Family research / history & places / Chicago


German neighbourhoods (Chicago III)

German immigrants never settled exclusively in one or few quarters of the City. 1884,  when 200.000 Germans lived in the City, there was only one of  18 districts with less tan 10 % German population, but in most of the others they made 20 to 40 % and in two of them [1] 70 %.

So we generally may state that there can be observed strong concentrations of ethnic population within some districts. These so called ethnic neighbourhoods arose from the natural need of recently immigrated people to find shelter from a new strange surrounding, by keeping language, culture, church services and all the traditional way of living they had been accustomed to in their home societies. For first and second generation of immigrants these Ethnic Neighbourhoods were areas with characteristic social relations which but did not remain in fixed geographic places. With explosively growing City, caused by waves of new immigrants from different nations flocking into the City, these neighbourhoods  moved through district geography. This movement  from the centre to the edges of the city coincided with gradual integration into the native population and so consequently led to disappearance of  those ethnic neighbourhoods in later generations.

As to neighbourhoods with dominant German  population there were mainly four, with two of them in the southern and the other two in the northern parts of the City. From the last ones “North Side” was situated near to Lake Michigan between Lincoln Park and the north branch of Chicago River, limited by Fullerton Ave. in the north and Division Ave. in the south. This was labelled as the district of middle class Germans or the “traditional German quarter”, whereas North West Side was more the district of labourers. North west of the banks of the northern Chicago River it expanded in its northern part between North  Ave. and Division Ave. to both sides of Milwaukee Ave. and south of Division down to Chicago Ave. west from Milwaukee Ave. (See plan).

Much of the following description, statements and observations are due to Hartmut Keil´s essay on immigration quarters and American society at the end of 19th century Chicago [2] with concentration on the North West Side.

©Peter Teuthorn, 2003-08-15

[1] North Side and North West Side

[2] Hartmut Keil: Einwandererviertel und amerikanische Gesellschaft,  Zur Integration deutscher Einwanderer in die amerikanische städtisch-industrielle Umwelt des ausgehenden 19. Jahrhunderts am Beispiel Chicagos, Archiv für Sozialgeschichte , XXIV (1984), S. 47-89.

  [ info(at) | ]