West Side (continued)
The Bohemian community known as Pilsen emerged after the Chicago
Fire of 1871 when Bohemian immigrants began to move west of the
South Branch of the river. The old Bohemian colony which had grown
up around St. Wenceslaus Church at DeKoven and Desplaines Streets
in the 1860s was called "Prague." The new settlement
on the Lower West Side took its name from Bohemia's second largest
One of the pioneer industries in this area was the Schoenhofen
Brewery, established in 1862 at 18th and Canalport by Peter Schoenhofen,
a German Jewish immigrant. The largest factory to locate in the
area was the McCormick Reaper Works, which moved from the North
Side to Blue Island and Western Avenues in 1873.
By 1875 Pilsen was one of Chicago's major industrial centers,
supporting such diverse companies as the Chicago Stove Works Foundry
at 22nd and Blue Island, the McCormick Reaper Works at Blue Island
and Western, and the Goss & Phillips Manufacturing Co. at
22nd and Fisk (Carpenter), which specialized in sashes, doors,
and "Kelly's Patent Weather-Proof Blind."
The nearby yards of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad
provided jobs for thousands of unskilled Pilsen workers, as did
the vast lumberyards along the South Branch of the river. Labor
historians William Adelman and Richard Schneirov have documented
the role Bohemian immigrants played in the 1870s and 1880s in
the battle for improved wages and shorter working hours. Bohemian
laborers joined unions and supported benevolent groups such as
the Czech Slavic Benefit Society of the United States (CSPS).
These lodges provided financial assistance to families whose wage
earners died or sustained injuries on the job.