Ashland, Division and Milwaukee to Be Designated 'Polish Triangle'

By Ted Cox on December 5, 2013 11:01am | Updated on December 5, 2013 12:20pm

 The City Council is pushing to dub the intersection of Ashland, Division and Milwaukee avenues as the "Polish Triangle."
The City Council is pushing to dub the intersection of Ashland, Division and Milwaukee avenues as the "Polish Triangle."
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Flickr/vxla

CITY HALL — A City Council committee formally moved to declare the intersection of Ashland, Division and Milwaukee in Wicker Park the "Polish Triangle" Thursday.

The measure, sponsored by Aldermen Ray Suarez (31st), Bob Fioretti (2nd), Joe Moreno (1st) and Scott Waguespack (32nd), cites the rich Polish history in the immediate area where Ashland Avenue, Division Street and Milwaukee Avenue meet.

"This is well overdue," said Suarez, the Housing Committee chairman who shepherded it through.

"I pretty much always thought it was the Polish Triangle," Waguespack said. "I never thought we had to rename it."

Yet Waguespack, like the other sponsors, moved to make that designation official.

"It's just a name right now, but now it's going to be an official name," Suarez added after the hearing.

"It's dear to my heart," Fioretti said, adding that his mother was Polish. "It's a great cultural icon for us to remember."

Suarez added that he grew up in a Polish community nearby on Augusta near Humboldt Park.

During public comments on the proposal, Marta Almodovar, an administrative supervisor with the Circuit Court of Cook County, said she believes renaming the area would spur tourism from the resurgent Poland, which has thrived economically since the fall of the communist bloc in Europe. Suarez endorsed that.

Moreno suggested the Chicago Transit Authority rename its Blue Line stop at Division the "Polish Triangle," and Suarez said those efforts were already underway.

The CTA, however, gave a lukewarm response to actually renaming the station. "CTA has discussed this issue with Ald. Ray Suarez and is happy to assist him in pursing his constituents' goal of highlighting that area's importance in American and Polish history," said CTA spokesman Stephen Mayberry. "CTA has suggested a landmark sign at Division station, prominently designating it as the station for the 'Polonia Triangle.' The landmark sign would be highly visible to our customers and would be in keeping with standard CTA signage policy for such a designation."

 Marta Almodovar testified during public comment at the hearing that she believes renaming the area the "Polish Triangle" would spur tourism.
Marta Almodovar testified during public comment at the hearing that she believes renaming the area the "Polish Triangle" would spur tourism.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Mayberry emphasized that the station will be renovated as part of the $492 million "Your New Blue" plan unveiled Thursday, adding, "We will continue to work with the alderman as we plan changes at that station to see what other possibilities may exist to further highlight the proud Polish heritage of local residents."

The actual ordinance cites the extensive contribution of Polish immigrants to the city's development and culture, adding that the intersection was the center of the Polish community as "Chicago's Old Polish Downtown."

The meeting of the streets is not strictly a three-way intersection, in that Milwaukee crosses both Division and Ashland to create a triangular island where the Nelson Algren Fountain is located.

Much of Algren's Chicago-based work dealt with Poles in the area, which was even then referred to as the Polish or Polonia Triangle or even "Polish Broadway."

Yet Algren never shied from the gritty, and some Poles took offense to their depiction in his works, going back to his book "Never Come Morning." It was labeled Nazi propaganda by some and was banned by the Chicago Public Library, in part because of complaints by the Polish Daily Zgoda newspaper, which had offices in the immediate area. That controversy re-emerged in debate leading up to the fountain's dedication 15 years ago.

Suarez said renaming the area would have no effect on the Algren fountain.

The new proposal was altered at the last moment to rename the area the "Polish Triangle" instead of the "Polonia Triangle." It passed without opposition and now heads to the full council for approval on Wednesday.

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