Czech Chicago
Czech Chicago
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (
Date: April 14, 2009 01:54AM

Is anybody interested in these areas? There were several Czech/Bohemian communities in Chicago, the most notable being Pilsen and Little Village (formerly Lawndale-Crawford or South Lawndale). There was also a section surrounding the vicinity of 47th & Ashland called Town of Lake. One of the most unknown Czech areas was actually in Noth Lawndale. The area is always associated with Jewish Chicago, but I find this unfair because the Bohemian's are always left out of North Lawndale's history. The Bohemian's were among the earliest settlers in Lawndale and pretty much "set the table" for the Jews. I updated the miserable little description (basically deleted it and started over) for North Lawndale on Wikipedia. I will include my contribution here:

North Lawndale (also known simply as "Lawndale") located on the west side of Chicago, Illinois, is one of the well-defined community areas in the city of Chicago.

Once part of Cicero Township in 1869, the eastern section of North Lawndale to Crawford Avenue (Pulaski Road) was annexed to Chicago by an act of the state legislature. Thereafter, streets were platted and drainage ditches were installed between Western and Crawford Avenue. The name "Lawndale" was supplied by Millard and Decker, a real estate firm which subdivided the area in 1870. In 1871, after the fire, the McCormick Reaper Company (later International Harvester) occupied a new large plant in the South Lawndale neighborhood. As a result, many plant workers moved to eastern North Lawndale. The remaining area west of Crawford Avenue was annexed by a resolution of the Cook County Commissioners in 1889. By 1890 North Lawndale was beginning to be heavily populated by Bohemians from Eastern Europe. The section most populated by the Czech's was the area from Crawford (Pulaski) west, and from 12th St. (Roosevelt Rd.) to 16th St. Real eatate firm W.A. Merigold & Co. was largely responsible for the early development of that part of the community and as a result the name "Merigold" stuck as the name of that part of the neighborhood. Czech institutions popped up in Merigold with the Slovanska Lipa/Sokol Tabor (Czech fraternal & gymnastic organization) at 13th & Karlov in 1890. In 1892 the Bohemian Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes was established at the corner of 15th & Keeler, and in 1909 the Czech Freethinkers School Frantisek Palacky was built at 1525 S. Kedvale. The Merigold neighborhood would also became known as Novy Tabor (New Camp) by the Czech immigrants that settled there. The ultimate Czech institution to come to North Lawndale in 1912 was the Ceska Beseda (Bohemian Club) at 3659 W. Douglas Blvd. This club was attended by Chicago's Czech elite, as well as the visiting Czech elite of the rest of the United States and Czechoslovakia. This was the place for its refined members to celebrate and enjoy literature, drama, and music by the most celebrated and talented Czech artists. The Bohemians spread throughout the rest of the North Lawndale neighborhood and were the original owners of many of the beautiful graystone buildings that graced the picturesque streets of the neighborhood. Many of the elite members of the Bohemian community resided in the vicinity of the 1800 & 1900 blocks of S. Millard Ave. These men of wealth as well as the rest of the Czech residents of North Lawndale were heavily invested in their neighborhood, especially civically, with their influence being far reaching. An example of this was the naming of Anton Dvorak Public Elementary School at 3615 W. 16th St. after a revered 19th century Czech composer. There were several members of the North Lawndale Czech community that occupied positions in city as well as county government. In time the Czechs began leaving the neighborhood for the western suburbs of Cicero, Berwyn, Riverside, & Brookfield. By the 1920s many of the Czechs were gone and the Jews became the majority ethnic group of the neighborhood having left the crowded confines of the Maxwell Street Ghetto. North Lawndale would later become known as being the largest Jewish settlement in the City of Chicago with 25% of the cities Jewish population living in just that one neighborhood.

From about 1918 to 1955, Jews, overwhelmingly of Russian and Eastern European extraction, dominated the neighborhood, starting in North Lawndale and moving northward as they became more prosperous. In the 1950s, blacks moved from the southern states and the south side of Chicago, and unscrupulous real-estate dealers all but evacuated the white population by using blockbusting and scare tactics. In a span of about ten years the white population of North Lawndale went from 99% to less than 9%. During the turbulent times of the late 1960s and 1970s, much of North Lawndale's built environment was destroyed by the 1968 riots and by decay brought about by being an extremely impoverished area. Thousands of structures were leveled during this time and the land sat vacant until the building and real estate boom of the 2000s. Due to these factors, the total neighborhood population dropped from 124,937 in 1960 to 41,768 by 2000. In the new millennium the neighborhood began showing some signs of revitalization, but those strides have come to a screeching halt due to the mortgage crunch and real estate market collapse beginning in 2008.

According to Charles Leeks, director of NHS, North Lawndale has the greatest concentration of graystones in the city. The City of Chicago has enacted The Historic Chicago Greystone Initiative in late 2004 to aid in promoting the preservation of the neighborhoods historic graystone structures.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/14/2009 01:56AM by Berwyn Frank.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Richard Stachowski (
Date: May 10, 2009 03:25PM

Thanks for the information. I am not from that area of Chicago and a fimiliar with what you say. At 73years old I do have some recollections of past Chicago areas.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Jayg (
Date: May 10, 2011 12:27AM

Do you have any information or pictures of the Sokol that stood at 2345 s Kedzie? It was demolished around 1963 and replaced by a National Tea grocery store.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (
Date: May 10, 2011 01:27AM

Jay, read these three threads. I will post more about the Sokol hall, called Sokol Chicago, soon.

