Transportation has always been a key factor in the development of Jefferson Park, one of Chicago’s official community areas. From its initial location along two plank roads, (present-day Milwaukee and Elston), to the addition of commuter rail and streetcars, to the later construction of the Kennedy Expressway and rapid transit, Jefferson Park has always been a nexus of transportation modes. Its initial location was an ideal stopping point for farmers on their way into the city, as Jefferson Park was the first significant settlement on the northwest edge of the dense metropolis. Named after Jefferson Township, which was in turn named after President Thomas Jefferson, the area has always been and continues to be a diverse Chicago community.
With the coming of new modes of transportation came the construction of housing. A commuter rail depot constructed in the 19th Century spurred the development of large suburban-style houses, some of which still remain today. Later, the arrival of Chicago’ s once-massive streetcar system by 1900 spurred the densification of the area, with bungalows and two-flats constructed in large numbers. Many diverse ethnic groups began to move into the area from the crowded center of the city, seeking the ideal of home ownership.
The area continued to grow and densify as the Kennedy Expressway and O’Hare Airport spurred the development of the northwest reaches of Chicago. Now a mature neighborhood, the center of Jefferson Park features its namesake park and a unique shopping district surrounding the intersection of Milwaukee and Lawrence. The Copernicus Center, a major Polish cultural institution, reflects the diverse ethnic heritage of the area. Served by Metra and CTA trains as well as numerous bus routes and the Kennedy Expressway, the area continues to entice new residents with a multitude of transportation options.