Andersonville Real Estate

Andersonville Illinois Real Estate

Comprised of Edgewater, Andersonville, Lakewood-Balmoral, Bowmanville

Andersonville, Illinois
by Julie Farby

Andersonville is a neighborhood (located in the Edgewater community area) on the North Side of Chicago, about five miles north-northwest of the city’s downtown. According to Wikipedia.org, the approximate street boundaries of Andersonville are Magnolia Avenue to the east, North Ravenswood Avenue to the west, Winnemac Avenue to the south, and Elmdale Avenue to the north. The main shopping street is North Clark Street, which runs roughly north-south. The stretch of North Clark Street south of West Foster Avenue is undergoing development and is sometimes called South Foster, or SoFo. Once a predominantly Swedish neighborhood, today Andersonville is a diverse ethnic community, and home to one of the largest gay and lesbian populations in Chicago. According to the city’s Chamber of Commerce, at the heart of the Andersonville community is the “renowned Swedish American Museum, which features a permanent exhibit about Swedish American history, rotating exhibits from prominent Swedish and Swedish American artists, and the new interactive Children’s Museum of Immigration,” where kids can get a glimpse of their ancestor’s long journey to America. In addition, some of Chicago’s finest dance, theater, film, visual arts, and music organizations make their home in Andersonville.

Andersonville is a historic community, with roots that extend well back into the 19th century, when immigrant Swedish farmers started moving north into the area. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, wooden homes were outlawed in Chicago. Consequently, Swedish immigrants, who could not afford to build homes of stone or brick, began to move outside of the city’s northern limits. The arrival of Swedish immigrants continued through the beginning of the 20th century, settling in the newly built homes surrounding Clark Street. According to the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, “before long, the entire commercial strip was dominated by Swedish businesses, from delis to hardware stores, shoe stores to blacksmiths, and bakeries to realty companies. The local churches, such as Ebenezer Lutheran Church, Bethany Methodist Episcopal Church, and St. Gregory’s Roman Catholic Church, were also built by Swedes, and reflected the religious diversity of the new arrivals.”

After decades of decline during the Depression and post-war periods, Andersonville ushered in a period of revival in the late 1980’s, as professionals rediscovered the neighborhood’s lovely housing opportunities, and prime location near downtown Chicago and the lakefront. New gift shops and ethnic eateries opened up and gave the main drag of Clark Street a new commercial vitality and diversity. A large lesbian and gay population also developed, spurred by the opening of such businesses as “Women & Children First,” a bookstore focusing on feminist authors and topics. In addition to being one of the most concentrated areas of Swedish culture in the United States, today Andersonville claims home to a diverse assortment of devoted residents and businesses, including one of Chicago’s “largest gay and lesbian communities, a large collection of Middle Eastern restaurants and bakeries, and a thriving Hispanic commercial area north of Catalpa Avenue.” In fact, the annual Swedish tradition of celebrating the summer solstice has since blossomed into Midsommarfest, which has grown into one of the largest and most popular street festivals in Chicago.