Belmont Central

Belmont Central

The Northwest Side community of Belmont Central is about 10 miles from the downtown Loop. Like many of Chicago’s outlying areas, it emerged back in the day as a stopover for transients making their way to and from the city center. Much of Belmont Central’s history is tied to that of neighboring Cragin, which was a very industrialized region in the late 1800s and early 1900s. People who worked in Cragin’s factories needed a place to live that was nearby. There was plenty of land to the west and before long, homes started to pop up around the prairie grounds.

The population of Belmont Central grew steadily for the following century as more housing was introduced to the area and commercial districts developed. The local economy really started to flourish in the 1940s and the education system established its reputation when St. Patrick High School (founded in 1861 and considered the oldest Catholic school in Chicago) moved to Belmont Central from downtown. Extension of the Belmont Street bus further bolstered development of the neighborhood’s retail corridor, which now has an active Chamber of Commerce and charming storefront businesses.

In order to keep up with the growth of Belmont Central’s population, there was a residential building boom in the 1930s and ‘40s. As a result, much of the housing stock is traditional brick bungalows with Cape Cods, Queen Annes, two-flats and other historic architecture thrown into the mix. The neighborhood’s community recreation spots are anchored by the 55-acre Riis Park, located between Fullerton, Meade, Wrightwood and Narrangansett avenues. Riis Park was founded in 1916 and continues to be an integral part of Belmont Central’s outdoor sports and leisure scene. In addition to a large swimming pool and plenty of open green space, it has beautiful walking/jogging paths, tennis courts, athletic fields, a running track, playground equipment and even an ice rink in the winter.

For the most part, restaurants in Belmont Central are found along the main thoroughfares and border streets. Dining options range from tasty taquerias and pizzerias to quaint cafés and sandwich shops. It even has a selection of specialty eateries and markets with international products and ethnic cuisines. For example, Belmont Central has one of the only USDA inspected pierogi factories in the country. It has some of the best home-style dumplings in the city with over 15 different pierogi styles to choose from. Rounding out the list of choices for “going out” with the local crowd are a few neighborhood taverns and bars. Grab a pint with regulars at a low-key pub or make a night of it at the dance club. Residents also get together for several community events throughout the year, such as the annual golf outing, bowling night and Dog Day of Summer (for the pet-friendly set).

Belmont Central is tucked between a number of other Chicago neighborhoods—Cragin and Hanson Park to the east, Monteclare and Galewood to the west, Portage Park to the north and North Austin to the south. Although it is removed from Chicago’s major highways and CTA L trains, Belmont Central is serviced by the Metra Milwaukee District West line, which has a station at the very southeast corner of the neighborhood. Several bus routes provide public transportation around the neighborhood and to other parts of the city. Although traffic may make the commute just as long as in the olden days, Grand Avenue—once a plank road traveled by merchants transporting their wares to Chicago—is still the most direct way to get downtown from Belmont Central.