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History of Andersonville
Andersonville is a community created by Swedish immigrants in the 1850s. Throughout its history, locally-owned businesses have been a defining element of Andersonville’s success. From the early Swedes who launched businesses such as delis, hardware stores, shoe stores, bakeries, and realty companies, to the founders of the Swedish American Museum who, in 1976, realized their plans to open a museum 50 years in the making to the visionary owners of the independent bookstore, Women and Children First, Andersonville has been defined and shaped by an entrepreneurial and community-oriented spirit.
Andersonville’s retail district began as an enclave of small businesses when Swedes moved north to escape the neighborhoods that had been ravaged by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The residential community remained primarily Swedish for decades, until, like many established groups, the Swedes began migrating to the suburbs in the 1950s. In 1964, Andersonville’s small business owners banded together to organize a huge parade, led by Mayor Richard J. Daley, in a celebration to rededicate the neighborhood to its Swedish roots. In the mid-1980s, the neighborhood was experiencing disinvestment in the commercial district. The business owners again organized, with the help of locally-owned banks, and provided financing for new start-ups to revitalize the district, as well as community-wide marketing. The combined efforts drew key new local enterprises to Clark Street, and with them came renewed interest in Andersonville’s residential areas.
Today, in addition to being one of the most concentrated areas of Swedish culture in the United States, Andersonville is home to a diverse assortment of devoted residents and businesses, including one of Chicago's largest gay and lesbian communities, a large collection of Middle Eastern restaurants and bakeries, and a thriving Hispanic commercial area north of Catalpa Avenue. Its locally-owned independent businesses reflect Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Swedish, Japanese, and other heritages. In addition to being a multicultural community known for its locally-owned independent businesses, Andersonville is a community full of arts organizations and a dynamic civic life shaped by highly engaged block clubs and other neighborhood groups.
You will find a more detailed history of Andersonville at the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce website.