Pilsen is located within Chicago’s Lower West Side community on the near south side of the city just minutes from the Loop. Pilsen was originally settled in the 1840s by German and Irish immigrants. In the 1950s and 1960s Mexican migrants began to settle there and have continued to be the predominate nationality in this nearly 25,000 household neighborhood, which now serves as a destination for many Hispanic immigrants.
Part of Pilsen’s charm is the many outdoor murals on buildings throughout the area; many of which were painted by resident artists. The lower housing costs and rents attract many of these artists who now call Pilsen home. Mexican culture is prevalent as residents proudly display their strong heritage throughout the community.
Public amenities, services and civic organizations
Pilsen is home to 3 parks including Harrison Park which received a state-of-the-art field house in 1993. Dvorak Park and Jefferson Playlot Park, newly renovated in 2009, are the other two parks in Pilsen.
The Pilsen Neighbors Community Council was established I954 and is active in establishing policies and practices in Pilsen by working close with community leaders and pastors from area churches such as St. Adalbert Church and St. Pius Church. Their major annual fundraiser is Fiesta del Sol which started off as a block party and has evolved into a national event complete with corporate sponsorships. The Festival now attracts nearly 1 million people during the 4-day event.
Keeping with the huge emphasis on art, The National Museum of Mexican Fine Arts calls Pilsen home. Its mission is to stimulate and preserve knowledge and appreciation of Mexican culture. With the help of corporate and private donations, admission to this museum is free.
More than half the dwellings in Pilsen are multi-family. Most of the properties in Pilsen are valued between $150,000 to $300,000 although some of the gems are priced well over a $1 million. Many homes have been restored to retain the original historic character that helps to define Pilsen, thanks in part to tax incentives.
Conveniently located near 2 major expressways, the Stevenson and the Dan Ryan, driving to and from Pilsen is fairly easy. The CTA runs buses on the major streets in Pilsen and publicly commuting to downtown usually takes less than 30 minutes. Metra’s BNSF Railway stops at 18th and Western Ave and runs from Downtown Chicago to Aurora.
Shopping, dining and nightlife
There are several independent retailers scattered throughout Pilsen including Libreria Giron, the largest Spanish language bookstore in Chicago boasting 4 locations in Pilsen.
Several restaurants and bars serve the area providing for a nice mix of day and nightlife activities. Since Pilsen is home to so many artists you are never at a loss when it comes to shopping for art. Aside from the many galleries in Pilsen, the Chicago Arts District hosts a monthly event called 2nd Fridays showcasing the talent of local artists.
There are around a dozen schools located in Pilsen including Benito Juarez Community Academy which is currently undergoing an extension renovation that will make this high school state of the art.