Humboldt Park, Chicago

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Humboldt Park
Community area
Community Area 23: Humboldt Park
Location within the city of Chicago
Location within the city of Chicago
Country United States
State Illinois
County Cook
City Chicago
Population (2010)
 • Total 56,323
Median household income $29,523[1]

Humboldt Park is one of 77 officially designated community areas, located on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois.[2] 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.

Boundaries and subsections[edit]

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 contrast to the Humboldt Park Official Community Area, the Humboldt Park 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 (the neighborhood): East Humboldt Park (In the West Town Community Area) and West Humboldt Park (In the Humboldt Park Community Area), divided by Sacramento Boulevard.

East Humboldt Park[edit]

East Humboldt Park is east of Sacramento Boulevard to Western Avenue and between North Avenue and Division Street. Though it is considered a part of the Humboldt Park Neighborhood, it is officially a part of the West Town Community Area. The area has been in the process of gentrification. Most residents on this side of Humboldt Park are middle class residents. The area once had [3] 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-foot 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. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's sweeping school closings have left no neighborhood schools in east Humboldt Park.[4]


Map of Humboldt Park showing progress made in improvements up to 1885

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.[5] 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 + [6] 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.[5] 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:

  1. Scandinavian (especially Norwegian, but also Swedish),
  2. European Jews (approximately 14 of the community with a peak of 30,000 in the 1930s)
  3. Italian
  4. Polish
  5. German[7]
  6. Puerto Ricans and African Americans
  7. Late-tier (e.g. 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation) people of European/pluralistic descent

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[edit]

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.

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.[8]

According to the Woodstock institute, 550 foreclosures in Humboldt Park during 2010 further decreased the Puerto Rican presence. Newer middle-class and wealthy White people, 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.[9]

Demographics of community[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
View, from parkside residence, of Humboldt Park

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.[11] Today, Humboldt Park's community area is 18.7% Puerto Rican, and 36.3% other Latino peoples (with origins from Mexico, Central America, South America, Caribbean islands other than Puerto Rico and beyond), 35% White, and 10% African American.[12] Puerto Rican people are no longer in the majority in this community. Increasing property taxes[citation needed] that occurred with gentrification during the past two decades have forced out the Latino and Eastern European residents that live east of the park and this shift can be easily seen moving westward until Kedzie Avenue with new events like Riot Fest occurring in Humboldt Park and the reduced coverage and visibility of the Puerto Rican Day Parade.[citation needed]

Consistent price increases in neighboring Wicker Park and Logan Square have caused home buyers to settle in nearby Humboldt Park, where prices are lower and space is more abundant than in the more expensive areas nearby. Humboldt Park has a wide variety of historic homes as well as new construction homes with green features, all creating an eclectic mix of housing options for those looking to buy. Humboldt Park was named as the "hottest" neighborhood in Chicago (in terms of real estate activity, improvement and value) and the 10th "hottest" neighborhood in the Nation by Redfin. As of January 2014 Redfin recorded a 168 percent jump in pageviews for Humboldt Park, which had a (vastly increased) median home sale price of $189,450.[13]

Puerto Rican community[edit]

Humboldt Park Boathouse (1907) Schmidt, Garden & Martin (detail from community car show)

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.[citation needed] 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.[14]

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.])

Fiestas Puertorriquenas celebrating next to historic 204 acre Humboldt Park.

Every summer, there is the tradition of Fiestas Puertorriquenas in Humboldt Park (the park itself, as well as the neighborhood). The park is transformed into a 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 Puerto Rican food: arroz con gandules, pollo guisado, pinchos, mofongo, and alcapurrias (just to name a few of the 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 syncopated rhythms.

Riot Fest[edit]

In 2012, Riot Fest changed the location of its annual music festival to Humboldt Park. 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 and many more rocked from September 14–16 (with the kickoff at Congress Theater).


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 The Fest was also staged in Toronto (August 24–25), and Denver (September 21–22).

2013 attendance increased at Riot Fest (in Humboldt Park, Chicago), with a peak of 30,000 people on the first day.[15]


East Humboldt Park Neighborhood Association (EHPNA)[edit]

Founded in 2007 to organize those who live East of the Park and participate in the Chicago Police Department's CAPS Beat 1423 initiatives. The foundational intents are three-fold:

  1. As a way to give neighbors and relatively newer residents of the East Humboldt Park a voice, an identity, and a way to get connected with each other.
  2. As an efficient way to disseminate information about the community. Usually CAPS and other Community updates.
  3. As a forum where neighbors can feel free to discuss some of the issues residents in East Humboldt Park as well as neighborhood victories to celebrate.

Historic Humboldt Park stables and the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture[edit]

Historic Humboldt Park Stables.

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.[16] 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.[17] About $3.4 million was spent to renovate the exterior of the building ($1 Million came from City of Chicago Tax Increment Finance (TIF) [18] and another $3.2 (State of Illinois Grant)[18] 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.[19]

United Blocks of West Humboldt Park[edit]

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.[20][21]

Cultural references to the community[edit]

Humboldt Park figures prominently in the literary works that chronicled Chicago's blue collar life in the 1950s and 1960s.

Humboldt Park has also been featured in film.


See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Humboldt Park: United States". Geographical Names. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Suntimes: Closings leave no neighborhood schools in east Humboldt Park, 24 June 2013
  5. ^ a b "Humboldt Park". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  6. ^ Humboldt Park Field House to receive $1,504,500 in upgrades | Our Humboldt Park
  7. ^ Cutler, Irving (1996). The Jews of Chicago. University of Illinois Press.
  8. ^ Perez, Xavier (November 4, 2009). "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". [dead link]
  9. ^ Reasons behind Humboldt Park's changing demographics
  10. ^
  11. ^ "DNA Info: "Puerto Ricans in Chicago: Study Gives Insight into Changing Community" (see Map)". Retrieved January 24, 2014. 
  12. ^ Humboldt Park is prime real estate! — Humboldt Park Portal
  13. ^ Redfin: Humboldt Park 10th Hottest Neighborhood in America in 2014 - Humboldt Park - Chicago
  14. ^ Puerto Ricans
  15. ^ Riot Fest Day Two Recap: Big Crowds, Wild Blink 182 Fans & More - Humboldt Park - Chicago
  16. ^
  17. ^ Harboe Architects, PC
  18. ^ a b City funds to assist conversion of Humboldt Park stables - Chicago Tribune
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ United Blocks of West Humboldt Park
  22. ^ Humboldt Park Montessori School
  23. ^ Shuttered CPS elementary to be home of Chicago High School for the Arts: sources - Chicago Sun-Times
  24. ^
  25. ^ UNO Charter Schools[dead link]

External links[edit]