Thursday, April 23, 2020

The History of the Irving Park Settlement.

Major Noble purchased a 160-acre tract of land from Christopher L. Ward and started farming in the 1840s. The boundaries of Noble's farm today would be Montrose to the north, Irving Park to the south, Pulaski to the east, and Kostner to the west.

Noble sold his land to a New York family (Charles T. Race and four other relatives that comprised the Irving Park Land and Building Company) and moved to McHenry County to farm in 1869. 

With the land so close to the Chicago & North Western (C&NW) railroad, Race realized there would be more profit in beginning a settlement instead of overusing the land for farming and began building houses. 

The original name chosen for the new suburb was "Irvington" after the author Washington Irving. It was discovered that Irvington was a village in Washington County, Illinois, had already used the name first, so the name Irving Park was adopted. After Race paid for a depot, C&NW agreed to stop at the settlement, which was soon renamed Irving Park.
An 1888 Rufus Blanchard map showing Irving Park before annexed to Chicago in 1889. The easternmost streets cropped in this map were Irving Avenue (Keeler), St. Charles Avenue (Kedvale), and Greenwood Avenue (Keystone). These original names were used until the City of Chicago renamed and renumbered the streets in 1909.
Race built himself a three-story brick house with a basement and “French roof.” Joined by associates, he organized the Irving Park Land Company, bought additional land, and subdivided it into lots. Advertisements promoted the area's easy access to downtown via hourly trains. Boasting an idyllic setting comparable to that of suburbs such as Evanston and Oak Park, the ad pointed to Irving Park’s “shady streets, fine schools, churches and stores,” and homes of varied designs. The Irving Park subdivision was followed by Grayland, Montrose, and Mayfair subdivisions.

Grayland, a suburb of Chicago annexed in 1889, was created by subdividing John Gray's 80-acre farm. Gray deeded the land that he had already built a depot (the second one) on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad line. In return for the property, the R.R. promised to maintain and service the depot, thus ensuring that the inhabitants of Gray's subdivision would have easy transport to Chicago and back. The station was opened in 1873 to service Grayland.

The commuter suburb attracted many wealthy residents who sought larger homes of between seven and ten rooms and amenities that included closets and drinking water from artesian wells. Race and his associates garnered a 600% profit on the land. Other residents who were less affluent came to the area to remove their families from the dangers of the city. Rich or middle-class, the population of Irving Park was generally native-born, Protestant, and white-collar. They participated in community events and activities of a literary and musical nature. Both men and women were active in neighborhood organizations. The Irving Park Woman's Club was formed in 1888 with an agenda of cultural and reform activities.

Suburban paradise was not without problems, however. In the 1880s, heavy rains produced floods, and poor drainage turned unpaved streets into mud. In 1881 complaints were heard of raw sewage floating down Irving Park Road from the Cook County Poor House and Insane Asylum in Dunning.
The Irving Park Tea Store at 3613 Irving Park Road in Chicago. 1910
Although the annexation of Irving Park into the city of Chicago as part of Jefferson Township occurred in 1889, in the 1890s, streets were still unpaved and unlighted. As improvements were added, the main thoroughfare became a construction zone; streets were updated, and public transportation was created. A residential boom between 1895 and 1914 added more than 5,000 new buildings, of which 1,200 were multifamily residences. New structures changed the housing composition of the area, leading to concerns about community standards.

Irving Park was annexed to Chicago in 1889.
Germans and Swedes had begun arriving around the turn of the century but, in the 1920s, were largely replaced by Poles and Russians. The population peaked at 66,783 in 1930, and commercial interests sprang up along the major roads, but until 1940, construction was mainly residential. Most notable architecturally were the bungalows of the Villa District; Old Irving Park with Queen Anne, Victorian, and Italianate houses, farmhouses, and bungalows; and Independence Park with many homes of turn-of-the-century vintage.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. Very interesting and informative article. I'm of German heritage and find this even more interesting.

  2. The building on the corner -the last picture is still standing

  3. Hi, I'm interested in learning more about the Irving Park Tea Store. Do you have more information you could share?

  4. I live in this neighborhood and would love to learn more about it when my home was built in 1911. How can I do that?

  5. My parents lived at 3817 n Keeler, for over 40 years. The house was built 1879 and was a boarding house back in the day. Sadly the house was sold, torn down and a new house was built.


The Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™ is RATED PG-13. Please comment accordingly. Advertisements, spammers and scammers will be removed.