Humboldt Park, Chicago
|Community Area 23 - Humboldt Park|
|Demographics 2013 |
|Median household income||$50,318|
Humboldt Park is one of 77 officially designated community areas, located on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois. The Humboldt Park neighborhood is known for its dynamic social and ethnic demographic change over the years and the Puerto Rican community has identified strongly with the area since the 1970s, but their actual presence has been on the wane. Humboldt Park is also the name of a 207-acre (0.8 km²) park adjacent to the community area.
- 1 Boundaries and Subsections
- 2 History
- 3 Demogaphics of Community
- 4 Puerto Rican Community
- 5 Riot Fest
- 6 Cultural references to the community
- 7 Education
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Boundaries and Subsections
The official community boundaries established by the City of Chicago include Bloomingdale Ave to the north, the Union Pacific railroad tracks to the south, the train tracks running between Kostner and Cicero to the west, and Humboldt Park proper to the east (to the East side of California Ave).
In conventional use, the neighborhood's borders include Western Avenue to the east, Pulaski Road to the west, North Avenue to the North, and the Union Pacific tracks to the south. The railyards southeast of Grand and Sacramento are also part of the community area. There are two distinct areas of Humboldt Park: East Humboldt Park and West Humboldt Park, divided by Sacramento Boulevard.
East Humboldt Park
East Humboldt Park is east of Sacramento Boulevard. The area has been in the process of gentrification. Most residents on this side of Humboldt Park (and in the very desirable housing on the park itself) are middle class residents. The area once had  the largest middle class Puerto Rican community in the Midwest. The area is home to many social service institutions, a burgeoning scene of bars, restaurants, cafes and shops as well as two sixty feet Puerto Rican flags on Division Street which mark the history of the area especially from the 1970s to the mid 1990s. The many empty store fronts on North Ave. and Division St. have yielded fledgeling new business such as tattoo shops, stained glass craftsman, bar and grills, and a remodeled grocery store with a rich Mexican presence. On California Ave., between Augusta Blvd. and Division St., there is an historic 1940's tavern that features rockabilly music, a cafe replete with "hipsters" and locals, a restaurant with craft beers and a sophisticated wine list, a retro-vegan diner, galleries, a plant nursery business and (mid-century) modern furniture stores.
The park was named for Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), a German naturalist and geographer famed for his five-volume work Cosmos: Draft of a Physical Description of the World. His single visit to the United States did not include Chicago. Humboldt Park is part of Chicago's Boulevard Park System, which flanked the Loop with large parks linked with boulevards. The park is lined with graystone houses and is now enjoying a non-restrictive landmark status on Kedzie Ave. The park itself has 3 major historical public buildings, including the Boat House (designed by Schmidt, Garden and Martin), the Field House ( which received a 1.5 million +  dollar renovation grant, being implemented in 2013) and the Historic Stables (described more below).
Chicago annexed most of the neighborhood in 1869, the year the park was laid out. Because the area lay just beyond the city's fire code jurisdiction, as set out after the 1871 fire, this made low cost construction possible.
The neighborhood has been a center for many ethnic groups over the years:
A sketch of an historical chronology and non-linear list: 1) Scandinavian (especially Norwegian, but also Swedish), 2) European Jews (approximately 1/4 of the community with a peak of 30,000 in the 1930s) 3) Italian 4) Polish 5) German 6) Puerto Ricans and African Americans 7) Late-tier (i.e. 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. generations from original immigrants) people of European/pluralistic descent (ergo, the erroneous catch-all term of "white people") 
Our Lady of the Angels School Fire occurred at the Our Lady of Angels School on December 1, 1958 on 909 North Avers Ave in the Humboldt Park area. The school, which was operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, lost 92 students and three nuns in five classrooms on the second floor.
Recent History to Today
In 1980 Puerto Ricans were the largest ethnic group in Humboldt Park, with a majority in 42 census tracts in the Humboldt Park area, in 2009 Puerto Ricans were the largest ethnic presence in only 11 census tracts in the Humboldt Park area. This has demonstrated an exodus from Humboldt Park by Puerto Ricans.
Gentrification, beginning in the late 1990s, along with changing police tactics, and cultural, political and social organizations, have changed the demographics, politics, economy and crime rates of the area. Research indicates that as communities experience gentrification, new and more affluent residents mobilize community resources to construct brighter street lights, renovate walkways, insist on garbage removal and street cleaning services, and call on law enforcement agencies to take action against crime (Freeman & Braconi, 2004; Schill & Nathan, 1983). Additionally, new and more affluent residents in Humboldt Park prioritize community concerns.
