Bucktown is a neighborhood located in the east of the Logan Square community area in Chicago, directly north of Wicker Park, and northwest of the Loop. Bucktown gets its name from the large number of goats raised in the neighborhood during the 19th century when it was an integral part of the city’s famed Polish Downtown. The original Polish term for the neighborhood was Kozie Prery (Goat Prairie). Its boundaries are Fullerton Ave. to the north, Western Ave. to the west, Bloomingdale Avenue. to the south, and the Kennedy Expressway to the east. Bucktown’s original boundaries were Fullerton Avenue, Damen Avenue (f/k/a Robey Street), Armitage Avenue and Western Avenue.
Bucktown is primarily residential, with a mix of older single family homes, new builds with edgy architecture, and converted industrial loft spaces. Horween Leather Company has been on North Elston Avenue in Bucktown since 1920. The neighborhood’s origins are rooted in the Polish working class, which first began to settle in the area in the 1830s. A large influx of Germans began in 1848 and in 1854 led to the establishment of the town of Holstein, which was eventually annexed into Chicago in 1863. In the 1890s and 1900s, immigration from Poland, the annexation of Jefferson Township into Chicago and the completion of the Logan Square Branch of the Metropolitan Elevated Lines contributed to the rapid increase in Bucktown’s population density. Three of the city’s most opulent churches designed in the so-called ‘Polish Cathedral style’- St. Hedwig’s, the former Cathedral of All Saints and St. Mary of the Angels date from this era.
The early Polish settlers had originally designated many of Bucktown’s streets with names significant to their people – Kosciusko, Sobieski, Pulaski and Leipzig (after the Battle of Leipzig). Chicago’s City Council, prompted by a Bucktown-based German contingent with political clout, changed these Polish-sounding names in 1895 and 1913. In its place the new names for these thoroughfares bore a distinct Teutonic hue – Hamburg, Frankfort, Berlin and Holstein. Anti-German sentiment during World War I brought about another name-change that left today’s very Anglo-Saxon sounding names: McLean, Shakespeare, Charleston, and Palmer.
Polish immigration into the area accelerated during and after World War II when as many as 150,000 Poles are estimated to have arrived in Polish Downtown between 1939 and ’59 as Displaced Persons. Like the Ukrainians in nearby Ukrainian Village, they clustered in established ethnic enclaves like this one that offered shops, restaurants, and banks where people spoke their language. Milwaukee Avenue was the anchor of the city’s “Polish Corridor”, a contiguous area of Polish settlement that extended from Polonia Triangle to Avondale’s Polish Village. Additional population influxes into the area at this time included European Jews and Belarusians.
Latino migration to the area began in the 1960s with the arrival of Cuban, Puerto Rican, and later Mexican immigrants. Puerto Ricans in particular concentrated in the areas along Damen and Milwaukee Avenues through the 1980s after being displaced by the gentrification of Lincoln Park that started in the 1960s. The local Puerto Rican community lent heavy support for the Young Lords and other groups that participated in Harold Washington’s victorious mayoral campaign. In the last quarter of the 20th century, a growing artists’ community led directly to widespread gentrification, which brought in a large population of young professionals. In recent years, many trendy taverns and restaurants have opened in the neighborhood. There also have been a considerable number of “teardowns” of older housing stock, often followed by the construction of larger, upscale residential buildings.
Bucktown has a significant shopping district on Damen Avenue, extending north from North Avenue (in Wicker Park) to Webster Avenue. The neighborhood is readily accessible via the Blue Line.