Chicago Avenue: Next Chicago landmark?

1620 W Chicago Ave

When the City Council named Milwaukee Avenue to Chicago’s landmark roll in April, it recalled a decade-earlier EVA success, the Goldblatt’s building on Chicago Avenue. The city property anchors a stretch of century-old department stores and movie theaters.

Surrounding buildings still feature their Jazz Age ornamentation and still serve their original purpose as commercial magnets for immigrant families. Are they worth marking as their own landmark district?

The EVA board thinks the idea is worth discussing among members and local officials. With several Chicago Avenue buildings now up for sale or lease, owners and potential owners could benefit from early and even-handed consideration. When EVA members reviewed a developer's proposal last year for 1916-24 W. Chicago, the prospect of demolition was as much a point of contention as were parking and traffic.

Watch a slideshow of Chicago Avenue properties here. Then leave your comments on landmarking below, or join us for the next membership meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Happy Village Tavern, 1059 N. Wolcott, where Ald. Manny Flores (1st Ward) is featured speaker.

Free wi-fi on Chicago Avenue

West Town Service Area SSA 29 has launched free wireless Web access on Chicago Avenue between Armour (1500 W.) and Throop (1300 W.).

    Configuration details from the West Town Chamber of Commerce website:

  • The SSID should be set to "chifi" (it may be followed by a number, such as "chifi1" or "chifi2").

  • A DHCP address will be allocated automatically.").

  • The 'wireless encryption privacy ' WEP' option should be set to "off.").

  • The network type option should be set to "infrastructure" not "ad hoc" (peer-to-peer).

  • You can now open a web browser. You may be directed to a registration page; follow the instructions to set up a free account. The system will allow you to connect long enough to register and then check an online email account (such as, or so you can retrieve your password. Once you log in with your name and password, it's likely you won't need to enter a name/password if you tell your browser to save the name and password for the login page.

Alderman Flores to speak Tuesday

Chicago Ald. Manny Flores will be the guest speaker at the next East Village Association membership meeting. Alderman Flores will present a status report on the state of the 1st Ward and progress on some of the alderman’s initiatives and challenges.

He will speak and answer questions from 7 to 8 p.m. Sept. 2 at the Happy Village Tavern, 1058 N. Wolcott.

Flores was first elected to the City Council in 2003, and is serving his second term. He's on seven City Council committees: Economic, Capital and Technology Development; Energy, Environmental Protection and Public Utilities; Historical Landmark Preservation; Committees, Rules and Ethics; Parks and Recreation; Special Events and Cultural Affairs; and Transportation and Public Way. Flores also sits on the Illinois Broadband Deployment Council.

A taste of Polonia

President’s Message by John Scheer 

Summer is almost gone and we have some dynamite memories of the East Village Association barbecue. Thank you to all of those who helped and those who came to enjoy. This type of neighborhood togetherness is part of what EVA is all about.

Some of the interesting neighbors that I met are Adele and her daughter, Mary. Their history in the East Village started the summer of 1967, a number of years before EVA was formed. Adele moved to Augusta Avenue with her three children and found a very comfortable Polish neighborhood where she could raise her children.

Mary went to Andersen School and became part of the "neighborhood kids" on Honore Street. There were many families on that block, each with 3 to 5 children. The kids would take over the street after school for a game of Frisbee, football or other seasonal sports. This same kind of grouping was present on Marshfield between Thomas and Haddon. So if you didn’t like the game on your street, you could walk a couple of blocks and join in the fun with another group.

The neighborhood was dominated with first and second generation Polish families. Kids spoke some Polish at home for the parent’s generation and then less as the generations progressed.

The families attended St. Boniface Church, which further bonded these families. There were summer picnics, dances and a bazaar. After St. Boniface was closed, they attended Hoyne Avenue Wesleyan Church, 2108 W. Iowa. They attended movies at the Crown Theater (now the Chopin, 1543 W. Division St.), the Royal Theater on Milwaukee near the Burger King, the Alvin Theater (now VIP Fashions) across from Goldblatt’s at 1614 W. Chicago Ave., and the Hub Theater, 1744 W. Chicago Ave. near Wood Street. This provided great inexpensive, local entertainment for both parents and the kids.

The Alliance Bakery (still in business under the same name at 1736 W. Division St.) provided Polish specialties since it was owned and operated by a Polish baker. Polish taverns on Division Street were as popular as the restaurants are today. Mary remembers the Putt-Putt that was owned and operated by a neighbor about a block away. It was a motorized wagon with a 6 by 6 foot hut that traveled the neighborhood selling terrific hot dogs and tamales.

