The Image of a Chicago Neighborhood in Memory


As far as Chicago neighborhoods go, Hollywood Park is no marquee name. Most Chicagoans have heard of Albany Park or Rogers Park, but to know of Hollywood Park–you had to live there.

It’s not among the 80-plus neighborhoods featured on the city’s official tourism website, Explore Chicago. On some maps of Chicago–for example, the Google map shown above–Hollywood Park is subsumed under the official city designation, North Park.


Frances, Rosalyn and Diane O'Cherony on North Central Park Ave., a street in the Hollywood Park neighborhood, 1963

What, I’ve wondered, does it take for an attractive neighborhood to get noticed?

A friend suggested I might find some answers in Kevin Lynch’s 1960 book, The Image of a City. Lynch asked residents of three cities–Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles–to describe specific parts of their towns. He found all three cities had areas people couldn’t get a handle on.

They couldn’t say exactly where these sections were located. Or, they always got lost around there. Or, they avoided those parts of town.

A confusing street layout, a lack of distinguishing features, abandoned buildings or empty lots, and natural or manmade boundaries were among the reasons Lynch found people lacked an image of certain sections of their cities.

What did we see in our neighborhood?

Lynch’s findings have been used in urban planning but I thought his methods might shed light on what made my childhood neighborhood more or less distinctive and memorable. I was able to adapt Lynch’s interview questions for several reasons. First, from the fifties through the seventies Hollywood Park was, as I’ve written previously, like a separate entity within the city. And while the demographics have changed, the physical attributes of the neighborhood are much as they were forty years ago. Lastly, I had access to former residents through a group on Facebook.

The survey questions

  1. What were the boundaries of Hollywood Park?
  2. What were the landmarks of Hollywood Park?
  3. What would you say was the most pleasant part of the neighborhood?
  4. What was the least attractive part of the neighborhood?
  5. What words would you use to describe Hollywood Park?

Ten people responded. Their current ages range from about 45 to 60. They all spent at least some of their elementary school years, and the majority spent more than 10 years,  living in Hollywood Park.

Starting September 7, every day or so I’ll post the responses I received to one of the questions.

If you were or are a Hollywood Park resident, you can still participate. Send me your responses to the five questions via the Contact form. I’ll include your responses in the upcoming posts, though I won’t mention any participants by name.

In the meantime, what makes some neighborhoods more memorable than others?

Related: A list of the incredible number of storefront businesses that once served the Hollywood Park neighborhood.

For some striking images of Hollywood Park, check out Picturing Chicago, an online database of more than 10,000 black-and-white photographs of Chicago neighborhoods taken from 2000 to 2007.

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4 Responses to The Image of a Chicago Neighborhood in Memory

  1. zoe zolbrod September 20, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    I found this post through SheWrites, and I’m so glad I did. I’m a Chicago writer myself, in love with neighborhoods, and I’d never heard the name Hollywood Park, even though I see I’ve been there. I love the old photos.

  2. Frances Archer September 20, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    Thank you for visiting. Yes, that’s my point: no one seems to know about Hollywood Park, so I’m doing my part.
    I’m so glad to have discovered your blog now as well.

  3. Debbie Katz September 6, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

    I lived on Olive St. in Hollywood Park from the age of 2 -10, 1953 – 1961. I remember every inch of my very small world. We played in the street every day we could, steal the bacon, running bases, spud, and other games. I went to Peterson School and have sweet memories of those days and of my friends on the block and at school.

    I moved in 1961 — only about 1-1/2 miles north to Lincolnwood, 2 blocks north of Devon Ave. Not far, but very far …. Entering 6th grade, I never had a ‘street’ life in Lincolnwood. The day I moved from Hollywood Park was the day my childhood neighborhood play ended.

  4. Frances Archer September 12, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    Hi, Debbie, thanks for stopping by. There have been other visitors here from Olive Street, same years. We were lucky to have our neighborhood. You must have been one of the early residents in Lincolnwood.

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