According to the Woodstock institute, 550 foreclosures in Humboldt Park 2010 further decreased the Puerto Rican presence. Middle Class and wealthy "white people" (ergo, "late-tier generation people of European/pluralistic descent" from above), as well as working class Mexican people have shifted the Puerto Rican majority in Humboldt Park. Some Puerto Ricans that are upwardly mobile have left Humboldt Park. Many have dispersed throughout Cook County.
Home values in Humboldt Park are generally in line with others in the city with a median home value of $216,288 and an average list price of $86,524. After the ongoing recovery from the financial/real estate estate crisis that began in 2007, Humboldt Park is experiencing a resurgence and increase in value and diversification.
Demogaphics of Community
As of February 18, 2013, the 26th Ward of the City of Chicago (which encompasses the majority of Humboldt Park) had a population of 27.9% Puerto Ricans. The neighborhood is no longer occupied in the majority by Puerto Rican people. As of November 14th, 2013, the demographics of the entirety of Humboldt Park have changed. Today, Humboldt Park is made of 10% Blacks, 35% Whites, 18.7% Puerto Rican, and 36.3% other Latino peoples (with origins from Mexico, Central America, South America, Carribean islands other than Puerto Rico and beyond)  .
Puerto Rican Community
As early as the 1950s, Puerto Ricans settled in Humboldt Park. Many came directly from Puerto Rico as migration was averaging over ten thousand Puerto Ricans per year in the 1950s and 1960s, throughout the United States. Others came from the local neighborhoods of Old Town and Lincoln Park. The infamous Division Street Riots resulted in the start of organizations for Puerto Rican rights in 1966. Organizations like the L.AD.O.(Latin American Defense Organization), S.A.C.C.(Spanish Action Committee of Chicago) and the Caballeros de San Juan and Damas de Maria, helped to slow down the riot caused by a police shooting of an unarmed youth. At another smaller riot in 1969, the Young Lords worked with criminal gangs like the Latin Kings, the Spanish Cobras, the Latin Disciples and the above mentioned community organizations to build unity and to redirect youth energies toward empowerment strategies. There were several solidarity marches from Lincoln Park to Humboldt Park and to City Hall; demanding social services, an end to police brutality and an end to neighborhood displacement. The last point refers especially to the Puerto Rican community's (socio-economic-culturally forced) migration West in the City from Lincoln Park.
In 1995 city officials and Puerto Rican-American activists in a symbolic gesture to recognize the neighborhood and the Puerto Rican residents' roots, christened a stretch of Division Street "Paseo Boricua". Two metal 59 feet (18 m)-tall Puerto Rican flags, each weighing 45 tons, arch over the street at each end of the strip. There is a proud historical and ongoing imprint of Puerto Rican identity in Humboldt Park.
Fiestas Puertorriquenas / Fiestas Patronales / Puerto Rican Festival (Fest) / The People's Parade (on Division St. between the flags [Western Ave. and California Ave.])
Every summer, there is the tradition of Fiestas Puertorriquenas in Humboldt Park (the park itself, as well as the neighborhood). The festival is a prominent, meaningful cultural phenomena of Puerto Rican pride and identity in Chicago. The park is transformed into a vibrant party, replete with top live performers of salsa, merengue, bomba, plena, reggaeton (and it's relative, hip-hop espanol) and other Puerto Rican and related afro-caribbean music (e.g. Dominican-based Bachata; Cuban Son, Son-Montuno, Rumba). There is a carnival with amusement rides and incredible Puerto Rican food: arroz con gandules, pollo guisado, pinchos, mofongo, and alcapurrias (just to name a few of the rich foods). Vendor booths purvey the food as well as deejays playing traditional and new Chicago house music and the above musics with Spanish vocals and soulful (often orchestral Latin-jazz laden) afro-caribbean sincopated rhythms. Families with children enjoy the annual ritual and people wear their finest in urban gear and sharp, sexy clothing. There is a powerful sense of homecoming to what has been the location and symbolic home (lugar por siempre ancestral) of the Puerto Rican community in Chicago. This deep meaning is enacted, constantly and consistently throughout the festival, through the dynamic employment of the Puerto Rican flag. There is pervasive wielding of the flag as a symbol of Puerto Rican cultural identity: people wave, wear, extoll and vend all forms of the flag with one star in a blue triangle and white and red stripes. Puerto Rican Chicagoans (and visitors from the island, as well as visitors from throughout the U.S.) wave the flags from cars cruising the neighborhood with vigor, excitement, pride, defiance and ganas (desire). Traffic is completely locked, making clear (in no uncertain terms) whose neighborhood Humboldt Park is (symbolically). Often, this is to the consternation of those not in-the-know or who expect life-as-usual to continue. There is a lawless quality, at times, to the whole affair. Gangs represent themselves flagrantly with bravado. Seething aggression and sexuality sometimes underlies the celebration. Crime incidence and statistics do spike during this highly charged phenomenon. Puerto Rican and non Puerto Rican people alike are acutely aware of this unfortunate aspect of the festival. Many realize the (defiance of and objection to the) history of the United States participation in colonialism with regard to Puerto Rico as a powerful (indeed, palpable) aspect of the current and undercurrent of Fiestas Puertorriquenas.
