A mere mention of the words “Taylor Street” and many native Chicagoans will be instantly transported to their first childhood memories of basil, marinara sauce, and homemade pasta. A destination for Italian immigrants (and throngs of others) since the city's inception, the triangular boundaries of the Tri-Taylor neighborhood are centered about Taylor Street in Chicago's near west side. Tri-Taylor's nineteenth century row houses are a glimpse back in time that still provide valuable living space today. New condo buildings have sprouted up, too, creating a beautifully blended combination of vintage design and modern residences. A far cry from its earlier days when Italian ristorantes ruled the streets, Tri-Taylor offers 21st century conveniences with everything from fast food favorites to Internet cafés.
Tri-Taylor is a tiny neighborhood that consists of about 600 homes. Wedged between the ever-expanding medical district and the Eisenhower Expressway, there was concern in recent years that the residential area would be entirely sacrificed to the growth of the neighboring medical facilities. By the late-1970s it seemed almost inevitable that residents would be displaced and their land seized by the state.
A turning point came in 1983, when the National Register accepted the application of neighborhood residents to designate Tri-Taylor with historic district status. From that day forth, the neighborhood has experienced a gradual but steady revitalization. Realizing the historic value of their homes—many of which were built in the 1880s and ‘90s—residents have invested much time and money in restoring their homes and the surrounding streets to their former glory. With the whole community contributing to the effort, abandoned buildings are being reclaimed and restored, and the neighborhood is experiencing a prosperity unseen in recent decades.
Like much of Chicago’s near west side, Tri-Taylor has been one of the city’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods throughout its history. The most notable immigrant population, though, would have to be that of the Italians. Tri-Taylor is located about a mile west of what is commonly referred to as 'Little Italy,' Chicago’s gateway to Italian immigration. Beginning their migration around the time of the Civil War, the largest waves of Italian population growth occurred between 1880 and the start of the First World War. These immigration patterns created an Italian-American social fabric that would remain until the 1940s, when massive state-sponsored construction projects in border regions caused a splintering and provoked many to relocate.
In 1941, construction began on the Illinois Medical Center directly to the east of Tri-Taylor, effectively dislocating the neighborhood from Little Italy and University Village. For the project, which is one of the largest medical facilities in the country, the city government exercised its power of eminent domain in seizing more than 300 acres of residential land just east of the Tri-Taylor neighborhood. Today, the area is considered an independent Chicago city neighborhood.
In the early 1960s, ground was broken on the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290), which borders Tri-Taylor to the north, further disrupting the community. While the highway may have caused quite a headache during its construction, it now provides the Tri-Taylor neighborhood with a valuable and speedy transportation route. And, as if there wasn’t enough going on around this small near west side neighborhood, the Chicago Technology Park Research Center moved into the northeast corner of Tri-Taylor in the early 1990s and now occupies about 56 acres of the neighborhood, significantly shrinking the residential space, but—on the upside—also improving the local job market.
In the wake of the large construction projects that affected the area, the demographics of Tri-Taylor have gradually transformed from a mostly Italian community to one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the city of Chicago. While the majority of the residents are Hispanic or Latino, there are also many African-Americans, as well as decedents of Irish and, of course, Italian immigrants.
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