Albany Park

The History of Albany Park

Learn more about the rich history of Chicago's most diverse neighborhood

Like many Chicago neighborhoods, Albany Park began as a small farming community over 150 years ago. The neighborhood's sparse population didn’t begin increasing until an entrepreneur named Richard Rusk turned a 10-acre plot of land into a large and multi-faceted farm that attracted more residents in the late decades of the nineteenth century. In 1889, the city of Chicago annexed the suburban community, helping to spur further development. In 1893, a group of investors purchased over 600 acres of a nearby farm for development. One of the investors, transportation mogul Charles T. Yerkes. Louderback, decided to name the development after his hometown of Albany, New York. This group of investors brought transportation lines to Albany Park, consequently expanding the residential and commercial sectors of the neighborhood. By 1907, the Ravenswood Elevated train line extended to the neighborhood's Kimball and Lawrence Avenues; this extension proved to be significant in opening up the neighborhood to even more development.

Upon completion of the Ravenswood Elevated line, Albany Park experienced a building boom--both commercial and residential--followed by an influx of residents. Department stores, theaters, and smaller businesses abounded. Between 1909 and 1929, the value of land (per front foot) multiplied more than 50 times over. By the 1920s, the neighborhood was almost fully developed and inhabited by more than 26,000 residents (compared to approximately 7,000 residents ten years prior). Following the demographic pattern of many Chicago neighborhoods, Albany Park was originally settled by German and Swedish immigrants. In the early twentieth century, European Jews began to migrate to the neighborhood; Albany Park became and remained predominantly Jewish throughout the 1950s. However, while the demographic makeup of Albany Park remained mostly Jewish until the middle of the century, many Jewish families left for suburban communities north of the city after World War II. As more residents migrated to suburban communities, the population of Albany Park decreased so much that economic and social decline beset the neighborhood. Many homes and businesses stood vacant, and property values plunged. In the 1970s, approximately 70% of businesses along Lawrence Avenue were vacant, leading to a brief proliferation of illegal activities. In the late 1970s, different Albany Park institutions and organizations (including the North River Commission) worked to revitalize the neighborhood and its economy. These revitalization efforts led to an increase in property values over the next two decades. Increased property values, combined with a beautified neighborhood, made Albany Park a prime location for commercial investment once again.

From the 1970s onward, Albany Park became a community of immigrants. By the 1990s, the neighborhood had the highest numbers of Filipino, Guatemalan, and Korean immigrants in all of Chicago. Albany Park served as a port for other Latin American and Asian immigrants as well. As a result of the neighborhood’s high immigrant population, Albany Park is considered to be one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse areas in the city, with the 60625 zip code (which Albany Park shares) known as one of the most diverse areas in the country.