A history of Polish culture in Chitown
Created by maddiecakes on Jan 15, 2011
Last updated: 01/20/11 at 02:30 PM
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In 1990, 65 percent of all Polish-Americans living in the Chicago area lived in the suburbs.
By 1980, many of the Polish-Americans in the older inner-city neighborhoods had been replaced by Hispanics and African Americans. Many Polish Catholic parishes begin offering mass in Polish and Spanish, as well as in English. Polish Chicagoans left old neighborhoods, including parts of the city's southside, for newer settlements such as Fair Elms on the east side.
The Copernicus Cultural began holding the annual Taste of Polonia festival every Labor Day weekend in the Jefferson Park area. It is the Copernicus Foundation's major fundraiser and a four-day celebration of Polish cultural heritage, traditions, and customs. It draws crowds well over 30,000 each year.
The Polish Museum of America was founded in West Town, making it one of the oldest ethnic museums in the United States.
Polish immigrants and their children replace Germans as the city's largest ethnic group.
This photo from the Chicago Historical Society shows a crowd gathering around the Kosciuszko monument in Humboldt Park after a Polish Consitution Day parade.
The Chicago Society of the Polish National Alliance was founded as a progressive social organization of Polish American professionals, business people and civic leaders. Many organizations can trace their origins to the Chicago Society, including the Polish American Association and the Polish Women's Civic Club.
The Chicago Society has served to found and support many other worthy organizations serving the community today. Among the organizations which can trace their origins to the Chicago Society are the Polish American Association (formerly the Polish Welfare Association) and the Polish Women's Civic Club (originally the Society's Women's Auxiliary).
By 1900, 23 Polish Catholic parishes were located throughout the city and its industrial suburbs.
The PWAA was founded in 1898 as a fraternal benefit society for Polish women in Chicago. In its early years, the PWAA began recognizing prominent Polish women as honorary members, was granted the right to sell life insurance, began the publication of their newspaper, Glos Polek (the Polish Women's Voice), and put on cultural programs at the local level.
Peter Kiolbassa is the first Polish elected official in Chicago, serving in the state legislature from 1877-79 and then as city treasurer from 1891–1893.
Another Polish district grows just west of 18th Street and Ashland Avenue, followed soon soon after by Polish settlements in Bridgeport, McKinley Park, Back of the Yards, South Chicago, Pullman, and Hegewisch. These neighborhoods revolved around a heavy industrial base, which was drawing Poles to the city.
Władysław Dyniewicz publishes the first Polish newspaper in Chicago, Gazeta Polska (Polish Gazette.) John Barzynski, brother of the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, began publication of another Polish weekly, Gazeta Polska Katolicka (Polish Catholic Gazette) in 1874.
The St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, known in Polish as Kościół Świętego Stanisława Kostki, was the first Polish church in Chicago when it was built in Pulaski Park iThe original church building survived the Great Chicago Fire but was demolished to make way for the present church.
Anthony Smarzewski-Schermann, who emigrated to the U.S. around 1850 and earned his living as a carpenter, opens a grocery store on the corner of Noble and Bradley Streets and provides leadership for the young Polish community. He's largely credited for helping building the Polish Downtown area.
The first and largest wave of Polish immigration to Chicago begins, driven mainly by economic and structural change in Poland. This wave, which lasted until the 1920s, is often called "Za Chłebem," which is Polish for "For Bread," a reference to the fact that this first wave was primarily made-up of peasants.
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.
The first Polish emigrants to Chicago were noblemen who fled Poland after the Polish-Russian War of 1830–1831. They arrived with plans of starting a "New Poland" in the state. This group includes John Napieralski, who is believed to have been the first Pole in Chicago.