It's often said that "Chicago is a city of neighborhoods." This may seem redundant—isn't every city a city of neighborhoods?—but Chicago really is a big, wonderful amalgamation of unique enclaves. Where do the names for all these neighborhoods come from? We sought to find out.
Keep in mind that there are at least 200 neighborhoods in Chicago. While this list is extensive, it isn't absolute. For example, some areas were left off because they were obvious extensions of other neighborhoods (hello, West Rogers Park), while others lacked reliable info (or any information at all). If you don't see your neighborhood below, please write your alderman, who will then negotiate with us and we'll hash out an under-the-table deal.
The Chicago History Museum's Encyclopedia of Chicago and the Chicago Park District's parks database were extremely helpful resources for this—be sure to check them out.
After the Chicago Fire, many of the city's Swedes moved to this area on the North Side to rebuild their lives. It's believed that the neighborhood is named after Reverend Paul Andersen Norland, who was integral in attracting folks to join the community during its early years (neighborhood's pros: not engulfed in flames).
Named after Archer Avenue, which itself is named after William Beatty Archer, the first commissioner of the Illinois and Michigan Canal.
Not the most glamorous of origins, but in the 1800s, Chicago families would dump their furnace ashes in this area, and the name "Ashburn" stuck.
reallyboring via Compfight cc
Named for Henry W. Austin, the real estate mogul who acquired and subdivided the land in 1866. The area was originally in the township of Cicero. Austin held the most power in that municipality, and its politicians brought major roads and elevated trains to the neighborhood. The other Cicero citizens objected and voted to expel Austin and have it annexed into Chicago.
Un-fun fact about Henry W. Austin: He was an ardent temperance advocate and worked to ban all saloons and liquor sales within his community.
This neighborhood was originally named "Pennytown" for Penny, a local general store owner who sold popcorn balls. The area's Avalon Park Community Church lobbied to have the name changed, and Pennytown—and Penny's popcorn balls—are no more.
BACK OF THE YARDS
Union Stock Yards, 1947 via Wikimedia Commons
Named for its location in relation to the famed Union Stock Yards, this neighborhood was home to most of the Yards' workers. It's where the hog butchers for the world rested their heads at night.
There is some argument about whether this neighborhood is named after Beverly, Massachusetts, or Beverly Hills, California. It's often referred to as "Beverly Hills" because it sits on a glacial ridge that, at 672 feet, is the tallest natural point in Chicago.
This informal, colloquial name for the LGBT community area that stretches along North Halsted Street started being used in the 1970s, around the time of the first Gay Pride Parade.
This area was a fur trading outpost named "Hardscrabble" for years until it officially became the town of Bridgeport in 1836. Some insist that it's named after a bridge that spanned a canal on or near Ashland Avenue. There are no records of this bridge ever existing, however, leaving some to doubt this explanation.
This area on the South Side was apparently named "Bronzeville" by Chicago Bee theater editor James J. Gentry because he said it reflected the skin tone of its residents.
Early Polish immigrants raised goats in the area and called it "kozie prery," or "goat plain." That name evolved into "Bucktown," as "buck" is the term for a male goat. No goats remain today, of course (unless they're served in gourmet tacos).
Illinois Central Railroad built a station in the area and named it after Civil War General Ambrose Burnside (who also worked as the railroad's treasurer). Colonel W.W. Jacobs subdivided the neighborhood in 1887 and named it after the station.
Depending on who you ask, this neighborhood is named either for the sparrows which populated it or for roving gangs of violent teens, dubbed "wild canaries" in the late 1800s. Either way, it was wise to keep your head on a swivel.
This park and housing development was planned in the 1970s and takes its name from General Henry Dearborn, Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of War.
Named after Stephen A. Douglas, who is most famous for his participation in the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Cook County originally purchased this property in 1851 to build a "poor farm," insane asylum, and tuberculosis hospital. After the Civil War, a man named Andrew Dunning bought a tract of land to the south of this area to plant a nursery. In 1888, the hospital and asylum were bought by the city after they found gross mismanagement. The entire area, including Dunning's plot, soon took his name as redevelopment began.
EAST GARFIELD PARK
The park that this neighborhood is named after was originally called "Central Park" when it was built in 1869. After President James A. Garfield's assassination in 1881, the city changed that, and the area to the east developed into East Garfield Park.
The "brook" that this area edges is actually the North Branch of the Chicago River. Edgebrook was plotted in 1894 to be a golf course-adjacent suburb. The course remains, although the suburb has long since been absorbed by Chicago.
This North Side neighborhood hugging Lake Michigan was dubbed "Edgewater" in 1885 by John Lewis Cochran, a tobacco salesman from Philadelphia who purchased and subdivided much of the land. (Remember that name — old John Lewis Cochran comes up a lot when talking about the origins of Chicago's North Side.)
Etiquette states that you should wait for someone to die before you name your town after them, but in 1890, the citizens of Edison Park eschewed manners and named their village after the very-much-alive inventor. Given that nobody loved Thomas Edison more than Thomas Edison, he gladly gave the township his blessing.
This neighborhood was originally named "The Junction" because of its railroad crossing. But after Henry B. Lewis, a wool and grain merchant, moved to the area in 1867, he and his wifeconvinced residents to start calling the neighborhood "Englewood," inspired by the New Jersey town.
Fernwood Village was founded by Dutch farmers and they named it after the surrounding woodland. (You see, it was full of ferns.) The village was annexed into Chicago in 1891.
Named after Melville Fuller, a Chicagoan and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1888 to 1910.
South Park Commissioner George W. Gage died in office in 1875 while developing this park. The city soon honored his memory by naming it after him, and the surrounding neighborhood eventually followed suit.
A section of 55th Street, which runs through the neighborhood, was renamed Garfield Boulevard to honor President Garfield after his assassination.
Named after British Prime Minister William Gladstone. Gladstone served in the office a record four separate times which, in Chicago, is considered short-term.
This North Side area along Lake Michigan was originally called "The Astor Street District," taking the name of John Jacob Astor. Astor didn't actually live in Chicago, but the residents so desperately wanted to project an air of wealth that they used his name anyway. It worked, and when a section of Lake Shore Drive opened in 1875, rich families began building homes in the neighborhood. The community officially became known as the "Gold Coast" at the turn of the century.
Goose Island is an actual island located in the North Branch of the Chicago River. It was created when William Ogden, Chicago's first mayor, built an auxiliary canal to facilitate shipping routes. The name "Goose Island" comes from a separate, smaller island in the river, but the name was soon attached to the man-made land mass when Irish squatters moved from the old island to the new one. The term comes from the abundant geese they hunted.
This area is named after the former moniker of its main thoroughfare. The road was briefly changed from Grand Boulevard to South Park Way before being renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in 1968.
GREATER GRAND CROSSING
This area has its roots in a railroad company dispute, or "frog war." Both Illinois Central and Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroads laid claim to the real estate. Roswell B. Mason, a future Chicago mayor and executive for Illinois Central Railroad, secretly put tracks over some of Lake Shore & Michigan Southern's rails using an illegal connector. In 1853, two trains crashed, killing eight and injuring 40. During the aftermath, real estate developer Paul Cornell came in and used the site of the deadly intersection to build a new suburb.
Posted by: Jwon Martin at 12:00 am