By: Kevin Ortiz
Part of the West Town community, Wicker Park is one of Chicago's most vivacious and quirky neighborhoods. This melting pot is sandwiched in between Bucktown and Humboldt Park and is bordered by Ashland, Western, Bloomingdale and Division. Home to some of the city’s best artists, shops, restaurants and bars, Wicker Park is an attraction as much as it is a residential neighborhood making it a prime location to rent, own, and sell property.
In 1870 brothers Joel and Charles Wicker bought 80 acres of land and decided to turn it into a park with just a few houses sprinkled within. The park was named (drum roll....) Wicker Park, which is where the current neighborhood gets its name. After most of the city was destroyed during the infamous Chicago fire many of its residents were displaced and needed somewhere to go. Wealthy Germans and Scandinavians chose to rebuild in Wicker Park, and they did so in style. Gone were the flammable wood structures that burned with most of Chicago. Residents built illustrious Gothic mansions made of brick and stone, which remain unique to the area even today. The neighborhood and its architecture were a sign of its wealthy residents. In the early 20th century Wicker Park began its shift from wealthy denizens to the blue-collar work force and just a handful of decades later Wicker Park made another transition towards poverty. It wasn't until the late 1980s that Wicker started to blossom into the cool underground neighborhood we see it as today.
Despite the neighborhood being comprised of mostly young professionals and couples, Wicker Park remains one of Chicago's most diverse neighborhoods. It seems like there is always something to do or somewhere new to go to in Wicker Park. When Wicker Park began it was predominantly German and Scandinavian as it shifted from a symbol of the wealthy to a blue-collar neighborhood so did its residents. During the early 20th century Wicker Park was a Polish neighborhood. During the 50s Wicker Park saw another identity change toward a mostly Latino population. With the large amount of residents flowing into the area, the famed Victorian mansions built by Wicker Park's first inhabitants were turned into multi-family homes. Up until the 1980s Wicker Park was considered a poor neighborhood. Its revival began as local artists and young professionals who were seeking cheap property close to the downtown began flooding the area. Today, Wicker Park is famous for its rich history, exclusive architecture, and diverse population making it a jack-of-all-trades destination. Wicker Park has a high volume of young residents, however as one ventures farther away from the bar scene the neighborhood becomes a much quieter and ideal place to raise a family as many people do.
Wicker Park has always been somewhat of a flashy neighborhood, which means there aren't as many schools in the area relative to other neighborhoods. Some of the schools in the area are:
A.N. Pritzker School – 2009 W. Schiller
Grade Levels: K-8
CPS Performance rating: Level 1
Columbus Elementary – 1003 N. Leavitt
LaSalle II Magnet – 1148 N Honore
CPS performance rating: Level 1
Burr Elementary – 1621 W. Wabansia
Grade Level: K-9
Due to the large volume of people that populate the area and even larger amount who come and visit, finding parking around Wicker Park can be scarce but available. The best way to get around is public transportation; either the CTA or El can take you virtually anywhere you need to go in the area. The Division and Damen Blue line stops will leave you in the heart of Wicker Park and allow easy access to O'Hare airport without any transfers. Chicago's public transportation will easily get you to the several watering holes, restaurants and boutiques you'll only find in Wicker Park. Biking is always encouraged and the neighborhood is highly walkable.
People come to Wicker Park for a variety of reasons, be it the world-class dining, unique shopping or raucous nightlife. There is something for almost everyone, provided this is what floats your boat.
Wicker Park, the park that the neighborhood gets its name from, is a nice place for a leisurely stroll. This historical park is shaped like a triangle and it runs along Wicker Park Ave, Schiller and Damen. It is a quick walk south from the Damen Blue line stop.
Facts & Stats:
High Fidelity was filmed here.
The original park built by the Wicker brothers featured a small Lake. It was eventually covered up and replaced with a fountain that can be found at the center of the park.
Wicker Park used to have a negative connotation as a place you didn't want to be after dark but that is no longer the case. Crime has steadily decreased over the last couple of decades making the area much safer. However, residents and visitors should always keep their heads on a swivel because crime knows no bounds. For more information on crime in the area click here to visit the Tribune crime tracker.
Entertainment & Nightlife:
A big reason people come to Wicker Park, if not the biggest reason, is the nightlife. Many of Chicago's twenty-somethings flock to Wicker Park each weekend to celebrate into the wee hours of the night. There is a scene suitable for all at Wicker Park, whether it's house music or live rock and roll. The whopping amount of bars in the area can overwhelm a first time visitor.
Nicks Beer Garden - 1516 N. Milwaukee
Nick's Beer Garden is one of Wicker Park's late night bars, so the best time to go naturally is when everywhere else starts to close. Nick's is laid back and relaxed thanks to its island-inspired décor and rear deck. Nick's doesn't cater to any specific crowds either making it a great place to meet new people.
