Like many urban areas, Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood is undergoing regentrification as a new generation searches for affordable intown housing. These younger residents may appreciate Avondale’s culturally diverse population, its simple but sturdy frame homes and its wide variety of businesses and shops; what they may not yet know is the key role Avondale played in world history.
New factory jobs attracted the initial wave of European immigrants, mostly Poles, to the area at the turn of the 20th century. They called their villages Jackowo and Waclawowo after two Polish Roman Catholic parishes. In English the area is referred to as the Polish Village.
In the 1980s waves of Solidarity and Post-Solidarity immigrants came to Chicago, including a large number of political refugees. Finally able to express themselves freely without government censors or political repression, these new residents fostered the growth of Polish arts and culture.
Supported by notable visitors who came to Avondale, including General Józef Haller de Hallenburg, Prime Minister Stanislaw Mikolajczyk and Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President of Poland Lech Walesa, the area served as a hub for the political elites to lobby for support. Activism organized in Avondale by Chicago’s Polish community played a key role in the chain of events that resulted in the collapse of the Communist government in Poland and brought down the Iron Curtain.
Avondale is located on the northwest side of Chicago, and is home to around 43,000 people. Although today many Poles have moved on, the area still retains much of its Polish character. Avondale is serviced by the Blue Line’s Belmont station.
The neighborhood is bounded by the north branch of the Chicago River, Diversey Avenue, Addison Street, Pulaski Road and the Union Pacific/Northwest rail line; bisecting the community are Belmont and Milwaukee Avenues and the Kennedy Expressway/Interstate 90/Interstate 94.