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Exterior view (in 1909) of the storefront office of P. Schiavone & Son, bankers and steamship agents, located at 925 South Halsted Street.Little Italy is located in the Near West Side community area of the city of Chicago, Illinois. It encompasses a 12 block stretch of Taylor Street east of Ashland Avenue and the streets to the north and south for several blocks in each direction. The neighborhood lies between the Illinois Medical District to the west and the University of Illinois at Chicago to the east. It is a neighborhood of strongly Italian influence.
Little Italy never had a concentration of Italian-Americans that constituted a majority. Other ethnicities have always been present in the area known as "Little Italy." Nonetheless, the neighborhood was given its name due to the strong influence of Italians and Italian culture on the neighborhood throughout the 19th and 20th century.
Though the Italian population declined throughout the late 20th century, many Italian restaurants and groceries remain in the formerly prominent Taylor Street corridor. The neighborhood also hosts the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame as well as the historic Roman Catholic churches Our Lady of Pompeii, Notre Dame de Chicago, and Holy Family 1940s to present Italians began arriving in Chicago in the 1850s in small numbers. By 1880, there were 1,357 Italians in the city. By the 1920s, Italian cookery became one of the most popular ethnic cuisines in America, spawning many successful bakeries and restaurants—some of which prospered for generations and continue to influence the Chicago dining scene today. By 1927, Italians owned 500 grocery stores, 257 restaurants, 240 pastry shops, and numerous other food related businesses that were concentrated in the Italian neighborhoods. One success story is that of the Gonnella Baking Company, Chicago’s largest producer of Italian bread and rolls.
The immigration of Italians accelerated throughout the late 19th century and into the early 20th century. Chicago's foreign-born Italian population was 16,008 in 1900 and peaked at 73,960 in 1930. The largest area of settlement was the Taylor Street area, but there were also 20 other significant Italian enclaves throughout the city and suburbs.
1940s to present
Following World War II, several developments hindered the cohesion of the community. The construction of the Eisenhower Expressway and the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical district forced many to move. The establishment of the Circle Campus of UIC in the 1960s by Mayor Richard J. Daley further dispersed the community. During the construction of the 100-acre UIC campus, 200 businesses and 800 homes were bulldozed in Little Italy, with 5,000 residents displaced.
By the end of the 20th century, Little Italy was one of many formerly high-profile elements of the city’s geography that had become a mere shadow of itself. Few long-time residents are left in the community. Census data for the Taylor Street Little Italy tract showed only 1,280 people reporting Italian as their primary ancestry in 1990. In 2000, the number was 1,018. However, Chicago’s foodways continue to rely on their roots in the intimate neighborhood cuisines, including cuisine from the surviving Italian restaurants in the formerly prominent Taylor Street corridor.
Rents in the area have risen in the past few decades due to an influx of condominiums, townhouses, and the proximity of Little Italy to UIC and the Loop. An example of this gentrification: in the 1990 census, no homes in the Little Italy sample area were reported to be worth more than $400,000. By contrast, according to the 2000 census, 62 homes were reportedly worth more than $500,000, and 13 of those were worth at least $1 million..
Two of the more significant landmarks of Little Italy were the Catholic churches of Our Lady of Pompeii and Holy Guardian Angel founded by Mother Cabrini. Holy Guardian Angel was the first Italian congregation in Chicago. The parish was established in 1898, and the church was built on Arthington Street in 1899. Due to the burgeoning population, a second major Italian church, Our Lady of Pompeii, was founded in 1911. The Holy Guardian Angel Church was razed for the construction of the expressway system. The Our Lady of Pompeii Church is now a the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii.
Hull House, Jane Addams' settlement house known for its social and educational programs was also located within the Little Italy area.
In recent years, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (founded in 1977 in Elmwood Park, Illinois) was relocated to a new building in Little Italy.
Other "Little Italies" in Chicago
A three story apartment house and a one story dwelling in Little Hell in September 1902.Several other areas in Chicago had significant Italian populations aside from Taylor Street, which has popularly been known as Chicago's "Little Italy."
Little Sicily or "Little Hell"
In the 22nd Ward on the city's Near North Side, a Sicilian enclave known alternately as "Little Sicily" and "Little Hell" was established in an area formerly populated by Scandinavians. It was considered the most colorful Italian neighborhood, and was home to 20,000 Italians by 1920. However, the neighborhood no longer exists today due to the construction of the Cabrini-Green public housing projects on the site during and after WWII. By the mid 1960s, the rising violent crime rate and other social problems that came as a result of the housing projects caused an exodus of many of the original inhabitants of the area.
"Heart of Italy"
On the city's South Side, a community centered on 24th and Oakley called "Heart of Italy" or "Little Tuscany" is composed mostly of Northern Italian immigrants. This neighborhood is home to the yearly Festa Pasta Vino, an Italian food and wine festival that claims to be "Chicago’s largest celebration of Italian culture".
^ a b Grinnell, Max. "Encyclopedia of Chicago "Little Italy"". Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved on 2007-02-07.
^ Binford, Henry C., "Multicentered Chicago", The Encyclopedia of Chicago, p. 548-9, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004, The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
^ a b c d Poe, Tracy N., "Foodways", The Encyclopedia of Chicago, p. 308-9, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004, The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
^ a b Vecoli, Rodolph J., "Italians", The Encyclopedia of Chicago, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004, The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
^ Kraig, Bruce, "Food Processing", The Encyclopedia of Chicago, p. 304, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004, The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
^ Leroux, Charles, "Cold Shoulder: UIC and its neighborhood are thriving but the two have yet to embrace", Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1991.
^ Binford, Henry C., "Multicentered Chicago", The Encyclopedia of Chicago, p. 552, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004, The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
^ a b Paolini, Matthew and Craig Tiede, "Economic upswing in Little Italy comes with a price" Medill News Service. December 1, 2005.
^ a b c Candeloro, Dominic (2006). "[http://www.virtualitalia.com/ch/chicago_italians1.shtml chicago's italians immigrants, ethnics, achievers, 1850-1985 - part 1]". virtualitalia.com. Retrieved on 2007-04-19.
^ Candeloro, Dominic Lawrence Chicago's Italians: Immigrants, Ethnics, Americans p. 24
^ Candeloro, Dominic (2006). "[http://www.virtualitalia.com/ch/chicago_italians2.shtml chicago's italians immigrants, ethnics, achievers, 1850-1985 - part 2]". virtualitalia.com. Retrieved on 2007-04-19.
^ a b Seligman, Amanda, "Cabrini-Green", The Encyclopedia of Chicago, Eds. Grossman, James R., Keating, Ann Durkin, and Reiff, Janice L., 2004, The University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-31015-9
^ "Chicago's Festa Pasta Vino". Retrieved on 2007-02-08.
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