Irving Woods is a part of Dunning.
Irving Woods is a small neighborhood within the larger Dunning community area on the far northwest side of Chicago. Bound to the west by the Indian Boundary Golf Course and the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve, Irving Woods enjoys more green space than most Chicago neighborhoods combined. Winding hiking trails through the deep woods are something you wouldn't likely expect to find in a city setting, but in Irving Woods, acres of trees and undeveloped land are within walking distance of your front door. Nature-loving Chicagoans who love mountain biking and wilderness treks, are starting to move into the area, giving this quiet community an injection of youthful energy and increasing number of growing families.
Nestled between the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve and three large cemeteries (Irving, Westlawn and Acacia), Irving Woods neighborhood is a charming urban retreat dominated by gardens and wilderness.
Before the city’s fabled first settler Jean Baptiste Point du Sable set up his trading post in Chicago, the area on which Irving Woods now sits was inhabited by the Potawatomi Indians. Having been driven out of their native land in Michigan, the Potawatomis settled near the north branch of the Des Plains River in what is now the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve. In the ensuing years, the Native American tribe was forced to relinquish their land (which included terrain in and around present-day Chicago) to the U.S. government in exchange for territory in Kansas. Once vacated, the grounds were prime property for settlement and urban expansion.
However, during the time of Chicago’s infancy Irving Woods neighborhood experienced slow growth, mainly because of the developments in the neighboring community of Dunning. In the early 1850s, Chicago opened a work farm for the poor and an insane asylum on Irving Park Road about a mile to the east of Irving Woods. The mental institution was poorly planned and managed, and by the 1870s there were nearly twice as many patients as the facilities were intended to house, many of them living in a state of squalor and discomfort. The next decade saw major improvements as the grounds and amenities were expanded to accommodate the overflow of patients. During this time attempts were made at attracting residents to Irving Woods and surrounding neighborhoods. Unfortunately, efforts were stunted due to the communities’ proximity to the asylum.
So, development and settlement in the area began slowly, as local nurseryman Andrew Dunning purchased 120 acres and set about one-third of it aside to start a town, but transportation links to the city were poor and potential investors were discouraged by the aforementioned nearby asylum. While people were not so quick to move to the area to live, plenty saw it fit to inhabit the region upon death … what do we mean? Well, the great cemeteries that separate Irving Woods from other west side Chicago neighborhoods opened around this same time period to serve as burial grounds for the several hundred victims of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Okay, so far this place seems a little morbid—but all that was about to change—slowly but surely. Development continued on a gradual yet steady path through the first half of the 20th century, pushed forward by the paving of Irving Park Road in the 1920s. Construction of residences and businesses was still sluggish as the decades trudged on, thwarted by demographic shifts and the onset of urban sprawl that began in the 1950s. But the Irving Woods community continued to look to the future.
Then, in the 1980s and Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ90s the number of inhabitants in Irving Woods and the greater Dunning community began to skyrocket. The growth they’d been yearning for was finally at hand and the west side neighborhoods’ populations exploded onto the scene. A new wave of Hispanic and Latino immigrants moved into Belmont Central and Montclair in great numbers, and in turn, the Polish American and Eastern European residents that once lived in these regions (southeast of Irving Woods) moved west into the Belmont Heights and Irving Woods neighborhoods. Since then, things have been on the up for Irving Woods which is making a name for itself among Chicagoans from all walks of life as a great place to settle down and raise a family in the midst of ample greenscapes, lush plant life and the tranquility of final resting grounds.
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