The West Side often gets a bad rap — known for the 1968 King riots, the traffic jams on the Eisenhower Expressway and pockets of high crime. But it's also an area with rich history, warm neighborhoods and fascinating people:
1 When a fire broke out in the O'Leary family's barn near DeKoven and Jefferson streets southwest of downtown in 1871, it spread east and north, jumping the Chicago River twice, killing at least 300 people and leveling 18,000 buildings. But the blaze spared a building within a few feet of where it started — the O'Learys' home.
2 The quiet Galewood neighborhood hugs the city's western border north of Oak Park. A famous current resident? Gov. Pat Quinn. A famous former resident? Hugh Hefner.
3 The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series (in 1908), their home was the West Side Grounds, where the Illinois Medical District is now located. Some people trace the phrase "out of left field" to a mental hospital located beyond the ballpark's left-field wall.
4 White flight was so pronounced in North Lawndale that the black population soared to 91 percent from 13 percent in the 1950s.
5 Are you from Jackowo or Waclawowo? Those are Polish-American names for sections of the Logan Square and Avondale neighborhoods on the Northwest Side. Jackowo is the area around St. Hyacinth Basilica, while Waclawowo is the area around St. Wenceslaus.
6 The Second City has a Fifth City. That's the name for a section of East Garfield Park.
7 What is now the Logan Square neighborhood used to be an area separate from the city called Jefferson. The Bucktown area was at one time called Holstein; it reportedly got the name Bucktown from the large number of goats kept there.
8 The 1963 murder of a West Side alderman has never been solved. Benjamin Lewis, 24th, a black politician whose relationship with the Democratic power structure was tenuous, was in his office at 3604 W. Roosevelt Road when gunmen burst in, handcuffed him in a chair and shot him in the head. A burned-down cigarette was resting between his fingers when the police found him.
9 Pilsen got its name in the late 1800s from a Bohemian restaurant there called At the City of Plzen, referring to a city now in the Czech Republic. Acclaimed writer Stuart Dybek, the son of a Polish immigrant, grew up in Pilsen. But now the neighborhood is overwhelmingly Mexican, the home of beautiful murals, vibrant restaurants and the National Museum of Mexican Art.
10 After the Civil War, entrepreneur Andrew Dunning tried to start a village east of what is now O'Hare International Airport. But his land was next to a poor farm and an insane asylum, putting off prospective settlers. Patients were taken to the county facilities aboard the insensitively dubbed "crazy train." Because the train station was named for Dunning, the facilities themselves became known by that name, and parents used to warn their unruly children that they might be "going to Dunning." Today, Dunning is a perfectly nice neighborhood that includes Chicago-Read Mental Health Center.
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the Tribune's weekend editor.
Sources: "Challenging Chicago" by Perry Duis; "Block by Block: Neighborhoods and Public Policy on Chicago's West Side" by Amanda J. Seligman; "The Great Chicago Fire" by Robert Cromie; "Encyclopedia of Chicago"; James L. Merriner in Illinois Issues; Richard C. Lindberg in Illinois Police and Sheriff's News; sthyacinthbasilica.org; Northwest Chicago Historical Society; chicagohistory.org; and Tribune archives.Copyright © 2015, CT Now