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Northcenter's History


Northcenter's long and varied history makes our community one of the most interesting within the city of Chicago. Read the facts below to learn a little more about our area.

Intersection of Lincoln, Damen, and Irving Park ca.1910 (Sulzer Regional Library, Historical Room, C
 Intersection of Lincoln, Damen, and Irving Park ca.1910 (Sulzer Regional Library, Historical Room, Chicago Public Library)


Chicago's Northcenter community is seven miles northwest of the downtown Loop. This convenient location is practically in the center of the North side of the city.

In the mid-19th century, the area was sparsely settled and largely given over to prairie and farmland.

Most of the early residents were German, Swedish, Irish, and English.
Many of these immigrants settled and built small truck farming communities. The farms were situated along the tracks of what is now the Chicago and North Western Railroad-along Ravenswood Ave. This made it easy to transport crops to other areas. Northcenter was part of the greatest celery-growing region in America. Truck farming was the economic mainstay up until the 1890’s.

Greenhouse technology was first developed in Northcenter.
After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 fire, many displaced Chicagoans moved into the Northcenter area. There was a massive post fire rebuilding effort with a demand for non-wood housing. Nearby riverbanks yielded suitable clay, and soon clay pits and brickyards dotted the North Branch.

The area was nationally know as the center of the brick making industry and earned the nickname “Bricktown”.
During the 1900’s, the old clay pits in the southern half of the community began to close down, due to opposition to their noxious odor. This was also the time when light-manufacturing firms began to proliferate on Ravenswood Ave. from Montrose to Diversey.

In 1934, Lane Technical High School was built over the clay pits.
Lane Tech High School was originally an all boys vocational school, but became co-ed in 1971. It is now called Lane Tech College Prep High School, and is considered one of the top high schools in the city.

The Northcenter neighborhood once housed a famous movie studio.
From 1896-1918, the Selig Polyscope Company, owned by Col William N. Selig, operated a silent movie film studio and distribution company out of the building at 3900 N. Claremont (at Byron). The film company produced hundreds of early, widely distributed commercial moving pictures, including slapstick comedies, early travelogues, and industrial films. Two of the stars were Tom Mix and Fatty Arbuckle. The Selig trademark "Diamond S" is still over the doorway of the present day loft conversion.

Northcenter is fondly remembered among Chicagoans for the Riverview amusement park that opened in 1904 at Belmont and Western Ave. near the river.
Riverview Amusement Park was called the Coney Island of Chicago. It closed in 1967 and in its place was built the Area 6 Police Station and Riverview Shopping Plaza. 

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