Originally planned as a Chicago suburb, this diverse north side Chicago neighborhood retains much of its cozy charm while offering all the amenities of big city life. Although it is removed from Chicago's central Loop, Irving Park is quite active with its own commercial district that provides a good selection of specialty shops and independent businesses. When night falls, the neighborhood watering holes fill up. A few Irving Park bars draw crowds with live music acts that range from jazz to rock to Hip Hop, but most taverns are simple hangouts with good brews and friendly bartenders. Before heading over to the local pub, Irving Park is a great place to get a bite to eat. Take your pick of American, Thai, Chinese, German, Italian or Mexican cuisine. In Irving Park, you can even get Bosnian and Serbian dishes. Let your tummy be the guide and you're sure to find Irving Park is a very enticing Chicago neighborhood.
When Charles Race purchased a parcel of land outside Chicago in 1869, he intended to set up a modest farm. Race's business sense got the better of him, however, when he realized that the nearby Chicago & North Western Railroad was a potential jackpot. He set up a depot and named his newly minted town Irvington, in honor of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow author Washington Irvingâ€”somewhere down the line the name was changed to Irving Park.
As the town's population grew, the community advertised itself as a hip new suburb of Chicago, notable for upscale homes, tree-lined streets and easy train access to the city. The Irving Park neighborhood became a mecca for upper class Chicagoans tired of the downtown grind but wary of the longer commute to Evanston or Oak Park. Community groups and arts societies began cropping up, establishing Irving Park as a small-scale cultural center.
The suburb was annexed to the city in 1889 and thereafter settled into a quiet, mostly residential Chicago neighborhood. The stylish yet affordable surroundings made the Irving Park neighborhood a popular address for both the affluent and the city's growing middle class. Thousands of new homes were built in the 1890s, attracting scores of new residents, with German and Scandinavian immigrants comprising a large chunk of the populace. An influx of Eastern European immigrants in the 1930s brought a strong Polish and Russian influence to the neighborhood, and more recently the area's Hispanic population has boomed, with Latinos now accounting for nearly half of Irving Park residents.
Today's Irving Park remains a low-key but vibrant community. The western third of the neighborhood, known as Old Irving Park, is slightly more affluent and houses a good portion of the area's merchants. Business is mostly limited to main thoroughfares, especially Irving Park Road. Neighborhood taverns and a few live music venues are the extent of Irving Park nightlife, but the galleries and theaters of Logan Square and Wicker Park are only a brief train ride away.
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