How the neighborhoods got their names

How the neighborhoods got their names

Did you ever wonder why some of the city's neighborhoods got their names? Some of them are self-explanatory - Lakeview, South Loop, River North - but others are kind of strange. Since I'm a giant nerd, I decided to research popular neighborhoods' names and include it in this weeks 'Did You Know, Chicago?'.

This one always confused me. What exactly is Pilsen? In the late 1800s, this neighborhood was actually inhabited by Czech immigrants who named it after a large city back home, called Plzeň.

Wicker Park
Land developers Charles and Joel Wicker bought tons of land in the 1870s with plans to build a neighborhood, and kindly donated four acres to the city to build a public park. That park was named Wicker Park, and the name stuck for the entire neighborhood.

You've probably heard that Chicago has the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw, and it has been that way for over 100 years. During the early 20th century, this area was known as the Polish downtown and many Poles resided here. The Poles had a tendancy to keep goats in their homes, and since a male goat is called a "buck," the area became known as Bucktown.

Logan Square
Not surprising, Logan Square is named as such for the square in the middle of the neighborhood. The actual Logan Square was named after Civil War hero and former Congressman General John A. Logan.

Before it was the eco-friendly neighborhood it is today, Andersonville was just a distant suburb of Chicago. Swedish immigrants began arriving after the Great Chicago Fire and by the 1900s the area was dominated by Swedes. The name Andersonville comes from the popular Swedish surname, Anderson.

This area was known as the "Black Metropolis" in the early 1900s, its development credited to such famous African Americans as Louis Armstrong, Marla Gibbs, Lou Rawls and Ida B. Wells. In the 1930s the local newspaper was the first to call the neighborhood Bronzeville for the color of the residents' skin.


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  • Thanks for these little tidbits. I had no idea the Andersonville used to be a suburb. If Andersonville was once a suburb, Rogers Park must have been complete countryside! Don't know where you do your research, but the Special Collections at the Harold Washington Library is a pretty awesome resource. Here's a little write-up that will help you get started...

  • Thanks for the info! I love little tidbits like that! Check out my new blog here: I'd love to collaborate with you on a video/posting:)

  • In reply to Ryan Sinwelski:

    Thanks! Anytime!

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    Streeterville is a interesting one...

  • In reply to Andrew Terry:

    Good one Andrew!

    Chicago Quirk, I enjoyed your article! I hope you do a part two (or deux) soon.

  • In reply to Kay S:

    Already planning. :)

  • I can't believe I forgot Streeterville! I love how that guy just decided he was going to make his own part of the city and then claim it.

  • care to do a part two and show everyone that the city does go west of Western?

  • In reply to darkangel:

    Definitely! I'm glad so many people are interested! I'll find more neighborhoods, including those west of Western, north of Bryn Mawr and south of 51st.

  • Here's a good source. yes its a realty site, but they do a good job of explaining the history and origin of many neighborhoods.

  • As the editor/publisher of (the only newspaper that covers the near northwest side of Chicago) and the author or Wicker Park from 1673 Thru 1929 and Walking Tour Guide (, I would like to correct your statement about Wicker Park.
    It is true the the Park was named for the Wickers. In my research for the book, using original track books, the entries show that Joel Wicker agreed to purchase a portion of the D.S. Lee Addition to the City of Chicago which included what would be the Park parcel. It does not show that all that was agreed to was in fact purchased. Furthermore, the only transaction for the transfer of land of Block 7 (the Park) was from Mary L. Stewart (D.S. Lee's widow) on Sept. 26, 1870, to the City of Chicago.
    On Sept. 19, 1870, Alderman McGrath presented and moved for approval of a resolution of Wicker Park improvements. The resolution was passed conditional on "...a good and sufficient deed of the same be given to the city..."

  • Actually most of the old neighborhoods were at one time individual cities,townships of villages. for instance if traveling from Downtown Chicago
    you would have to pass through Lakeview, Jefferson park, Edison park, all on your way to Milwaukee, then about a half day journey you would stop and rest, feed and water the horses.
    This rest area is now known as Halfday Il

  • Blue Island and Stony Islands were actually Islands in Lake MIchigan. Then some one had the bright idea to add land fill , I guess it was easier to build out towards the Lake than move in land.

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