About the Chamber

Mission

Founded in 1939, the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce is organized to advance the business, civic, and social interests of its members and to enhance the welfare of the entire Jefferson Park community.

Neighborhood History

historic downtown

In 1830, Elijah Wentworth Sr. was the proprietor of a tavern located on the west side of the Chicago River a little north of Wolf Point near present-day Kinzie Street. Less than a quarter of a mile away was an Indian trail that led Northwest.  This trail eventually became Milwaukee Avenue.

 Elijah traveled this trail eight miles northwest of Chicago, to a place called Sand Ridge, just south of the Northern Indian Boundary Line, to build his new tavern. This was a perfect spot for an inn, located near the junction of three well-traveled Indian Trails (Milwaukee, Higgins and Northwest Highway).  This large 2-story log tavern, "The Wentworth Tavern" and later called "The Jefferson Hotel," was located on the land now occupied by the Jefferson Park Bus Terminal.  Elijah Wentworth became the first resident and business owner in what is now the Jefferson Park neighborhood.

With the exception of a short stay at Fort Dearborn during the Black Hawk War, Elijah Wentworth continued to operate his inn until he sold the property, tavern and farm, to David L. Roberts in the early 1850's.  Before he left, others came to join him in the business district.

 Early settlers first wanted the township to be named for President James Monroe. However, they soon learned that another community in Illinois was known as Monroe, so they decided to honor President Thomas Jefferson instead.  The State formed Jefferson Township in 1850 and by 1855, the village had 50 buildings.  The Town of Jefferson was officially incorporated in 1872.

 During the 1860's, the population of the Town of Jefferson grew to about 800 persons and nearly all the trades and professions were represented. The area had two taverns, two dry goods stores, a drug store, markets and other businesses.  The first township high school was established in 1870 in the Town Hall at Irving Park and Milwaukee.  Eventually, a more permanent 3-story structure was erected in 1883 and called "Jefferson High School."  (The Irish Heritage Center on Wilson and Knox stands at this site today).

 Around this time, Jefferson Park started to become known as the "Gateway to Chicago" or the "Garden Gateway" because of the truck farms throughout the area. Farmers would truck their produce to Jefferson Park to sell to the residents.  They would also truck products to Chicago by way of Milwaukee Ave. The trucks would come in on Higgins or Northwest Highway, both dead-ending in Jefferson Park. This ideal location made for a successful business district with a large community to support this commerce.


Read more about the history of Jefferson Park

Today

Jefferson Park has grown to a population of almost 44,000 residents within a one-mile radius of the Milwaukee/Lawrence intersection. Today, this community is the home of one of the largest first and second-generation Polish community in Chicago.More than 25% of the neighborhood has first or second generation ties to Poland.In 1979, the Copernicus Foundation established Chicago's very own Polish Cultural Center in the heart of Jefferson Park.The Foundation broke ground on what was once the Gateway Theater on Lawrence Avenue, which had originally been designed to show the first "talkies" in Chicago.The building and all of its programs are referred to as "The Copernicus Center," and the theater seats 2000.In 1985, "Solidarity Tower," with its matching facade, was erected atop the building. The exterior of the building was modified to resemble the historic Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland. The tower is an exact replica of the clock tower adorning the castle - it can be seen from the Kennedy Expressway.





 

2015-16 Officers & Board of Directors

Officers

President, Brian Nadig
Chairman, Lionel Rabb
Vice President, Judy Skotzko
Treasurer, Dr. Cesar Lau


Directors

Larry Fisher
Jeff Merritt
Eva Skowronski
Frank Suerth
Ted Szabo
Robin Taterka

Honorary Members
45th Ward Alderman John Arena
38th Ward Alderman Nicholas Sposato