Like so many neighborhoods on the northwest side of Chicago, Portage Park’s legacy dates back to the time of the Native Americans. In this case, a trail through present-day Portage Park was where tribes would carry their canoes across land from one waterway to another – a portage from the Des Plaines River to the Chicago River. This well-traversed territory would be the groundwork for a future community bound by Montrose Avenue to the north, Roscoe Street to the south, Narragansett Avenue to the west and Cicero Avenue to the east. Fast forward many, many years and that marshy land-bridge of the early 1800s developed into a lovely neighborhood with scenic parks, beautiful homes and a thriving business district (situated at the Six Corners outdoor shopping center where Irving Park Road, Cicero Avenue and Milwaukee Avenue meet).
Good schools and reasonably priced real estate make this northwest side Chicago neighborhood an appealing place to settle down and raise a family. Much of the residential housing in Portage Park is one- and two-story private homes with nice-size front yards. There is a wide selection of frame houses, many with front porches (great for chatting with neighbors), and several Portage Park streets are lined with historic brick bungalows. Home buyers will also come across the occasional Victorian, Georgian and English Tudor, which adds a bit of variety to Portage Park’s residential blocks. Newer condominiums and townhomes, rehabbed flats, and older multiunit buildings round out the housing market here.
Portage Park is a great neighborhood for people who enjoy the outdoors and want lots of open space near home. The community’s namesake park offers over 36 acres of grounds, loaded with nature paths for walking and biking, two separatefootball/soccer fields and five baseball diamonds. The park still has its original 1922 prairie-style fieldhouse, which has been transformed into an art center. Working parents need not worry about what to do with the kids after the final school bell rings because young Portage Parkers can participate in the after-school programs offered at the neighborhood park. From music to sports, there is something to entertain anyone’s interests. Budding gymnasts can even practice their back flips in the fieldhouse gymnasium or, if your son or daughter is a natural swimmer, Portage Park has an Olympic-size swimming pool to do some laps or splash around for fun. The pool was used in 1972 to host the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.
Though Portage Park is a diverse community with inhabitants from all walks of life, the neighborhood is home to the largest number of Polish residents in all of metropolitan Chicago and includes the headquarters for the Polish American Association, the Polish Jesuit Millennium Center, and the Polish Army Veterans Association.