Change overtime in Lincoln Park, Chicago

Today a yuppie haven full of expensive housing, delicious foods, and world class theatre, once a land of immigrants and social activism, Lincoln Park has seen seismic changes over its many decades as a Chicago neighborhood. This timeline seeks to trace and preserve Lincoln Park's history, with special attention to the Young Lords movement that rose up in the 60s in response to gentrification in the once poor neighborhood. The fall and rise of urban renewal have been central to the history of Lincoln Park. To understand what Lincoln Park is today and where it may go in the future, it is crucial to explore what it once was.

The development of Lincoln Park

Information taken from Encyclopedia of Chicago, Lincoln Park pages: ( &(

First major establishments


Before the Europeans came to the area in the 1820s, the land that is today Lincoln Park largely consisted of quick sand and forest. 1824 was a notable year for the area because the United States Army built a post near where Clybourn Avenue and Armitage Avenue are today.

Naming the neighborhood


Once known as "the cabbage patch" due to the presence of German farmers, Lincoln Park gained the name that it has in the present in honor of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, an Illinois native.

Founding of the Lincoln Park Zoo


The first free zoo in Chicago has been around for quite a long time!

The Lincoln Park Commission


In 1869, the Lincoln Park commission was created as its own district, among one of three Chicago area park districts at the time. This gave LP crucial authority over lakefront land between North and Diversey Aves. This paved the way for important infrastructure to develop in the coming decades.

The Great Fire and expansion


The Great Fire destroyed many of the buildings in the North Side, but residents quickly rebuilt and continued to develop communities.

Lake Shore Drive


Lake Shore Drive was established beginning in 1875. The iconic passage of roadway is today home to some of LP's most expensive real-estate, accompanied by commanding views of Lake Michigan.

West vs. East Lincoln Park

Approx. 1880 - Approx. 1930

During the decades following the Great Fire, Lincoln Park could be divided into two areas: West and East. The West was decidedly working-class, and included ethnic concentrations including Italians, Poles, Romanians, Hungarians, and Slovaks who worked at factories. The east included a range of middle class families and lakeside mansions.

St. Josaphat's

1882 - 1902

The founding of St. Josaphat's Roman Catholic parish in Lincoln Park, along with the strong Polish community that was developing at the time, led to the nickname "Jozafatowo" meaning "Josaphat's town" in Polish. The current Romanesque revival version of the building was finished in 1902.

Lincoln Park Conservatory


The Observatory, full of lush greenery and a favorite spot in today's Lincoln Park, has a history stretching back to the turn of the century.

DePaul arrives

1898 - 1907

Founded in 1898 as St. Vincent's College, the founding of this university was more evidence that Lincoln Park was becoming a very culturally significant area of Chicago. In 1907, DePaul received its current name and it stuck.

Tax strike


A a property reassessment prevented the city from collecting taxes, which led to a massive tax strike. The woes of the Great Depression were clearly hitting Chicago hard.

The Great Depression


The Great Depression hit Chicago hard, with its previous wealth of manufacturing jobs declining sharply during the years of the Great Depression. This impact was felt in a big way in Lincoln Park, home to many individuals who previously got by on housing jobs, where housing stock substantially deteriorated.

Emergency relief

February 1, 1932

Chicago's emergency relief funds were completely non-existent by this date.

The beginning of urban renewal

Approx. 1945

After World War II ended and the American economy was on the upswing, members of Old Town began to worry that Lincoln Park was becoming a slum. This worry spawned the creation of neighborhood associations that began the process of urban renewal in the area that would bring forth the Young Lord movement and others concerned with the effects of gentrification.

Old Town Triangle Association


The Old Town Triangle Association's formation was one of the first signs of increased neighborhood organization near Lincoln Park, and was a harbinger of neighborhood renewal to come.

Lincoln Park Conservation Association


The LPCA made strides towards neighborhood renewal via private rehabilitation of property. Government resources like federal urban-renewal funds and enforcement of the housing code were also utilized.

Election of Mayor Daley


Mayor Daley's election was a turning point for Lincoln Park and the Young Lords. Daley and the Young Lords would be in deep opposition over Daley's "urban renewal plan."

Lincoln Park designated "conservation" area


This leads to the gentrification of the '60s.

General Neighborhood Renewal Plan

Approx. 1960 - Approx. 1970

The LPCA had tried to avoid the wholesale clearance that took place in Hyde Park, the poor who lived in the southwestern quarter of Lincoln Park (such as the Young Lords) were extremely displeased. The Concerned Citizens of Lincoln Park argued that Puerto Ricans and African Americans were being displaced from their homes and priced out by gentrification. Developers bought land near the park and built high-rises. The LPCA, which wanted to keep LP open to families, was displeased by this development, but it continued anyway.

Mayor Daley's "War on Gangs"


In context of Young Lords history, it seems that the "War on Gangs" was a response of sorts to the Young Lords' opposition to the urban renewal Daley planned in areas such as Lincoln Park.

