With community roots extending back into the 19th century, Andersonville began when immigrant Swedish farmers started moving northward into what was originally a distant Chicago suburb. During the 1850's, the area north of Foster and east of Clark was a cherry orchard, and families had just begun moving into the outskirts of the city. The first school, Andersonville School, was constructed in 1854, at the corner of the two thoroughfares, and it served as the primary school in the community until 1908.
After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, wooden homes and buildings were outlawed in Chicago. The Swedish immigrants who could not afford to construct homes of stone or brick were forced to move to the city's north limits. The immigrants continued to arrive in Andersonville throughout the beginning of the 20th century, and settled into the newly constructed homes around Clark Street. Most of the community was dominated by Swedish businesses, from the delicatessens to hardware stores, shoe stores and blacksmiths and bakeries. Local churches such as Ebenezer Luther Church and St. Gregory's Roman Catholic Church were also built entirely by Swedish immigrants and reflected the religion of the new arrivals.
Like many other European-American ethnic groups, the Swedish immigrants began to move to the suburbs during the Great Depression and post-war period, and the neighborhood began to experience decline. With growing concern about the deterioration of commercial situations, the Uptown Clark Street Business Association renewed its commitment to Swedish heritage by renaming itself as the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce. Andersonville was rededicated on October 17th, 1964, with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Illinois Governor Otto Kerner attending the ceremony. Around the same time, the annual Swedish summer celebration morphed into "Midsommarfest,'' which has since become one of Chicago's most popular street festivities.
During the late 1980's, the Andersonville neighborhood began to experience a period of revival as professionals rediscovered lovely homes and the close proximity to downtown Chicago made it all the more appealing. New stores, gift shops and restaurants opened and Clark Street had a new commercial vitality and diversity.
Today, Andersonville contains the largest concentrated areas of Swedish culture in America and is home to a diverse community of residents and businesses. Andersonville is considered to be one of the "hottest'' neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois and enjoys nationwide fame for its unique commercial district. The locally owned businesses are a crucial part of the vitality and life of the neighborhood, and provide untold economical benefits to the community.
Communities all over the America now seek to emulate Andersonville as a model of a thriving and multicultural urban neighborhood. With its rich mixture of ethnicities and history, Andersonville has only grown in popularity over the years and continues to maintain its commitment to preserving its Swedish history and diverse community.
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