Portage Park, located on the northwest side of Chicago, is 15 of the 77 officially designated Chicago community areas. Portage Park is bordered by Jefferson Park and Forest Glen to the north, Dunning and the suburb of Harwood Heights to the west, Irving Park to the east and Belmont-Cragin to the south.
The area is composed primarily of affordable Chicago and California style bungalows, vintage Victorian and brick two flats. Most residents live on the streets west of Six Corners. There are also beautiful churches with wonderful architectural significance whose magnificent spires and steeples tower over the neighborhood.
The area is serviced by the CTA. The O’Hare-Congress-Douglas Line rapid transit trains stop at Montrose east of Cicero. There is CTA bus service on Belmont, Addison, Irving Park, Montrose, Lawrence, Milwaukee, Cicero, Central and Austin. The Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94) is a few blocks east of the neighborhood.
Portage Park is served by Chicago Public Schools, which operates neighborhood schools and offers city-wide options for students. There are also a number of private and parochial schools with Roman Catholic and Lutheran affiliations in the area as well as higher learning institutions. For a complete list of schools, click here.
Being primarily residential, Portage Park has two large business districts, one at Six Corners at Irving, Cicero and Milwaukee and the other at Belmont and Central. The area was home to movie palaces such as the magnificent Portage Theater, which is home to the performing arts center which shows a wide variety of silent films.
Festivals / Parks / Recreation
In 1912, neighbors formed the Portage Park District and the following year, the park district board of commissioners condemned 40 acres on the northeast corner of Irving Park Road and Central Avenue for the purpose of developing a park. A portion of the park officially opened in mid-summer 1916. Visitors to the park that summer enjoyed a cool swim in a small sandy bottom lagoon. As the park became a popular gathering place, other recreational facilities were added such as tennis courts, baseball fields and a field house in 1922. By 1934, the park was merged into the Chicago Park District. In 1959, a second pool constructed in the park held the Pan-American Games swimming events as well as the 1972 Olympic swimming trials. Today, the park provides area residents with an aquatic center featuring an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a diving pool with platforms (the only one of its kind in the Chicago Park District), a play pool for young children and an adult sun area. The park has athletic facilities, including two football/soccer fields, nine tennis courts, three baseball, two softball diamonds, eight horseshoe pits, two playground areas, a gymnasium and a bicycle path. In addition, courses for preschoolers, older kids and adults offer something for everyone. There are three branches of the Chicago Public Library located in the neighborhood as well.
Portage Park is primarily a residential neighborhood that was named for the fact it was the major portage linking Des Plaines and the Chicago Rivers. The land belonged to the local Indian tribes but was given up to the U.S. in a treaty in 1816 and soon thereafter, the settlers started moving in. In the mid to late 1800’s, the Northwest Plank Road was constructed and Jefferson Township was incorporated as part of the large city annexation prior to the World’s Columbian Exposition. Portage Park was still mainly rural territory in the early 20th century until street car lines were extended into the area. This lured immigrants from the overcrowded enclaves and soon families from the industrial areas were buying lots and building homes.
Portage Park is best known for its large Polish community, which is the largest in the Chicago metropolitan area, but the community includes a diverse ethnic and racial population. People of many nationalities and backgrounds can be found in the community. The area boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the city, excellent schools, churches, medical centers and abundant shopping along with the convenience of public transportation and O’Hare Airport nearby make Portage Park a wonderful place to raise a family.
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