POLISH TRIANGLE — An alderman and a community organizer want to rename the Division Street Blue Line station to honor the area’s history as the one-time center of Polish life in Chicago and beyond.
A proposal from Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) would rename the station “Division/Polish Triangle,” which would appear on signs outside the station and on CTA maps across the city. The ordinance will be introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
The Division Street station sits directly underneath the actual Polish Triangle, a public square bordered by Division Street and Milwaukee and Ashland avenues.
The surrounding area in Wicker Park and West Town was once home to hundreds of Polish-American businesses and organizations, making up the center of Polish life “not just for Chicago, but Polish North America, arguably,” said Daniel Pogorzelski, who is spearheading the initiative.
“It was literally just off of the Polish Triangle where the Polish National Alliance was, where civic leaders, Americans, Poles and other people met that were concerned about having an independent Poland be part of the world order after the end of World War I, or trying to to assist the war effort in Poland during World War II after the Germans and the Soviets invaded. All those decisions happened right there at the triangle,” he said.
Pogorzelski, who works with the Polish Triangle Association and a number of other community organizations, said residents previously tried to rename the CTA station in 2012. Local officials said at the time it would be too expensive to update every transit map across the city, he said.
But as the CTA works to open a new Green Line station on Damen Avenue near the United Center, Pogorzelski saw an opportunity to again honor Polish history in the neighborhood in a way that would be visible to residents and tourists all over Chicago.
“It kind of dawned on us with the Green Line station, they’re going be changing them all anyway,” he said.
Pogorzelski was also part of a push this year to establish a Polish Heritage Corridor along most of Milwaukee Avenue through the city’s Northwest Side. Local Polish-American leaders said the corridor would be a tool to attract tourists to Chicago and to Polish businesses and cultural sites.
A bill creating the corridor passed the Illinois General Assembly in March, but has not yet been signed by Gov. JB Pritzker.