The Young Lords

Information taken from the National Young Lords website (

Moving to the USA

1945 - 1950

World War II ends. Massive unemployment forces Puerto Rican Jibaros to immigrate as tomato pickers to U.S. migrant camps... “Tomateros” move from Puerto Rico and the East Coast to steel mills near Chicago in search of jobs. Other sources of employment include factories, maid work, and hotel jobs.

U.S. and Puerto Rico facilitate immigration

1950 - 1955

Massive immigration to the U.S. is encouraged in an attempt to alleviate 60 percent unemployment in Puerto Rico.

La Madison and La Clark

Approx. 1950 - Approx. 1955

The first Puerto Rican barrios/communities form in Chicago.

New infrastructure eliminates poor

Approx. 1955 - Approx. 1960

Carl Sandburg Village and the University of Illinois Circle Campus destroys completely the Puerto Rican communities of La Madison and La Clark, displacing tens of thousands of (census undocumented and politically powerless) Puerto Ricans and other poor, according to the National Young Lords official website.

Migration to Lincoln Park; Wicker Park

Approx. 1955 - Approx. 1960

Lincoln Park and Wicker Park now are transformed rapidly from white ethnic minority into primarily, Puerto Rican neighborhoods, according to the official National Young Lords website. In addition, the website explains that: the Caballeros de San Juan and Damas de Maria form church councils or concilios, many churches through out Chicago, starting at a Latino enclave in Woodlawn and including Puerto Rican enclaves in Lakeview, Uptown, La Madison, La Clark; and now within in the two main barrios of Wicker Park-West Town-Humboldt Park(La Division) and Lincoln Park (including La North Ave. and La Armitage).

Destabilization and unrest

Approx. 1960 - Approx. 1965

These years are characterized by poverty, and a lack of supervised youth programs along with destabilization leads to Y.M.C.A. youth athletic clubs transforming into street gangs. White flight also uproots people Lincoln Park and La Division and leaves behind blighted, unstable neighborhoods, ruled by absentee politicians and landlords.

Jose "Cha Cha" Jimenez takes over


What began as a gang turned into a human rights movement for self determination empowerment under Jimenez on Sept 23. An early example of political action is the Young Lords take over of a Community Conservation Council Meeting.

More restructuring; demands


The Young Lords pattern themselves after the Black Panther Party’s structure, and lead political education classes
in homes.
Also in 1969, Young Lords and 350 primarily Latino community residents, take over and sit-in at the
McCormick Theological Seminary administration building for one full week, until their demands are completely met:
- $650,000 to be invested in low income housing in Lincoln Park
- $25,000 to open another free clinic, to be run by Lado for La Division (Wicker Park-West Town-Humboldt Park)
- $25,000 to open up the People’s Law Office in Lincoln Park
- $25,000 committed (but never received) for a Puerto Rican Cultural Center within People’s Church
(data from the official National Young Lords website)

"Tengo Puerto Rico En Mi Corazon”


Young Lords take-over Armitage Avenue United Methodist Church (led by Mexican-American, Luis Chavez and others) and later the congregation renames the Church people’s Church. Felicitas paints the National Young Lords
Logo (reading, “Tengo Puerto Rico En Mi Corazon”) on the outside church walls. The Young Lords set up the Emeterio Betances Free Health Clinic, a Puerto Rican cultural center, a free community day care co-op, a free Breakfast for Children Program and their national headquarters offices.

Separation from NYC office


New York Young Lords regional office informs Chicago that they would like to split and work on their own. In an effort to maintain solidarity, national headquarters recognizes that some of New York’s concerns, about discipline and lack of professionalism are legitimate. Chicago has issues organizing due to Mayor Daley's opposition to the Young Lords, his blacklisting of funding for them, and the lack of professional skills of the Young Lords in LP.

Cha Cha goes to jail; Young Lords underground


Two and a half years after the Young Lords go underground, Jimenez turns himself in to serve a one year sentence and fight ten remaining felony charges (he was constantly faced with legal problems and accusations, such as assault and battery and marijuana possession charges). Young Lords and 500 supporters greet him, on December 4th 1972, in front of the Town Hall District police station.

Name change; mayoral support

Approx. 1980

Young Lords (to avoid being labeled as a gang) work under the name of the Puerto Rican Diaspora Coalition, and become the first Latino group to hold a public rally, for the campaign of future Mayor Harold Washington.

Election of Harold Washington


After the election of Harold Washington, the Young Lords organize together with the Puerto Rican Parade Committee of Chicago and the new mayor’s Office of Special Events. Cha Cha Jimenez introduces Harold Washington in front of a crowd of 100,000 Puerto Ricans in Humboldt Park.

Archiving the Young Lords


According to the National Young Lords website, Young Lords’ Tony Baez from Milwaukee, Omar Lopez, Carlos Flores, Angel Del Rivero and Angie Adorno are brought together by Cha-Cha Jimenez, to form the Lincoln Park Project, which will begin to archive and document Young Lord history and the history of the complete displacement of Puerto Ricans, Latinos and the poor of Lincoln Park. They approach DePaul University and begin working with Dr. Felix Masud Piloto and the Center for Latino Research. A collection is housed at DePaul’s Richardson’s Library.