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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Uptown Once Forced Black Residents To Live On 1 Block. A Community Garden Honoring That ‘Winthrop Family’ Is Now Open

The Winthrop Family Historical Garden honors Black residents who persevered despite racist segregation in the neighborhood.

A descendant of the Winthrop Avenue Family cuts the ribbon to rededicate the community garden in honor of her relatives.
Kayleigh Padar//Block Club Chicago
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UPTOWN — Residents and local officials gathered Saturday afternoon to rededicate the Winthrop Family Historical Garden to honor the Black residents who fought racist segregation to make Uptown their home.

The community area and garden at 4628 N. Winthrop Ave. was redesigned and renamed to recognize Black residents who were confined to the 4600 block of North Winthrop Avenue by property owners who refused to sell them homes anywhere else in Uptown. 

Credit: Kayleigh Padar//Block Club Chicago
Attendees listen to Ald. James Cappleman (46th) speak at the rededication of the Winthrop Family Historical Garden Oct. 15.

The Black families, who referred to each other as the “Winthrop Avenue Family,” formed a bond where “everyone knew everyone,” according to Dis/Placements, a UIC study of Uptown’s changes through the years.

A member of the Winthrop Avenue Family whose relatives lived on the lot where the garden is now said she hopes the area allows people to “appreciate the many close-knit families who lived on this block some 100 years ago.” 

Credit: Kayleigh Padar//Block Club Chicago
Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks at the rededication of the Winthrop Family Community Garden Oct. 15.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, speaking at the ceremony, said the garden “memorializes” the Winthrop Avenue Family and “represents a commitment to planting the seeds of a more equitable, just and inclusive Chicago.” 

“We have to remember to confront this history of forced segregation that has been instrumental in shaping and defining this neighborhood and so many across our city as well as invest today in resources that invite residents and visitors to learn about and engage in conversations about this important history,” Lightfoot said.

The rededication of the garden is part of the Department of Planning and Development’s Public Outdoor Plaza program, which aims to help community-based groups revitalize underused land, Lightfoot said. 

Credit: Kayleigh Padar//Block Club Chicago
Maurice Cox, the director of the Department of Planning and Development, speaks at the rededication of the Winthrop Family Historical Garden Oct. 15.

Maurice Cox, the director of the Department of Planning and Development, thanked the many people who’ve pushed for the garden’s renaming over the years.

“Public spaces tell a story, and this one tells an uncomfortable story,” Cox said. “I’m glad that our generation is the one that was willing to honor it and make it a collective story for everyone. You can tell this is a space of resistance.

“The Winthrop family taught us that you can still thrive and make connections and keep the stories of these communities and their resistance alive.” 

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