Lower West Side, Chicago

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Lower West Side
Community area
Community Area 31 - Lower West Side
Location within the city of Chicago
Location within the city of Chicago
Coordinates: 41°51′N 87°39.6′W / 41.850°N 87.6600°W / 41.850; -87.6600Coordinates: 41°51′N 87°39.6′W / 41.850°N 87.6600°W / 41.850; -87.6600
Country United States
State Illinois
County Cook
City Chicago
 • Total 2.80 sq mi (7.25 km2)
Population (2010)
 • Total 35,769
 • Density 13,000/sq mi (4,900/km2)
Demographics 2010[1]
 • White 12.43%
 • Black 3.10%
 • Hispanic 82.43%
 • Asian 1.04%
 • Other 1.00%
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP Codes parts of 60608 and 60616
Median household income $34,573[2]
Source: U.S. Census, Record Information Services

Lower West Side is a community area on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. It is three miles southwest of the Chicago Loop, and its main neighborhood is Pilsen. The Heart of Chicago is a neighborhood in the southwest corner of the Lower West Side.


In the late 19th century, Pilsen was inhabited by Czech immigrants who named the district after Plzeň, the fourth largest city in what is now the Czech Republic. They replaced the Germans and Irish who had settled there before them, in the mid-nineteenth century. The population also included smaller numbers of other ethnic groups from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, such as Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats and Austrians, as well as immigrants of Polish and Lithuanian heritage. Many of the immigrants worked in the stockyards and surrounding factories. Like many early 20th century American urban neighborhoods, however, Pilsen was home to both wealthy professionals and the working class, with the whole area knitted together based on the ethnicities, mostly of Slavic descent, who were not readily welcome in other areas of the city.[citation needed]

Although there was some increase in the Hispanic presence in the late 1950s, it was not until the early 1960s that there was a great spurt in the numbers of Latinos in Pilsen. This was due to the displacement of Latinos from the neighborhood UIC currently occupies. In 1970, Latinos became the majority population in Pilsen, surpassing the population of people of Eastern European descent.

Many of the newer residents of the neighborhood are not Latino, and it is projected that the neighborhood will continue to become more diversified in the years ahead.[3] The non-Latino population in Pilsen is still a minority as of the 2010 Census.

The Chicago Housing Authority's plan for transformation of the ABLA projects has spilled over into Pilsen proper, with the now nearly complete Chantico Loft development, Union Row Townhomes, as well as the defunct Centro 18 on 18th Street in East Pilsen. Infill construction of condominiums and single family homes is now in full force on the east side of the neighborhood, as Pilsen becomes one of the next major development areas for infill construction.[citation needed] Some local advocacy groups, including one led by Michael A. Martone, have formed urging the neighborhood's alderman to curtail gentrification to preserve the Mexican-American culture.

Historical population
Census Pop.
1930 66,198
1940 57,908 −12.5%
1950 53,991 −6.8%
1960 48,448 −10.3%
1970 44,535 −8.1%
1980 44,951 0.9%
1990 45,654 1.6%
2000 44,031 −3.6%
2010 35,769 −18.8%

National Historic Register[edit]

In 2006, Pilsen Historic District became a National Historic Register District. South Water Market has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.


The east side of the neighborhood along Halsted Street is one of Chicago's largest art districts, and the neighborhood is also home to the National Museum of Mexican Art. St. Adalbert's dominates the skyline with the opulence typical of churches in the Polish Cathedral style.[citation needed]

W 18th Street is an active commercial corridor, with Mexican bakeries, restaurants and groceries, though the principal district for Mexican shopping is W 26th Street in Little Village, Chicago's other formerly majority Pan-Slavic community.

The United States Postal Service operates the Pilsen Post Office on 1859 S Ashland Avenue.[5]


Robb Walsh of the Houston Press wrote that the Mexican restaurants in Pilsen are "unconsciously authentic" to original Mexican cuisine. According to Rick Bayless, the chef and owner of Frontera Grill, this is because Mexican-Americans in Chicago do not encounter a substantial Chicano community that tells them how to cook food in the United States, so the immigrants use the same frame of reference that they had in Mexico.[6]


A retired 4400-series TMC RTS bus in the Pilsen neighborhood in May 2008

The community area is connected to the rest of the city by both Chicago Transit Authority and Metra transportation services.

CTA Pink Line train stops
CTA bus services
  • #49 Western
  • #60 Blue Island/26th
  • #18 16th/18th

Metra's BNSF Railway Line[9] stops on the east at Halsted and 16th Street, and on the west at Western and 18th Street.

There are also bikeways on Blue Island Avenue, 18th, and Halsted Streets.[10]


Lower West Side is home to the following educational institutions:

  • St. Procopius School – Catholic, dual language elementary school
  • Whittier Dual Language Community School – pre-kindergarten through 8 school

Notable former residents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paral, Rob. "Chicago Demographics Data". Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Paral, Rob. "Chicago Census Data". Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Betancur, John (2005). "Gentrification before Gentrification? The Plight of Pilsen in Chicago" (PDF). University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  4. ^ Paral, Rob. "Chicago Community Areas Historical Data". Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "PILSEN Post Office Location". United States Postal Service. Retrieved April 17, 2009. 
  6. ^ Walsh, Robb (October 26, 2000). The Authenticity Myth "The Authenticity Myth: The Mex Mex Issue" Check |url= scheme (help). Houston Press. Retrieved November 16, 2009. 
  7. ^ "18th - CTA 'L' Train Station Information". Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Damen (Pink Line Station) - CTA 'L' Train Station Information". Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Station". Metra. Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Chicago Bike Map". City of Chicago. Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  11. ^ Pero, Peter N. (2011). "Chicago's Pilsen Neighborhood". Arcadia Publishing. Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  12. ^ http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20141024/pilsen/james-foley-slain-by-isis-honored-with-pilsen-mural

External links[edit]