Chicago Gang History

Irving Park

NameIrving Park
LocationLawrence Avenue on the north west down Elston Avenue into Montrose Avenue in the north east, Belmont Avenue on the south west to Addison Street on the south west, Chicago River on the east, Knox Avenue on the west.
Settled1833
FounderChristopher J. Ward
Year annexed1889

The Irving Park area was first settled in the year 1833 by Christopher J. Ward.  Ward was the only resident in the area until 1843 when Major Noble (Noble Street is named after him) wanted to purchase some of the land and built a farm.  Noble opened a tavern called the “Buckthorn Tavern” which catered to travelers that were moving in and out of the city, this got the area noticed. 

There was no other settlement in this area until 1869 when Charles T. Race (Race Street is named after him) bought the farm and built his own home on the property.  Race then had full intentions of setting up a town and his first step was to pay for a train depot that was called “Irvington” that would bring a train stop from the Chicago and North Western Railroad.  This stop would offer workers to commute to and from the city while living in this community.  He also opened the “Irving Park Land Company” which aimed at subdividing the land for scores of houses.  The town of Irving Park was a success as wealthy elites moved to this suburb to escape the harsh realities of city life.  The suburb was almost exclusively upper class to middle class residents. 

In the year 1889 Irving Park was officially annexed into the city of Chicago and within a few years roads were repaved and many new buildings and other structures went up which brought about floods of German and Swedish migrants to the area.  By the 1920s Polish and Russian immigrants joined them as the neighborhood continued to flourish over the next several decades. 

This community would even fair well during the Great Depression years in the 1930s.  Irving Park was one of the safer neighborhoods in Chicago until gang activity became prevalent beginning in the mid-1960s with the arrival of the Almighty Popes; however, their goal was to combat Puerto Rican gangs arriving in neighboring Humboldt Park.  The Puerto Rican community landed in nearby Logan Square and Albany Park and some Puerto Rican families were moving into Irving Park as well in 1969.  This would cause a uproar as the Gaylords street gang arrived in Irving Park to recruit angry white youths that were ready to battle the Latino invasion and to battle the Popes.  The Gaylords set up a section in Kilbourn Park in 1969 which is in Hermosa but gang members were more active in Iriving Park.  

In the 1970s the Gaylords mainly battled the Popes and Latino street gangs from other neighborhoods but in the 1980s Latino migration increased in Irving Park and migrant Latino gangs set up territory battling with the Gaylords, Popes and Simon City Royals.  Gangs like the Latin Kings and Latin Eagles for example made their way into the community; however, much of the battle was fought between the white gangs the Gaylords against the Popes from Mayfair Park. 

The gang wars fought in the 1980s and 1990s in Irving Park make this neighborhood known as having a significant gang history. 

In the 21st century the neighborhood became more gentrified as yuppies began to encroach on this neighborhood as well, most of the gang activity died down after that.

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