From shanties on stilts to brick bungalows on solid ground, this small community has stood tall and strong on Chicago's south side over the years and it will continue to thrive for many more to come. Avalon Park is a classic Chicago neighborhood where rows of single-family homes stand on private lots, offering residents a place all their own. Some new constructions instill a sense of modernity in this small section of town, but for the most part Avalon Park is steeped in conventional living.
Before this small neighborhood on the southern side of Chicago was called Avalon Park, it was known as Pennytown, named for a local storeowner who made his living slinging popcorn balls.
The area officially became part of Chicago in 1889, when it was still a boggy swamp with just a few houses raised up on stilts, like one would see in Louisiana. It was around the turn of the century that engineers figured out a way to drain the waters from these swamps into channels, making the land more inhabitable. Ain’t technology grand? As the marshy ground was slowly done away with, this area south of the city began to attract residents (many of Eastern European descent) who headed to Pennytown to build their homes on the brand new piece of real estate.
In 1910, members of Avalon Park Community Church called for the name of the neighborhood to be changed to match that of the parish’s. The change was promptly adopted by the small village, and the memory of their swampy beginnings grew even more distant. After the Second World War, jobs began popping up in mills and factories around the area. This prompted further housing development in Avalon Park, which were mostly sturdy brick bungalows, a far cry from the elevated homes that first occupied the neighborhood.
From the 1960s on, the demographic composition shifted in Avalon Park from largely German, Irish, and Swedish immigrants to middle-class African Americans that make up nearly a hundred percent of the populace today. The smallish, largely residential neighborhood of Avalon Park is adjacent to the sizeable community of Chatham, which bodes quite well for Avalon Park locals as their neighbor to the west is quite built-up with a variety of restaurants and shops, something Avalon Park lacks due to its more suburban nature. The neighborhood’s location between important avenues of transportation also gives Avalon Parkers the advantage of quick and easy travel to all other parts of the city.