Mary also remembers the Polish parade that started at the Polish National Alliance, 984 N. Milwaukee Ave. at Augusta, and ran along Augusta to Humboldt Park. Mary had her own outfit for the parade with ribbons and a head dress. Later in the year was Trick or Treat, when she and her friends could visit each house. Growing up in this neighborhood, the families always felt safe and the adults were comfortable letting their kids play at neighbors a couple of blocks away.

Adele worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for many years and ultimately retired from there. She typically took the subway to her Loop office and remembers the challenges of getting around during the blizzard of ’67 — so much snow that people were forced to walk in the streets and most of the schools and businesses were down by 50 percent in attendance and customers.

Adele likes to sing and she took voice lessons locally while singing in the church choir. She also participated in a choir performance in Grant Park, was a member of the Polish Catholic Choir Society that traveled around the city performing at different events and even performed a solo on a Polish program on local TV.

Adele and her family have seen this neighborhood evolve through two major transformations. As the Polish families grew up and moved out of the neighborhood, many were replaced with Latino families that brought a new language and new customs. Many joined the same church, went to the same schools and played in the same streets. Somehow, there was not the same togetherness as when Adele was younger and when her kids were at the same age.

More recently, Adele has seen a second transformation, as the neighborhood is restored and rebuilt to support the influx of a younger generation. Adele is pleased with many of these changes and sees most of them as improvements.

The new residents bring with them a different cultural lifestyle that has not established the neighborhood togetherness that Adele once knew. Adele is reaching out to community groups like EVA to help establish a closer community spirit for her neighborhood.

This is an open invitation to come join us at the Sept. 2 EVA meeting and meet Adele and her daughter Mary. You can use this opportunity to learn some more about the history of the East Village and share some of your experiences with Adele.

Board Meeting minutes for 8/11/2008

Submitted by Joe Hunnewinkel

Board Members: John Scheer, Brian Thompson, Greg Nagle

Non- Board members: Scott Rappe, Margie Issaccson.

1. Members discussed August Barbecue and agreed it was very successful, both as a social event and in terms of recruiting new members. Pros and cons were discussed as well as suggestions on how to improve future events.

2. The issues concerning the status of creating a Chicago Avenue Landmarks District were brought up, and it was decided a broader discussion was needed among the general membership, as well as what the aldermen's commitment would be. The possibility of forming a committee was discussed.

3. Members made suggestions for future EVA sponsored events which will help create a more positive social structure among members. Suggestions included softball games, pet events and movies at the Happy Village Tavern.

4. Meeting adjourned.

MB Bank's window to East Village

By Scott A. Rappe 

As construction proceeds on a dense mixed-use development to the west of MB Financial Bank, West Towners may have noticed a tiny project at the bank itself.

Last year the limestone infill at the arched west window was removed. More recently restoration began in earnest behind a barricade. Now complete, the original cast iron window frames are again visible, reglazed with energy-saving insulated glass.

According to the city’s Landmarks Division, all of the windows on the south side of the bank and two on the east eventually may be restored to their original elegance.

Alderman Flores deserves much credit for landmarking the bank, which made extensive financial incentives available to its owners. These incentives become tangible benefits to the community through restoration projects like this. This is a very good omen for the Polish Triangle!

2008 East Village barbecue photos

East Village summer barbecue
By Joe Hunnewinkel 

The garden patio of the Happy Village Tavern filled with East Village Association members Aug. 5 for the annual EVA summer barbecue. Neighbors socialized and enjoyed food provided by The Boundary, Dominick's and Café Piccolo.

See photos of the event.

The 2008 EVA barbecue could not have been the success that it was had it not been for the generosity and commitment of some of our neighborhood businesses.

First, to Cheryln, Katie & Louie at The Happy Village Tavern (1059 N. Wolcott) for again, as in most of EVA's history, provided a cheerful setting for the event. We greatly appreciate the continued commitment to the organization, and friendly, helpful attitude.

To Ken and the staff of The Boundary (1932 W. Division) for donating huge tasty burgers- and manning the grill! You rocked. Members raved. Thank you for your contribution of time and talent. Also cheese.

To Phil at Café Piccolo (859 N. Damen) for printing our invites and donating that creamy, delicious gelato. The door-to door handouts generated interest in neighbors we may not have otherwise reached, and many new faces were the result.

Wynona and the folks at Dominick's (2021 W. Chicago) once again were extremely generous in providing Gift Cards to spend as we needed. They enabled us to make the event a much tastier and varied affair.