Milwaukee Avenue

The stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between Chicago Avenue and North Avenue on the city’s Northwest Side has undergone repeated changes during the twentieth century. During the 1910s and 1920s, the area was home to a variety of first and second generation immigrants, including a prosperous enclave of wealthy German-Americans, many of whom owned businesses along Milwaukee Avenue. During the 1930s and 1940s, the corridor increasingly catered to the Northwest Side’s growing Polish-American population. Surrounded by densely populated working-class neighborhoods and linked to other parts of the city by streetcars and elevated trains, Milwaukee Avenue has always been a major commercial thoroughfare with dozens of shops, restaurants, theaters, pool halls, taverns, and other businesses. Many of the city’s earliest nickelodeons were located along the street and one of the city’s most historic retail chains, Wieboldt’s, began there. Locals casually referred to the area as “The Ave-nah.” Today, Milwaukee Avenue remains a vibrant and thriving commercial and entertainment district, its establishments now catering to a mix of older Polish-Americans, Latino families, and yuppie urbanites.

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