For generations of urban dwellers, the most familiar place in
the neighborhood has been the block. Chicago's grid system of
streets divides the city into thousands of these small units.
It is on the block that the term neighbor is meaningful. Sidewalks,
backyards, gangways, and alleys still provide the first playgrounds
for most Chicago children. Front porches, fences, and corners
are the meeting places of adults, and these form the gossip network
for both men and women. The corner tavern as well as the now almost
extinct "Ma and Pa" grocery store were important local
institutions which served the block as well as the larger neighborhood.
This book about Chicago neighborhoods continues a long tradition.
As early as the 1860s, guidebooks have documented the city's rapid
rise from a frontier town to an urban metropolis. Because of their
tremendous role in creating and sustaining the city, we believe
Chicago neighborhoods deserve special attention. Our focus in
this book is historical. In addition to describing the origins
and development of the neighborhoods, we have selected historic
and contemporary photographs to illustrate the changes which have
taken place in the neighborhoods over the years.
The fifteen suggested tours are based on the neighborhood histories.
Be sure to read the histories first, then set out on the tours.
The tours point out institutions and buildings which have played
an important role in neighborhood growth. Many of the tours trace
the historic development of individual neighborhoods, from the
oldest settlements to the newest sections. The tours are designed
to provide a specific route through each neighborhood, but as
Chicagoans well know, many a two-way street has been changed to
one-way, apparently overnight. We must leave adjustments to your
We hope this book will promote a greater interest in and appreciation
for Chicago's neighborhoods. Far from being relics of the past,
the neighborhoods are alive and dynamic, and the city very much
needs them if it is to survive.
Dominic A. Pacyga