Profile: Irving Park
By Jeffrey Steel
Special to the Tribune

 Beautiful Horner Park and the Chicago River form the eastern boundry of the Irving Park neighborhood.

Talk to Chicagoans who live in Irving Park, and few are likely to refer to their home turf by that name. That's because this northwest side community is a patchwork quilt of smaller, more readily identifiable neighborhoods with names like West Walker, Independence Park, The Triangle, The Villa, Addison Mall, Horner Park West and Old Irving Park.

All have different traits, but share a number of common advantages, including a solid housing stock, neatly kept yards and excellent access to expressways and public transportation.

The crowning jewel of the community is Old Irving Park -- or, as most refer to it, simply "Old Irving" -- a neighborhood distinguished by grand old white frame houses that look as if they might have been lifted from the set of a Hollywood period piece.

Old Irving, which extends from Addison to Montrose, and from Pulaski to Kolmar, is also distinguished by larger lots than are found in most Chicago neighborhoods, according to Fred Galati, broker-owner of Galita Realtors at 3818 West Irving Park Road. While a standard Chicago lot measures 25 feet wide by 125 feet deep, Old Irving's sprawling lots frequently go 40-by-140 or even 50-by-150, Galati said.

In terms of home styles, "normally what you're looking at are a lot of 2-1/2-story frame houses from the 1890s to the 1920s," he said. "American four-squares are common, [with] a lot of open front porches and some gorgeous wraparound porches." Many have attics, and some homeowners have converted them into master bedrooms. Prices range from the low $300,000 range for houses needing major renovation all the way into the $800,000 strata.

Old Irving is likely to retain its distinctive character, thanks to a zoning modification early in 2001 that prevents developers from buying a larger property, tearing down the house and building two houses in its place, said 30th Ward alderman Mike Wojcik. "What neighbors were asking me to do was keep those large lots," he said. "That zoning is a really key factor."

Just as appealing, but in a different way, is The Villa. Bordered by Pulaski on the west, Addison on the south, Avers on the east and Avondale on the north, The Villa was built as a subdivision in the 1920s and is now a historic district, Galati said. Every intersection in the neighborhood features attractive stone pillars on the corners, and two of the north-south streets, Avers and Harding, boast grassy, tree-lined parkways extending the length of the neighborhood, a true departure from typical Chicago residential streets.

Chiefly brick, stucco, or a combination of the two, homes in The Villa offer a nice variety of styles. Many feature designs that bring to mind Chicago-style bungalows, but are up to 50 percent larger and more elaborate than standard bungalows. Yards also are generous in size, many of them 50 feet wide, Galati said. Prices range from $400,000 to $700,000.

West Walker, which includes a smaller neighborhood known as The Triangle, extends from Irving Park to Montrose, and from Pulaski to Monticello. Homes in pricier sections of West Walker tend to be Victorians or American four-squares, and command $300,000 to $600,000, while the easternmost areas offer more modest dwellings ranging from $225,000 to $300,000.

While not as impressive as Old Irving, neighboring Independence Park offers a wide array of housing styles, with Dutch colonials and American four-squares predominating, Galati said. Bordered by Monticello, the Kennedy Expressway, Irving Park and Pulaski, Independence Park is more affordable than Old Irving, with most homes priced in the $300,000 to $450,000 range.

Horner Park West, bordered by Sacramento, California, Irving Park and Montrose, features a mix of housing choices including classic bungalows, brick 2 flats, and new multi-story condos. The focal point of the neighborhood is the well-maintained, 55-acre Horner Park along California Avenue with its jogging paths, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and sledding hill. And just to the East lies a beautiful stretch of the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Addison Mall, bordered by Central Park, California, Irving Park and Addison, features many brick two-flats priced from $300,000 to $500,000, Galati said.

Because the Kennedy Expressway, CTA Blue Line and Metra's Union Pacific Northwest Line all cut swaths through the community, transportation has long been among Irving Park's most attractive features. But transportation convenience can also have its drawbacks.

"Because we have this great system of transportation, with the expressway and the 'L', we've had problems getting people to shop in the neighborhood," Wojcik said. I'm trying to encourage people to shop locally."

Irving Park got a retailing boost several years ago when the Marketplace at Six Corners opened on the community's western edge, offering a much-needed supermarket, as well as a bank, video store and other shops. The one problem is parking; the shopping center is so well patronized that available spots in the lot can be difficult to find on weekends and near holidays.

That shoppers seem to handle the limited parking with relative good cheer should come as no surprise, according to Wojcik. "Our biggest asset is we have friendly people," he said. "Everyone here is friendly."

More Information and history on Horner Park

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