The Story of Wicker Park and Bucktown
Change is in the DNA of the Wicker Park and Bucktown communities. In the decades after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, German, Polish, Jewish, and Norwegian immigrants settled in the neighborhood. Polish influence was particularly notable in Wicker Park, with a “Polish Downtown” where Division, Milwaukee, and Ashland all connect. Polish-style cathedrals can still be seen all over the neighborhood.
Watch: Wicker Park
According to the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, the community’s “development passed through two distinct periods.” The first was from the mid-1800s to the early 20th century, when industry and businesses flourished. The wealthy had moved to Wicker Park after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and, wanting homes that wouldn’t burn, constructed large houses out of ornate brick and stone. The second period of change was an economic decline starting in the 1930s and lasting until the 1970s, as the wealthy left the neighborhood and poorer residents moved in.
In recent decades, Wicker Park has perhaps seen a third period of change as affluent, young white professionals and families have driven up property values, forcing out the working class Hispanic population that had settled there in the mid-20th century. A large artist community has also emerged. In 2012, Forbes named Wicker Park one of the hippest neighborhoods in the country, reflecting the community’s burgeoning “hipster” scene.
Now a popular destination for bars, restaurants, shopping, and art, Wicker Park and Bucktown are not technically official community areas, but are instead part of the West Town and Logan Square community areas, respectively. Part of the 606, an abandoned railroad embankment-turned-elevated-walking-path, runs through the area. Designed by famous Brooklyn-based landscape architect Michael Van Valkenbergh, (who also designed Maggie Daley Park and the grounds of the Obama Presidential Center), the 606 has added to growing property values as luxury homes pop up along the path.
The Division, Damen, and Western Blue Line stops run through Wicker Park, the latter of which empties throngs of commuters every day into the intersection where Milwaukee, North, and Damen avenues all converge.
Neighborhood Spotlight: Margie’s Candies
With its bright yellow sign and candy-stripe awning, Margie’s Candies sits on the corner of Armitage and Western avenues looking like a thing of the past. Inside, the story is the same, with old leather booths and Tiffany-style lamps hanging overhead. It may look like it’s stuck in the year the original shop was founded – 1921 – but it still boasts long lines that wrap around its cramped interior, with shelves packed with chocolates and other candy.
According to the store’s website, Peter George Poulos opened Margie’s Candies in 1921 and it got its name in 1933 when his son, George Peter, married a woman named Margie. Since then, many famous people have squeezed into the booths at the shop, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
The store still makes its own candy, ice cream, and toppings. They specialize in shakes and malts, as well as mammoth-sized sundaes and banana splits, served in their giant white clamshell dishes.
Things to Do
Start your day off with breakfast or brunch at Bongo Room, a modern spot with an innovative take on pancakes. If you need to walk off all that food, head over to the 606 walking trail.