L. Frank Baum wrote "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" while living in Chicago at 1667 N. Humboldt Boulevard near Humboldt Park.
Humboldt Park derives its name from a 207-acre park named for Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), a German naturalist whose only visit to the United States did not include Chicago. Most of the neighborhood was annexed into the city in 1869, the year the park was laid out, but settlement was slow to develop. The creation of Humboldt and several other west side parks provided beauty, and the fact that this area stood just beyond the city's fire code jurisdiction as set out after the 1871 fire made inexpensively built housing possible. Still, the neighborhood did not fully develop until the Armitage Avenue streetcar line came to it after the turn of the century. The present neighborhood of Humboldt Park is bounded by Armitage (2000 N) on the north, Chicago (800 N) on the south, Western (2400 W) on the east, and Pulaski (4000 W) on the west.
By the annexation of Jefferson Township in 1889, all of Humboldt Park came into the city limits. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, Germans and Scandinavians continued to settle in the area. By 1920, the neighborhood held some 65,00 people, of which twenty-eight percent were foreign-born, chiefly German and Norwegian. In the next decade, an ethnicity shift began, as large numbers of Italians moved in from neighborhoods to the east; other ethnic groups of considerable numbers were Poles and Russian Jews. The 1930 population of 80,000 became Humboldt Park's highest. Since then, population has been in decline. By 1960, Italians dominated the ethnic mix, and small communities of Blacks and Hispanics were developing. In 1960, Humboldt Park was ninety-nine percent white; in 1980 the population stood roughly at forty percent Hispanic, thirty percent Black, and thirty percent white.
The 1970s saw troubled times for Humboldt Park. In 1978, an average of three fires daily were determined to be result of arson. The neighborhood today is economically depressed, with housing median values about sixty percent of the city-wide average. Overcrowding remains a serious problem. Throughout its history, Humboldt Park has remained a neighborhood of persons "passing through," being an area in which to live while accumulating capital in order to move on.
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