In the summers of 2012 and 2013, Humboldt Park hosted the music festival "RIOTFEST". The festival is of a primarily punk rock tradition.
In 2012, Riot Fest moved to Chicago’s beautiful Humboldt Park, which boasts picturesque gardens and lagoons with a view of the Chicago skyline. The fest expanded to become Riot Fest & Carnival, with rides, games, wrestling, gourmet food vendors and three stages. Iggy And The Stooges, Rise Against, Elvis Costello & The Imposters, The Offspring, Descendents, A Day to Remember, Coheed and Cambria, Dropkick Murphys, Gogol Bordello, NOFX, Andrew W.K., Alkaline Trio, Hot Water Music, Slapstick, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Gaslight Anthem, Awolnation, Minus the Bear, Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees, The Promise Ring, Chiodos, Gwar, August Burns Red, Less Than Jake, Built To Spill, Frank Turner, Cursive, Reverend Horton Heat, The Addicts, Fishbone all performed in the grand park.
In 2013, Riot Fest and Carnival was held September 13-15th in Humboldt Park, Chicago. Lineup included: Friday, September 13: Fall Out Boy, Sublime with Rome, Danzig with Doyle, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Bad Religion, Atmosphere, Yellowcard, Screeching Weasel, Andrew W.K., Gwar, Hatebreed, Smoking Popes, Dessa, Saul Williams, The Flatliners, Masked Intruder, Flatfoot 56, Environmental Encroachment Saturday, September 14: Blink-182, Violent Femmes, Rancid, Blondie, Public Enemy, FLAG, Guided by Voices, Taking Back Sunday, Dinosaur Jr., X, DeVotchKa, Pennywise, Best Coast, The Lawrence Arms, Glassjaw, The Devil Wears Prada, The Selecter, T.S.O.L., Stars, Say Anything, The Dear Hunter, Surfer Blood, The Interrupters, Empires, New Beat Fund, Radkey, Mephiskapheles, Kitten, Environmental Encroachment Sunday, September 15: The Replacements, Pixies, AFI, Brand New, All Time Low, Pierce the Veil, Rocket from the Crypt, The Dismemberment Plan, The Broadways, Against Me!, Bob Mould, The Lillingtons, Suicidal Tendencies, Quicksand, Bad Books, Mission of Burma, Saves the Day, Bayside, Peter Hook and The Light, Reggie and the Full Effect, The Wonder Years, Maps & Atlases, Chuck Ragan, Memphis May Fire, Peelander-Z, Touché Amoré, Off with Their Heads, Deal's Gone Bad, Twin Peaks, White Mystery, Direct Hit!, Pet Symmetry, Hostage Calm, Environmental Encroachment
There were 30,000 people in attendance each day to Riot Fest in Humboldt Park in 2013.
While Riot Fest is a commercial and (counter) cultural endeavor, the 2 proprietors seem to have realized the (public-relations and authentic) value of working with the community. They met with community leaders on multiple occasions, listening to and attempting to address concerns. This has led to a tacit acceptance (but not without controversy, sometimes conflated with other community issues) of the festival by some long-time residents and an exuberant embrace by (other long-time and more recent) residents with a progressive agenda for Humboldt Park. One modest anectodal example of goodwill by Riot Fest proprietors was: in November 2013, Michael Petryshyn and Sean McKeough at Riot Fest Partners donated and (one of the partners actively) distributed, with Alderman Maldonado (26th Ward in Humboldt Park), 500 turkeys to mothers in need for Thanksgiving.
Riot Fest hopes and plans to have an extended home in Humboldt Park every year in the Fall.
