One of Chicago’s oldest neighborhoods, Jefferson Park, named for Thomas Jefferson, is sought out for its affordability on the Northwest side. Low crime rates and proximity to transportation and schools, Jeff Park, as it is known to locals, makes for a comfortable alternative to the suburbs.
This “Gateway to Chicago”, a hub for trains and buses located at the I-90/94 split, is a great option for commuters. The neighborhood is bounded by Cicero Avenue on the east, Narragansett and Austin Avenues to the west, Forest Glen Woods to the north and Montrose Avenue to the south. Jefferson Park is home to many of Chicago’s city workers (Police, Fire, Teachers) and a good portion of Chicago’s sizable Polish-American community.
Though you can find Chicago bungalows, Cape Cods and a few Georgians in the mix, Jefferson Park is the place to look if your taste runs to mid-century, ranch-style homes that offer spacious layouts on one-floor living. Lots are typically small but well-manicured lawns and seasonal flower beds are fixtures in the neighborhood.
Housing prices have come down to a manageable level for many middle-class buyers and a 3-bedroom home can be found for under $300,000. Single-family homes typically top-out in the mid $500s. Many low and mid-rise condo buildings offer 2-bed, 2-bath units in the low to mid $200s.
Shopping, Dining, Nightlife
One of the most notable buildings in Jefferson Park is the Copernicus Foundation, once a Beaux-Arts movie house, now beautifully re-imagined as a cultural and performing arts center that caters mostly to the Polish community. The Gift Theater, a storefront Equity house, is finding Jefferson Park to be a very supportive home. Shopping is not glamorous along Milwaukee Avenue but there are a good number of nice flower shops, bakeries and clothing boutiques that reflect its Eastern European influence. The American Science & Surplus store is bursting at the seams with beakers, Bunsen burners and science-fair staples. Rib lovers from all over Chicago have long flocked to the Gale Street Inn, a mainstay on the scene. Grab a pint at Galvin’s Public House or shoot a game at Chris’s Billiards, where scenes from The Color of Money with Tom Cruise and Paul Newman were filmed.
Public Amenities, Services, Civic Organizations
Jefferson Park takes its name from the park itself, which features playing fields, a kids’ spray pool, public pool and a fieldhouse, and offers adult and youth music and art classes. The fieldhouse is also home to the all-volunteer, Citywide Orchestra. A branch of the Chicago Public Library is located at 5363 Lawrence Avenue.
A number of summer festivals, including Jeff Fest and Taste of Polonia, a Polish food and cultural festival, bring in the crowds. Though not a “destination” neighborhood, Jefferson Parkofficials are working to revitalize the retail zones while maintaining the character of the area. There are a good number of churches in this family-oriented community. Bordering golf courses and wooded parks make for a unique urban-suburban mix.
Easy access to downtown, O’Hare, and the north and western suburbs makes Jefferson Park an ideal location for getting around. The Metra and CTA Blue Line trains share a station. The Blue Line travels straight into O’Hare International Airport. CTA bus lines criss-cross the neighborhood. Milwaukee Avenue is one of Chicago’s diagonally laid-out streets that angle into the city center, allowing travelers to move in two directions at once. The Edens Kennedy junction enables drivers to hop right on to either highway, avoiding some of the congestion which plagues many commuters.
Jefferson Park has a wide variety of good public options and many private schools to choose from for all ages. Beaubien and Farnsworth Elementary Schools serve the neighborhood and test well above the Chicago average. High Schools include Shurz and Taft, though some kids head over to Lane Tech at Western and Addison. St. Constance, St. Cornelius, Notre Dame Schools for Boys and Girls and St. Patrick’s School for Boys are just some of the area parochial schools.