From the Chicago Fire to Now: The History of Wicker Park

The Double Door has been a Wicker Park landmark since the early 1990s, but the music venue was evicted from its spot in the neighborhood last year. The building still stands, but now it has been bought by a Chicago real estate developer, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The music venue, which has hosted performers like the Rolling Stones and Kanye West, is currently seeking for support to move to Logan Square, but it looks like its days in Wicker Park are officially over.

When a neighborhood loses a major identifier like the Double Door, it begs the question how much else has changed? Here’s a look at the evolution of Wicker Park, from its humble beginnings to today.

Early Beginnings

Illustration of Chicago before the fire / shutterstock

The Wicker Park District has officially existed since 1837, according to the Wicker Park/Bucktown Chamber of Commerce. But it didn’t really take off until one of the city’s most famous events. The land occupied by the Wicker Park of today was more prairie than bustling community before the Chicago Fire of 1871, according to the Wicker Park Committee. The devastation of the fire led to a great deal of rebuilding and a search for space for new construction. More homes and buildings began to pop up along Milwaukee Avenue, and Wicker Park grew into a major neighborhood.

The neighborhood takes its name from Charles Gustavus Wicker (1820-1889), according to the Chicago Park District. Wicker, a city alderman, state legislator, and real estate businessman, had a significant hand in developing the neighborhood. A bronze statue made in his honor is located in the neighborhood’s park. 

The Damen L Stop and the Six Corners

The Damen L Stop and Six Corners are considered to be the heart of Wicker Park

The heart of Wicker Park is made by the six-way intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, North Avenue, and Damen Avenue. The area is often known as the Six Corners, although the residents of Portage Park may argue that point quite passionately. Wicker Park gained even more recognition when it received an L stop in 1895, according to the Wicker Park Committee.

Like much of the city, the neighborhood hit a downturn during the Great Depression, but began a new chapter after the financial crisis. In 1979, the National Register of Historic Places named the neighborhood a National Historic District, and in 1991, Chicago gave the neighborhood landmark status.

Many of the neighborhood’s original homes and buildings remain, including a collection of Victorian-style homes, but new development is inevitably carving a swath through Wicker Park. You’ll find brand-new condo buildings alongside historic homes. 

An Influx of Young Professionals

One of Wicker Park's Six Corners

Just like the L stop, the Kennedy expressway made a major impact on Wicker Park. When completed in 1960, the highway ushered in a whole new batch of people looking to settle in the neighborhood, according to Time Out Chicago. When the 1980s rolled around, the neighborhood became a haven for young urban professionals and artists. The neighborhood retains its younger vibe today with a healthy collection of bars, restaurants, and boutiques. Plus, the Damen and Division Blue Line stops and The 606 trail make the neighborhood easy to navigate—a big attraction for younger city residents.

Wicker Park Today

Wicker Park is a beautiful neighborhood with a great history and culture

Now, Wicker Park is known for its unique character and trendiness; it’s kind of a mix of Logan Square’s hipster vibe and Lincoln Park’s swankiness. You’ll still find independent book stores (try Myopic Books) and an ultra-cool music venue (The Subterranean), but you’ll also find a high price point for living in this neighborhood that hardly qualifies as “under the radar” anymore. The median sale price in Wicker Park is $501,000. 

That half a million dollars could land you a single-family home, but if you’re planning to live on or near the main thoroughfare of Wicker Park, you’re more likely to find a high-end condo. The Lemoyne Collection luxury condo development features jumbo units right near the Damen L stop. Another developer is brining 43 condos and 12 townhomes to the Polish Triangle at the intersection of Ashland, Division, and Milwaukee avenues.

While many people may lament the passing of the Double Door, Wicker Park has not lost all of its history to new development. Plus, you can indulge in a little 1980s nostalgia at Emporium, the neighborhood’s 1908s-inspired arcade bar.

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