Albany Park is a northwestern Chicago neighborhood steeped in multicultural
heritage. It is considered one of the most diverse communities in the country
and dozens of languages are used in its public schools. In 2000, 52% of the
population was foreign born.
The area has a strong concentration of East Asian, Middle Eastern and Mexican ethnicities that influence Albany Park’s local flavor. Lawrence and Kedzie avenues are the main business corridors in Albany Park. Both roads are lined with cafés, restaurants, grocery stores and shops. Cuisine options include Korean, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Guatemalan, Mediterranean, Italian, American and more.
There are a number of public parks and playlots in the neighborhood, of which Eugene Field Park is the largest and best known. It is home to a Chicago Park District Cultural Center, designated in 2001, which provides a wealth of recreation and athletic programs. Also located at the Cultural Center is the Albany Park Theater Project (www.aptpchicago.org). This local thespian group is a “multiethnic, ensemble-based theater company of teens and young adults.” Its productions are reflections of real-life experiences that immigrants and their American-born children face everyday.
This multicultural community grew from a simple brickyard, established in the 1860s by a land spectator. As Chicago’s population expanded through the 1870s and ‘80s, people pushed passed the city limits to build homes in the undeveloped regions to the north. Albany Park became an official Chicago neighborhood in 1889 when it was annexed to the city. Immigrants from Germany and Sweden came to the area to farm, followed by a wave of Russian and Jewish families in the early 1910s. The remainder of the 20th Century welcomed foreign-born residents from all over the world, including a large number of Mexicans, Guatemalans, Ecuadorians, Koreans (a section of Lawrence Avenue is often referred to as “Koreatown”), Vietnamese, Filipinos, Indians, Romanians, Iraqis, Iranians, Lebanese, Serbians, Bosnians and Croatians.
Albany Park is situated about eight miles outside the Loop (downtown Chicago). The terminus for the Brown Line “L” is at the center of Albany Park, providing convenient public transportation to downtown. The Brown Line is an above-street-level train that services the North Side of Chicago. It loops around downtown before heading back to the North Side. If you have a car, Albany Park is accessible via the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94). The Kennedy heads southeast to the Loop where it turns into the Dan Ryan Expressway.