Located about 8 miles northwest of the Loop, Portage Park is a large residential neighborhood with a sizeable Polish-American population and a notable commercial district known as “Six Corners”. The entire neighborhood is about 4 square miles. It has around 65,000 residents and is part of Chicago’s historic Bungalow Belt.
Portage Park has a nice mix of residential areas, public parkland and business-lined main streets. It has a popular retail center located at the six-corner intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Irving Park Road and Cicero Avenue. This outdoor shopping complex is anchored by a Sears Roebuck and Co, which occupies a prominent Art Deco building. The old architecture along this strip gives the Six Corners commercial district a charmingly dated look. Recent efforts to revitalize the area have helped reinstate its prestige as a destination shopping mall.
Other merchants that have taken up residence at Six Corners include discount department stores, furniture dealers, jewelers, florists, boutique clothiers, shoe stores, salons, eateries, supermarkets, service trades, specialty shops, dentists and medical providers. The historic Portage Theater is another mainstay of Six Corners. In addition to showing classic movies and independent films, the newly renovated theater can also be rented out for weddings and other events.
Portage Park has Chicago’s biggest Polish community. Many of the families who settled in this neighborhood during the Industrial Revolution were of Polish decent. Like other laborers looking to get out of overcrowded living conditions in areas down river, Polish workers moved northward in search of more space to build homes and establish businesses. As a result, there are a number of Polish shops in the area, not to mention several heritage organizations, such as the Polish American Association, Polish Army Veterans Association and the Polish Jesuit Millennium Center.
The majority of Portage Park’s residential blocks are lined with classic Chicago bungalows and brick two-flats. These customary housing units usually have detached garages and small backyards. A few neighborhood parks dot the area, providing open green space and recreation options. The community’s namesake park is a nice retreat for local families. It has an Olympic-sized pool, nature walks, landscaped grounds, athletic fields and a Prairie-style fieldhouse that serves as an arts center. The 8-acre Chopin Park (named for Poland’s famed musical composer) is on the neighborhood’s southern edge. It features basketball and tennis courts, soccer and football fields, baseball diamonds and even a horseshoe pit.
Portage Park is easily accessible by public transit or car. The Kennedy Expressway passes right by the neighborhood’s northeastern corner, providing a convenient mode of transportation for motorists. The Montrose Blue Line L stop is also right there and the Metra Milwaukee District North line cruises through the vicinity, too. Bus routes help travelers get around within the neighborhood, running on all of Portage Park’s main thoroughfares.