Prominent Wicker Residents
Welcome to the Wicker Park roll call! Below you will find authors, labor activists, politicians, and more that once called Wicker Park home.
Nelson Algren- journalist, author
Nelson Algren was educated at the University of Illinois during the Great Depression. After graduating with a degree in journalism, Algren moved back to Chicago where he would partake in the New Deal's Works Project Administration (WPA). After a small stint with journalism, Algren wrote his first novel Somebody in Boots (1935). He won the first National Book Award for Fiction in 1949 for The Man with the Golden Gun. This was later adapted to a film featuring Frank Sinatra. Later in his life Algren focused on nonfiction including his work above, Chicago: City on the Make.
Algren's influence and memory live on in Wicker Park. Myopic books, the local bookstore on Milwaukee Avenue, reserves the front section of their store for legendary writers, Algren's work is nestled comfortably next to Kerouac. Evergreen Avenue is honorably named in his memory, as is the fountain at the intersection of Milwaukee and Ashland. His Wicker Park home is pictured above, he occupied the third floor of this Evergreen Avenue house.
Saul Bellow- author
TECHNICALLY, Saul Bellow was a resident of Ukrainian Village. Local historian Elaine Coorens states that his family lived in two different houses on Cortez Avenue somewhere in between Leavitt and Oakley. However, when one of the most decorated authors of the 20th century lives next door, it is proper to acknowledge his legacy.
Bellow became the first author to win the National Book Award three times. 1976 was a good year for Bellow, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Humboldt's Gift as well as receiving the Noble Prize in literature. He was a recipient of the Croix de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by France in 1968. Last, his work was honored by Congress in 1988 when he received the National Medal of Arts. He wrote many books beyond the ones above including Dangling Man (1944), The Adventures of Augie March (1953), and Seize the Day (1956).
For further information on Bellow and his works visit the Chicago Public Library's biographical page: click here
Ignacy Jan Paderewski- pianist, statesman
Ignacy Jan Paderewski, famed pianist and statesman for Poland, graced the streets of Wicker Park in the 1930s. He may not have been a permanent resident, but surely worthy of our roll call. The house above, now referred to as the Paderewski, house acted as the Polish Consulate in Chicago throughout the 20th Century.
According to The Old Wicker Park Committee, Paderewski performed a piano concert on the porch of the consulate. Streets were blocked off as thousands of Wicker Park residents packed onto Pierce Avenue to attend the concert.
Haymarket Labor Activists
The Haymarket Affair is one of the infamous events in American Labor history. Historians, sociologists, and politicians alike have researched the event and its impact on American labor relations since the event occurred.
In summary, on May 4, 1886 workers gathered at Haymarket Square to protest the killing of workers by police who organized outside of the McCormick Reaper Plant to demand an 8-hour work day. At the square, which was filled with peaceful workers and policemen alike, a bomb was thrown into the crowd. 7 policemen and 4 laborers were killed. The maker or thrower of the bomb was never truly found. 7 men were convicted to the death penalty in August of 1886. On November 11, 1887 4 men were hanged for the Haymarket Affair. The four men are all above, and were all residents of Wicker Park.
The first picture is Albert Parsons. A notable voice amongst Chicago workers, Parsons spoke at Haymarket Square before the bomb went off. Parsons fought for the Confederacy in Texas during the Civil War. While in Texas he met his wife, Lucy Parsons. Lucy was born into slavery around 1853. Once married, the two moved to Chicago to start their lives as activists for labor rights. Albert was a printer, a member of the Knights of Labor, editor of the paper "The Alarm," and one of the founders of the Chicago Trades and Labor Assembly. Last, he wrote the book "Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis." Lucy founded the Industrial Workers of the World and was active in organizing and fighting for sewing workers of Chicago. They lived together near the corner of Division and Milwaukee.
The remaining three were fellow activists and union leaders within the city of Chicago.
Directly to the left of Lucy is George Engels. Engels owned a toy store just outside the southern boundaries of Wicker Park on Milwaukee Avenue. Adolf Fischer lived at 1336 Dean Street (the corner of Milwaukee and Paulina). Last, August Spies lived at 2132 W. Potomac Avenue (pictured above).
As stated above, this incident is a landmark in Illinois and American labor history. The simple summary above does not do justice to the event. Interwoven in this tragedy is a history of Chicago labor unions, American labor history, as well as Chicago police and political history. This is a very polarizing event that cannot be satisfied with a few short sentences. I urge any reader who is interested in labor or Chicago history to dive into this event. It is a ripe history that may lead to many more interested reads.
As research continues people will be added to this site. If any readers believe a Wicker Park resident should be added to this page, please contact Travis Kreashko at email@example.com