Where cultural tradition and cultural innovation are interdependent … Where individuals of different class share sidewalks with instrument wielding drifters… Where mainstream and independent thought don’t compete, yet coexist.
Amidst the bars, clothing boutiques, and thrift shops, Wicker Park has a history that can be examplified by the diversity of its architecture. A town that rose from the ashes of the Chicago fire in late 19th century, homes and municipal buildings were built in stone, and while most of these historical buildings still stand today, they are now aesthetically contrasted by neighbors of modern architecture. Originally mainly habited by a Polish population during World War I and II, economic reformation and deindustrialization brought an economic downturn to this town just northwest of the Loop. Wicker Park then became home for a spanish speaking population in the mid 20th century as chicago as a whole became a point of entry for the immigrant Latino population, and for whatever reason there is to believe from an economic or social perspective- a place of deinvestment.
Durign the 80′s however, Wicker Park was deemed as an area of needed investment as a “suburb within the city,” due to its easy access to Downtown, while an artistic movement arose in the streets that still lives in the storefronts and art festivals that take place. Of course, one could imagine the cultural conflict that arose from this prime example of gentrification, and its sad that, although development has brought great commercial and entertainment establishments we Chicagoans enjoy today, it has been accompanied by the displacement of a less-fortunate population.
One can grab a cup of coffee from the Wormhole Cafe ( where I currently sit as I write this), where it’s ambience of Movie posters, tin lunch-boxes, and the chance to reacquaint yourself with the Super Nintendo pays homage to 1980′s culture and media. Or grab a slice of pizza at Piece. It may not be Chicago’s deep dish, but still it’s an a category all it’s own. A 2 minute walk due south will also land you at the infamous Big Star, to partake in $3 whiskey shots and one one of the best pork belly tacos you might ever eat.
A late night excursion of Wicker park also lets you experience the diversity of Chicago’s nightlife. From an assortment of nightclubs and dive-bars that cater to almost all tastes of music just steps away from each other, you can audibly partake in the sounds from local DJ’s and live-bands.
Wicker Park has a vibe that, in its current stage of constant development both economically and culturally, even though you don’t know exactly where its heading, you know its heading somewhere interesting enough worth keeping tabs on. Insofar when cross compared with many neighborhoods within Chicago that are begging for development, we must remember that Wicker Park was once there as well; and as I find the chronicle narrative of Chicago’s disbursement of resources and migration of its population very interesting, we can only imagine where the city as a whole is heading.