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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

Learn About Portage Park’s History At This Weekend’s Neighborhood Tour For Locals

The tour is the last one for the year organized by Chicago for Chicagoans, a tour company that began in 2016.

The Portage Park Theater on March 25, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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PORTAGE PARK — Residents can learn more about Portage Park history at a walking tour this weekend.

Portage Park residents Giovina Romandine and Lance Baker will lead people on a two-and-a-half-hour walking tour 11 a.m. Sunday through the area. They’ll highlight neighborhood history, architecture, longstanding local businesses and recent developments.

The tour will start at City News Café, 4018 N. Cicero Ave., at Six Corners and then wind past the Portage Park Theater, parks, longtime local businesses and early 20th century bungalows. It will end at the Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park Road.

Attendees can join the organizers for a visit to the all-you-can-eat Polish buffet Jolly Inn, 6501 W. Irving Park Road in Dunning, after the tour is over, the tour guides said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Jolly Inn, 6501 W Irving Park Road, in Dunning on Oct. 12, 2022.

Attendees will learn more about the community’s immigrant roots and hear from small business owners who have seen decades of changes in the area.

Romandine, who has lived in the neighborhood for 37 years and runs a Meetup group called 1001 Things to See in Chicago Before You Die, hopes the tour will put Portage Park on the map for Chicagoans who aren’t familiar with the area — and teach history to those who are Far Northwest Siders.

“I want to show that Portage is affordable, quiet … [although] the hipsters are coming — we are getting a lot of young families moving into the neighborhood,” Romandine said with a laugh. “Portage Park gets overlooked …. but there is so much happening at Six Corners [and] new restaurants.”

Attendees can expect a game to be played while on the 3-mile walking tour: guessing how much bungalows are selling for, Romandine said. Earlier this month, she got a small group together to test the tour, and people were shocked by the affordability of the Portage Park homes, she said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Portage Park bungalow homes on March 1, 2022.

Romandine is working with Chicago for Chicagoans, a volunteer-run nonprofit touring business that creates inclusive walking tours by and for Chicago residents. The endeavor began six years ago by Patti Swanson, the company’s executive director, who encourages locals to be familiar with their blocks and learn from passionate residents.

Swanson loves getting “people with important lived experiences in the community to give the tour,” such as Romandine, a longtime Portage Park resident with knowledge about the area, Swanson said.

Swanson begged Romandine to show off her neighborhood in a tour, she said. It’s been in the works since before the pandemic but is finally a reality, Swanson said.

All of the company’s tours are free, but a pay-what-you-can suggested donation is requested. Money helps pay the tour guides as well as manage the nonprofit’s expenses, Swanson said. The group offers tours led by residents and historians in almost 30 Chicago neighborhoods.

People can register online for the Portage Park tour and volunteer and donate to Chicago for Chicagoans at its website.

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