Tavern - 1958 W. North Ave
Tavern is another one of Wicker Parks late night bars. It features plenty of TVs, a jukebox for choosing the right jam, and a simple atmosphere that encourages a good time.
Emporium - 1366 N. Milwaukee
Emporium isn't your normal run-of-the-mill watering hole; this place is an arcade bar! Combining the majesty of the old-school arcade and the drunken debauchery of Wicker Park, it's hard to not have a good time at Emporium. The great selection of games is only matched by the supreme selection of beers; just don't forget those $1 bills.
Subterranean - 2011 W. North Ave
Subterranean is one Wicker Park's many live music joints, and one of its best. On any given day of the week you might find someone playing at Subterranean. The place is very intimate so prepare to rub shoulders with fellow music lovers – it all adds to the rustic vibe Subterranean is famous for. The small space ensures a quality show and the prices are usually a steal.
Evil Olive - 1551 W. Division
Yet another late night spot, Evil Olive is known for having a club vibe and getting people down on the dance floor. The DJ's usually stick to House and Hip-Hop and the dance floor is almost always packed. Depending on the time and date there may or may not be a cover.
Wicker Park is also a very art- and music-friendly location, adding to the grungy feel Wicker Park exudes. On any given weekend (or weekday) you can find somebody coming to perform at one of Wicker Parks many venues/bars. There are also plenty of Festivals and events throughout the year.
Do-Division Streets Fest and Sidewalk Sale – May/June
Wicker Park's Green Music Fest – June
Wicker Park Fest - July
Chicago Fashion Fest – August
West Town Art Walk – October
ChillFest – November
Lined with eclectic flavors and experiences that are sure to please any set of taste buds, Wicker Park is a foodie’s destination. You can find anything from high-end, Food Network-worthy restaurants to cheap and tasty late night munchies spots. On some weekends food trucks come to feed the masses as they travel from bar to bar. Some of the best food you've never had yet is waiting in Wicker Park.
Jerk Food Truck - Retail location will be at Halsted & Chicago
As one can ascertain from the name of the truck this place sells jerk chicken and it does so flawlessly. The jerk chicken from here might be the best you'll find in the entire city: it's spicy, tangy, slightly sweet, and insanely delicious.
Big Star – 1531 N. Damen
Big Star has become a bit of a Wicker Park staple. Loyal fans come here almost religiously to drink and stuff their faces with all kinds of specialty tacos. Word of warning: Big Star gets packed pretty early and the pick-up window only accepts cash.
Schwa – 1466 N. Ashland
This is one of the most popular restaurants across the entire Chicago region. It's high-end, fancy and very good. Schwa strives to put creativity into each plate that leaves its kitchen and does so in a rather eclectic manor. This place is far from traditional much like the rest of Wicker Park but patrons won't be disappointed in the New Age American cuisine found at Schwa.
The Smoke Daddy – 1804 W. Division
This place combines live music, tasty barbeque, and ice-cold beers almost too well. While it might be possible to find better tasting BBQ down south this might be as good as it gets in Chicago. The live music and delectable BBQ make Smoke Daddy a must if you're in the area.
Much like the culinary scene, many of the stores in Wicker Park are exclusive to the area, making the shopping in the area an event all into its own. Filled with many young entrepreneurs hungry to make a name for themselves, there is store for every style and interest including many vintage item shops.
Saint Alfred – 1531 N. Milwaukee
You'll be sure to find something fresh wear at St. Alfred. With its huge selection of street clothes and hundreds of shoes it's one of the most popular stores in Chicago.
Vintage Underground – 1834 W. North Ave
This place has vintage everything, from 1930s jewelry to old school photographs. You'll find that weird trinket you had no idea you've always needed.
The Boring Store – 1331 N. Milwaukee
Billed as a secret spy gadget warehouse, The Boring Store is anything but what the name suggests. Here you'll find random knick-knacks that would make James Bond green with envy. As a bonus all proceeds from The Boring Store go to non-profit organizations for kids.
One Strange Bird – 2124 W. Division
One Strange Bird is a place to buy art as well as produce and display it. It's a great place to pick up an awesome painting for the house or just sit back and enjoy what others have made. They also feature painting classes that are BYOB so the creativity can really flow out of people.
Market Outlook/Real Estate:
Wicker Park's architecture and location combined with its abundant amenities make it a hot location to buy, sell, and rent property. Many of the large mansions have now been converted into two and three flats. However, handfuls are still available as immaculate single-family homes. There has also been an influx of condominiums in the area mixing modern architecture with the vintage feel of Wicker Park. There is also a large amount of rental properties throughout the neighborhood. Below are stats for the area from various real estate websites as of August 2014.
According to @properties:
Average Sales Price: $454,088
Average Days on Market: 57
Number of Properties on the market: 621
Sales Price vs. List Price: 98%
According to Redfin.com
Median List Price: $415,000
Median Sales Price: $390,000
Average number of offers: 1.3