eventually annexed into Chicago in 1863. The influx of Polish immigrants, the annexation of Jefferson Township into Chicago and the completion of the Logan Square branch of the metropolitan El train combined to influence the rapid increase in Bucktown's population density. Some of the Chicago’s most opulent churches designed in the so-called Polish Cathedral style—St. Hedwig's, the former Cathedral of All Saints and St. Mary of the Angels date from this era.

The Melting Pot

Many of Bucktown’s streets were named for famous citizens honoring their Polish heritage—people such as Polish noblemen and patriots Tadeus Kosciusko and Kazmierz Pulaski, the Sobieski royal family and Leipzig (for the Battle of Leipzig).

However, the City Council, prompted by a Bucktown-based German contingent with political clout, changed these Polish-sounding names in 1895 and 1913 to those of a more Teutonic flavor, calling them Hamburg, Frankfort, Berlin and Holstein. Anti-German sentiment during World War I reversed the name change to today's very Anglo-Saxon sounding names: McLean, Shakespeare, Charleston, and Palmer.

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