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Quiet streets, tree-shaded homes, scenic riverside landscapes, and a mix of cultural backgrounds contribute to the charm of this north side Chicago neighborhood. Sprouting from the site of a pickle farm which was Chicago's primary pickle supplier in the mid 1800s, Budlong Woods has developed into a beautiful setting to raise a family. The large wooded expanse of Legion Park is on its western edge, a wonderful place for short hikes or nature sightings. And many of Budlong Woods' properties boast sizeable private lots that are ideal for letting the kids play outdoors and expend some of that never ending energy. Up on Lincoln Avenue, residents will get their fill of the outside world with convenient grocery stores and an international array of dining options.
It's probably safe to say that Budlong Woods is the only Chicago neighborhood named for pickle farmers. The first non-native settlers arrived in what we know today as Budlong Woods back in the 1850s and 1860s. Most were farmers from Germany, Sweden, and Luxembourg. Two of these settlers, Lyman and Joseph Budlong, started growing cucumbers, and in 1857 they founded the Budlong Pickle Farm and Factory, one of the area's first major employers. The business took off, and the factory became the primary supplier of pickles and pickled beets in the Chicago area. (Who knew pickles and beets were in such high demand?) The Budlong Brothers later opened Budlong Greenhouses in 1880 to grow flowers year-round.
There were some other farms in the area, and cow pastures also dotted the landscape. Immigrants from the city came to work in the fields, traveling down Western Avenue in horse cars, and later in streetcars.
Despite good public transportation and available jobs, only a few homes had been built in the area by 1900. Workers commuted to their farm jobs and then returned to their homes in the city. But change was on the way. After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, the rural locale became more attractive to city dwellers who wanted to move away from urban crowding. In 1907, the Ravenswood branch of the Northwestern "El" train (so-named for its elevated tracks) was built in the area, and the same developers who funded the train construction also began snatching up parcels of land for residential construction.
The next decades were ones of amazing growth in Budlong Woods and neighboring communities. Red brick bungalows, large apartment buildings, and two- and three-flats sprung up, many along the North Branch of the Chicago River (Budlong Woods' western border). Numerous businesses set up shop along Lincoln and Western avenues. Entertainment options for the burgeoning population included a stable at the intersection of Berwyn and Western avenues that offered horseback riding. Residents also flocked to movie theaters in nearby Ravenswood, Bowmanville and Lincoln Square to see the latest from Hollywood.
Over the years, waves of immigrants flooded the community—Germans, Greeks and Koreans to name a few. Today, Budlong Woods is home to many ethnic groups, each of which has enriched the community's culture and expanded its identity to include customs and traditions from around the world. The neighborhood's residents take pride in their diversity, and to this day, the pleasant and attractive neighborhood continues to draw people from all walks of life.
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