I wanted to call this blogpost Peterson Park, but not everyone in Chicago uses that name for the neighborhood north of Peterson, south of Lincoln/Devon, between Kimball and Pulaski. Some say Peterson Park ends at the North Channel east of Kedzie. Others say West Ridge runs west all the way to Pulaski. (What???)
As I discussed in an earlier post, boundaries are tricky for anyone writing about Chicago’s neighborhoods. There’s no correct answer; we must allow cool heads, common sense, and personal experience to prevail.
Dennis Briskin grew up at 6025 N. Bernard, which either is or is not in Peterson Park, but it’s what Dennis called his neighborhood. His family moved into the home in March 1947, when the neighborhood still was under development. Between 1938 and 1951, Peterson Park went from an undeveloped area with a few houses to a neighborhood with a few empty lots. (You can see the empty lots in historic aerial photographs. If you click on the link, select “All roads” as an overlay option to locate Bernard.)
Here’s what Dennis recalls:
We lived in Peterson Park and played line ball on Bernard, always hitting toward Peterson. We also played the stair games with the pink Spalding ball. Hit right it went far. Sometimes a ball went onto the roof of Crane’s Pharmacy on the northeast corner of Bernard and Peterson.
My first job after I got my driver’s license (1961) was delivery boy/clerk at Crane’s, just like my two brothers before me and lots of other boys of that time. I had to learn to drive a stick shift, because the delivery car was a red Ford Fairlane with three speeds on the column.
Crane’s Pharmacy on the northeast corner of Peterson and Bernard was still going strong in my childhood during the sixties.
Sometimes north of Peterson came from south of Peterson
Like so many others I’ve interviewed from this area, Dennis’s family had family ties in the older, mostly Jewish neighborhoods to the south, Hollywood Park and Albany Park. His Briskin grandparents lived in a three-flat they owned at 5541 N. Christiana, right across from Peterson Elementary School. Dennis celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in the heart of Hollywood Park, at Congregation Shaare Tikvah. His father’s parents (Max and Anna Briskin) were among the founders of the synagogue back in the mid-forties when it opened its doors in a Bryn Mawr Avenue storefont. One year in the early fifties, Dennis’s grandfather served as the synagogue’s president. Dennis’s grandparents on his mother’s side lived in Albany Park.
When Dennis’ family moved into Peterson Park, there was no Solomon Elementary School. Kids living north of Peterson went to Peterson Elementary School and the school boundaries shifted around for more than a decade. In grades 1-5, Dennis shuttled back and forth from Peterson to Solomon, finally staying at Solomon from grade 5 on, which would have been about 1955-56. He graduated from grade 8 at Solomon in June 1959. The boundaries shifted again sometime in the early to mid-sixties, when kids who lived north of Peterson but east of Kimball were taken out of Solomon’s boundaries and put back into Peterson’s.
During my years of grade school and high school the school boundaries were never changed. In my mind, the neighborhoods were distinct and the boundary was carved in stone. The distance between Hollywood Park and Peterson Park isn’t just the width of Peterson Avenue. Bungalows like the ones in these photos of Dennis’s brother, Larry, on Christiana, aren’t to be found north of Peterson.
Certain houses south of Peterson wouldn’t look out of place north of Peterson, but taken as a whole the neighborhoods, at least to me, look and feel different. As a child I noticed but couldn’t have explained the difference.
Where Hollywood Park seems to have a foot in both the urban and suburban worlds, depending on which block you’re passing, Peterson Park is pure suburb. How can you tell? Attached garages are far more common in Peterson Park than in Hollywood Park, as are two-car garages.
I’m not saying all the houses south of Peterson are bungalows. There are some spectacular, large houses in Hollywood Park, especially on the corners of the east-west streets. As a general trend, however, the housing stock transitions from two-flats, courtyard buildings and bungalows to larger single-family homes as you head north into areas developed post-World War II.
Thanks to Dennis Briskin for sharing his family photos. And check out my followup, Just South of Peterson.