Historic Humboldt Park stables and the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture
Originally completed in 1895 by Chicago architects Frommann and Jebsen, the Humboldt Park Stable and Receptory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Chicago Landmark. The building’s design highlights the Germanic character of the neighborhood in the 1890s and is a fanciful creation of various roofs, finials, brick, and half-timbering. The Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture has a 15 year lease that began in May 2006 and expires in 2021. It is dedicated to the history of Puerto Rican culture and the Puerto Rican diaspora. Funding from an ISTEA grant allowed the Chicago Park District to fully restore the building. About $3.4 million was spent to renovate the exterior of the building ($1 Million came from City of Chicago Tax Increment Finance (TIF)  and another $3.2 (State of Illinois Grant ) million for the interior. The stables were once in use by a special Chicago Parks Police Force and is located at 3015 W. Division St. The turret on the Southeast corner of the building was part of the office of Jens Jensen, a landscape architect who left his mark on the impressive design of the park's natural hardscape and water features.
United Blocks of West Humboldt Park
History - Local West Humboldt Park residents organized to address the problems and concerns of residents and property owners living in West Humboldt Park, incorporated The United Blocks of West Humboldt Park (TUBOWHP) on May 5, 1995.
The purposes for which TUBOWHP is organized are: A.) To enhance the livability of the area by establishing and maintaining an open line of communication and liaison between the neighborhood, government agencies and other neighborhoods. B.) To provide an open process by which all members of the neighborhood may involve themselves in the affairs of the neighborhood.
Cultural references to the community
Humboldt Park figures prominently in the literary works that chronicled Chicago's blue collar life in the 1950s and 1960s.
- Saul Bellow's Adventures of Augie March charts the long drifting life of a Jewish Chicagoan and his myriad eccentric acquaintances throughout the early 20th century: growing up in the then Polish neighborhood of Humboldt Park, he ends up cavorting with heiresses on the Gold Coast, studying at the University of Chicago, fleeing union thugs in the Loop, and taking the odd detour to hang out with Trotsky in Mexico while eagle-hunting giant iguanas on horseback.
- John Guzlowski's Lightning and Ashes chronicles the author's experiences growing up in the immigrant and DP neighborhoods around Humboldt Park in Chicago, in the context of Jewish hardware store clerks with Auschwitz tattoos on their wrists, Polish Cavalry officers who still mourned for their dead horses, and women who walked from Siberia to Iran to escape the Russians.
Humboldt Park has also been featured in film.
- The Horn Blows at Midnight, a 1945 film starring Jack Benny, Margaret Dumont, and Alexis Smith, also features Humboldt Park. Benny portrays an angel sent from heaven to blow his horn at an appointed time and destroy the world. However, because the angel hasn't lived on Earth for several centuries, he becomes totally lost in modern Chicago. He floats from one misadventure to the next, including a visit to Humboldt Park during an ethnic German picnic, where he encounters Germans in traditional garb enjoying traditional German food and music. Ultimately the angel refuses to blow his horn, arguing to God that the kindness and goodness displayed by the Chicagoans he met warrants saving the world, not destroying it. God agrees.
- Nothing Like the Holidays, starring Freddy Rodriguez, John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, Alfred Molina, Jay Hernandez, Ramses Jimenez, Luis Guzman, Melonie Diaz, Vanessa Ferlito and Elizabeth Peña, follows three siblings returning to their parents' home in Humboldt Park for the holidays.
Humboldt Park Montessori School 
Chicago High School for the Arts 2714 W. Augusta Blvd
Chicago Public Schools
- ^ http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-17/reasons-behind-humboldt-parks-changing-demographics-87993
- "Humboldt Park". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- Cutler, Irving. The Jews of Chicago. (1996). University of Illinois Press.
- Perez, Xavier. "The Gentrification of Humboldt Park: A Study of Crime in the Puerto Rican Community of Chicago" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASC Annual Meeting, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Nov 04, 2009 <Not Available>. 2013-08-20 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p372454_index.html>
- "Noble Street - Rowe-Clark." Chicago Public Schools. Retrieved on April 14, 2011.
- "UNO Charter Schools." United Neighborhood Organization. Retrieved on June 16, 2012.
- Paral, Rob. "Chicago Community Areas Historical Data". Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- Official City of Chicago Humboldt Park Community Map
- a Latino resource
- Humboldt Park
- Humboldt Park Arts, Culture, Gentrification, Immigration
- Chicago Humboldt Park map
- Census map
- 2010 Census link
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