Mural depicting history of Jefferson Park being installed in pedestrian alley across from CTA terminal
by BRIAN NADIG
A large mural depicting many of the historic buildings in Jefferson Park and two of the area’s early settlers is being installed this week in the new decorative pedestrian alley across from the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal.
City Year Chicago, a division of Americorps, is developing and installing the mural in partnership with the Northwest Chicago Historical Society, which previously has partnered with City Year on its “Community Learning Day” events, said historical society president Susanna Ernst.
The pedestrian plaza, which was funded with tax increment financing funds, is located between Popeyes’s Chicken, 4866 N. Milwaukee Ave., and Weston’s Coffee & Tap, 4872 N. Milwaukee Ave. The mural will be on the south wall of the Weston’s building, facing the people space alley, which is closed to vehicular traffic.
The mural will include the following structures that still stand in the community: Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, Jefferson National/Hoyne Savings Bank, Our Lady of Victory Church, Jefferson Masonic Temple, Jefferson Park firehouse, Copernicus Center and Wilson Park fieldhouse.
Ernst said that the following “lost in time” buildings also will be depicted: 1,900-seat Gateway Theater (now inside the Copernicus Center), Jefferson Train Depot and Times Theater, which until the1980s was a dance hall and once hosted concerts, including performances by the band Buckinghams.
The following descriptions of the settlers depicted in the mural were provided by the Northwest Chicago Historical Society:
Elijah Wentworth – Familiarly known as "Old Geese," Elijah Wentworth came to Chicago in 1827 and subsequently ran the "Wolf Tavern" at the forks of the Chicago River. In 1830, he moved 8 miles northwest along a sand ridge in the middle of a prairie, to what is now Jefferson Park. He purchased over 320 acres of land and opened a popular tavern, "Wentworths,” which was located just southwest of where Milwaukee Avenue and Lawrence Avenue intersect today. He is considered the first permanent settler of Jefferson Park.
David L. Roberts – Entrepreneur and staunch abolitionist, David L. Roberts moved to the area in 1844. He purchased farmland and a tavern from Elijah Wentworth, and he went on to become the most important leader in the local community. In 1850, he co-founded Jefferson Township, choosing the name of the township and becoming the first town clerk. He served in multiple leadership roles in the township’s board for the remainder of his life. In 1855, he mapped and platted the village of Jefferson, which included a large town square (now known as Roberts’ Square, across from Beaubien School). In 1861, he co-founded the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, the oldest religious institution in the region. His family lived in the area for generations, mainly living in large homes along Milwaukee Avenue. He is considered the father of Jefferson Park.