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Table of Contents > Chapter 11

South Lakefront (continued)

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.

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