Little Village

North Lawndale


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2011 01:29AM by Berwyn Frank.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: 222psm (
Date: May 10, 2011 01:42PM

I'm not from that area, but I have spent time in Pilsen, Little Village and we used to go though N Lawndale to get to Brighton Park. So I'm interested, especially after reading your posts and your book I have gotten interested in the Czech/ Bohemian culture!

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: adgorn (
Date: May 15, 2011 09:59PM

I recently went to the Czechoslovak Heritage Museum in Oak Brook for their event honoring Mayor Cermak.


Otto Kerner's son was there. I believe Otto Kerner married Cermak's daughter.

More about the museum here:

I took some pictures inside:

<a href="">My Czech museum photos</a>


Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (
Date: May 16, 2011 01:21PM

Alan, thanks for the photos, I was not able to attend the event. Yes, Otto Kerner Jr. married Anton Cermak's daughter Helena after the divorce from her first husband.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: coops4 (
Date: December 07, 2011 12:28AM

That is a great area Frank. I am very familiar with the area and how unsafe it is..Two things: what can you tell me about the building on the NW corner of Odgen and Central Park. (i think it is dated 1883) and, What is the history behind the 3500 block of Adams..There are some huge buildings on that block.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (
Date: December 07, 2011 01:07AM

Coops4, if you are interested or familiar with that area then you should check out my thread here on North Lawndale, I am sure you would appreciate it.

I have taken notice of the building at Ogden & Central Park but am not familiar with its history.

The 3500 block of W. Adams (at St. Louis Ave) is NOT in the Lawndale neighborhood but rather the East Garfield Park neighborhood. That area on the west side was home to an affluent class of Chicagoans during the 1880s-1910s. I actually have a couple 100+ year old images of that block in my collection.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/07/2011 03:30AM by Berwyn Frank.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Richard Stachowski (
Date: December 07, 2011 11:30AM

[b]There was a "Camp Sokol" in willow springs across Lake Tuma from Camp Kiwanis.[/b]

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (
Date: December 07, 2011 02:05PM

Yes there was. Many of the Czech Sokol gymnastic organizations owned a camp ground for getaways from the crowded city. The one in Willow Springs was owned by Sokol Town of Lake which was located in Back of the Yards near 47th & Honore. Sokol Havlicek-Tyrs on 26th & Lawndale Ave. had a camp called Lidice in Crystal Lake, and Plzensky Sokol on 18th & Ashland also had a camp but I forget the exact location at the moment. These camps were established when land out in the "sticks" was cheap and plentiful.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: daveg (130.36.62.---)
Date: December 07, 2011 02:21PM

Once again, thanks for your contributions here Frank. Details are remarkable.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (
Date: December 07, 2011 05:31PM

No problem Dave, it's good to hear from you.

Here are a couple of Sokol images.

This one is neat. This is the 1941 Chicago Sokol Slet (Meet) at Solider Field where Sokols from all over the world came to compete.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Theravada (
Date: March 09, 2012 05:43PM

Here is a picture my grandfather gave me of Sokol Slovenska Lipa on Taylor Street.

[url=]Sokol Slovenska Lipa[/url]

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: jak378 (
Date: March 09, 2012 06:33PM

Theravada Wrote:
> Here is a picture my grandfather gave me of Sokol
> Slovenska Lipa on Taylor Street.
> Sokol Slovenska Lipa

I am curious as to what the structures are to the left of the photo, behind the buildings. It almost looks like a refinery of some kind, but that is terribly unlikely.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: davey7 (
Date: March 09, 2012 07:19PM

I'm surprised that people from outside the US would have come (or been able to) to Chicago for the Sokol.

Jak - I wouldn't be surprised if there was some kind of chemical plant off Taylor, depending upon where it was...

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (
Date: March 09, 2012 07:26PM

WOW!!! What an awesome photo! Sokol Slovanska Lipa was located at 515 W. DeKoven St. near Canal. In the old old days the neighborhood was known as "Praha" by the Czechs. By 1955 the entire neighborhood was razed in the name of urban renewal, and the Chicago Fire Academy stands in the spot now. The Sokol Slovanska Lipa building was built in 1869 and closed by 1915.

The 500 block of W. Dekoven St. in 1934.

558 W. DeKoven St. The Anton Kolar House which stood in the exact location of the O'Leary cottage, the supposed originating point of the Chicago Fire. The O'Leary's sold the lot to the Kolar family in 1880 I believe where they constructed their building.

The Kolar House being burned in a Chicago Fire Department exercise before being torn down in December 1955.

500 block of W. DeKoven St. at the new Chicago Fire Academy dedication May 15th, 1961.

Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 03/09/2012 11:13PM by Berwyn Frank.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (
Date: March 09, 2012 11:14PM

I added a couple more pictures to the above post.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Theravada (
Date: March 10, 2012 10:10AM

Originally, Czechs (Bohemians) were settling in the area shown on this map:

My grandfather (Vaclav Krejci) of my grandfather (John Krejci) was living in 1890's at 97 Bunker Street:

I have not been able to get any pictures of old Bunker Street since most of it is gone.

Re: Czech Chicago
Posted by: Theravada (
Date: March 11, 2012 03:14PM

During the Summer, the parents of Chicago Czechs used to send their sons and daughters to the Sokol Summer Home in Crystal Lake, Illinois. I was there in 1957 and here are few pictures of the place. I am the blond boy with the broken wrist. I broke it playing baseball and sliding on the wet grass to the first base.

Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 03/11/2012 03:29PM by Theravada.

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