By the 1880s Washington Park had become an exclusive residential
neighborhood. With the coming of the fair and the elevated trains
to the South Side, this quickly changed. Washington Park was soon
full of real estate developers who constructed large apartment
houses within easy walking distance of the "L." The
entertainment district that emerged along the "L" tracks
further changed the neighborhood. And finally, the good transportation
brought an entirely new ethnic group to Washington Park, the Irish.
These people arrived in large numbers in the neighborhood, and
they built Catholic churches on the main streets, thus changing
the character of the district. In 1905 the city closed the Washington
Park Race Track, and along with it went the Washington Park Club,
an exclusive social Institution. Already the white Protestant
middle class was making its way into South Shore.
When the Washington Park Club was closed, its former members
organized the South Shore Country Club, which soon became one
of the most exclusive meeting places in Chicago. The neighborhood
also took on an upper-middle-class character.
But the new settlers in the area had blazed a new social and
demographic trail from Washington Park to South Shore. The ethnic
groups which had followed them to Washington Park would now follow
them to South Shore. By 1910 the Irish middle class was firmly
entrenched in Washington Park with German Jews following them
in large numbers. These in turn were followed by Russian Jews.
The novels of Chicago author James T. Farrell, best known for
his Studs Lonigan trilogy, portray the communities along the elevated
tracks during this period. In fact, the community of Washington
Park served as a corridor through which various ethnic groups
would quickly pass. These "L" neighborhoods tunneled
people further south as they climbed the economic ladder. South
Shore was the destination of many people who had formerly lived
in Washington Park.
This movement of ethnic groups rolling like waves southward in
the city can be traced through census materials and through the
various institutions which they established to serve their needs.