From shanties on stilts to brick bungalows on solid ground, this small community has stood tall and strong on Chicago's south side over the years and it will continue to thrive for many more to come. Avalon Park is a classic Chicago neighborhood where rows of single-family homes stand on private lots, offering residents a place all their own. Some new constructions instill a sense of modernity in this small section of town, but for the most part Avalon Park is steeped in conventional living.
Avalon Park Facts
Location: 12 miles south of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Chatham, Marynook, Stony Island Park, Grand Crossing, South Shore
Boundaries: 79th Street to the north, Stoney Island Avenue to the east, 83rd Street to the south and Cottage Grove Avenue to the west
Then and Now
Before this small neighborhood on the southern side of Chicago was called Avalon Park, it was known as Pennytown, named for a local storeowner who made his living slinging popcorn balls.
The area officially became part of Chicago in 1889, when it was still a boggy swamp with just a few houses raised up on stilts, like one would see in Louisiana. It was around the turn of the century that engineers figured out a way to drain the waters from these swamps into channels, making the land more inhabitable. Ain’t technology grand? As the marshy ground was slowly done away with, this area south of the city began to attract residents
(many of Eastern European descent) who headed to Pennytown to build their homes on the brand new piece of real estate.
In 1910, members of Avalon Park Community Church called for the name of the neighborhood to be changed to match that of the parish’s. The change was promptly adopted by the small village, and the memory of their swampy beginnings grew even more distant. After the Second World War, jobs began popping up in mills and factories around the area. This prompted further housing development in Avalon Park, which were mostly sturdy brick bungalows, a far cry from the elevated homes that first occupied the neighborhood.
From the 1960s on, the demographic composition shifted in Avalon Park from largely German, Irish, and Swedish immigrants to middle-class African Americans that make up nearly a hundred percent of the populace today. The smallish, largely residential neighborhood of Avalon Park is adjacent to the sizeable community of Chatham, which bodes quite well for Avalon Park locals as their neighbor to the west is quite built-up with a variety of restaurants and shops, something Avalon Park lacks due to its more suburban nature. The neighborhood’s location between important avenues of transportation also gives Avalon Parkers the advantage of quick and easy travel to all other parts of the city.
Avalon Park Real Estate
Avalon Park’s tree-lined residential streets house a large variety of architectural designs and dwellings. Many properties boast individual yards, albeit rather small in size.
Some of the neighborhood’s multi-unit residential buildings are older and could use a facelift, while others have either been nicely revamped or are well cared for over the years. Newer construction townhomes offer beautiful modern designs and living spaces with garage parking and all the amenities of big city real estate, with a price in the mid-$200,000s. On the other hand, older units in the Avalon Park neighborhood sell for as low as $40,000. Generally, though, the lovely brick and stone exteriors that shelter fabulous vintage courtyard condos and half-duplexes are listed for between $190,000 and $230,000. However, the average sales price for a one- or two-bedroom multi-unit home around these parts is just under $100,000.
Private fences and gates are abundant in Avalon Park, enclosing the single-family properties of the neighborhood. Many of the one- and two-story frame houses have small front and back yards that cater nicely to spring gardening, summertime barbeques, autumn leaf piles and winter snow forts. While a detached single-family home with two or three bedrooms in Avalon Park starts around $80,000, places with four or more bedrooms more than double in value, the average selling price being $176,000. Brand-spanking-new three-story townhome constructions are priced in the mid-$300,000s. Houses as gorgeous as these built closer to downtown Chicago go for way more and probably wouldn’t include attached garage parking, making these Avalon Park properties a total steal.
What’s on the Menu?
Though they may be enemies to our cholesterol, these two Avalon Park eateries are certainly allies to our taste buds.
Loyal fans of tangy jerk chicken will love Uncle Joe’s Jerk (8211 S Cottage Grove, 773-962-993). Within a tropically-decorated atmosphere, Uncle Joe’s serves up some of the best jerk chicken around. Patrons can order their chicken whole, half, quarter, or in sets of wings. Outside of the chicken, Joe’s also applies its jerk spices to catfish, which we like to get from time to time when we’ve had enough poultry in the diet and fancy some seafood to mix it up a bit. Other menu options include unique finds like ox tail and curry goat, as well as red snapper and shrimp. Excellent sides to munch on are plantains, mac and cheese, and candied yams, which Joe’s does up with down-home southern cooking flair; and be sure to get a piece of caramel cake for dessert. Lucky for us, Joe’s doesn’t keep its delicious jerk sauce a secret to consumers, anyone can order it online for home use. You’ll be sure to wow your next dinner guests with a bottle of this spicy sauce in your bag of cooking tricks!
For some heavy soul food, Leon’s Bar-B-Que (8251 S Cottage Grove, 773-488-4556) is the place to go in Avalon Park.
Only a few doors down from Uncle Joe’s, this Leon’s is part of a local chain (with three other locations) on the city’s south side, and it’s considered a Chicago barbecue institution. Open into the wee hours of the morning, diners can expect to get their fix as late as 4 am on some nights, now that’s service! This is strictly a take-out joint, so keep that in mind when stopping by for your favorite BBQ dish because you’ll have to wait to enjoy that succulent Leon specialty until you get home. Aside from their heralded sweetly-sauced ribs, this popular neighborhood fixture also offers chicken dishes, fiery perch and ever-filling deep dish pizza. They also serve ice cream to top off your meal with a little something sweet; or, as many Avalon Park residents have been known to do, just stop by for a mid-afternoon snack on those hot Chicago summer days.
Avalon Park is laid out in a rectangular shape, four blocks by eight blocks, making it easily traversable on foot or by way of bike, if you so choose. But we know we’re in a day and age when people are busy and like to get to their destinations fast, fortunately this south side Chicago neighborhood has other means of transportation that will suit the hustle and bustle in all of us.
First of all, if you love driving your car, you’ll love driving even more in Avalon Park because you won’t be frustrated by dense traffic around the main streets. While many residents use their own vehicles to get around, there’s never too much congestion within the neighborhood, or even along the bordering thoroughfares. For long journeys, the neighborhood has access to two expressways. The closest would be the Chicago Skyway (I-90), which has an entrance ramp at 83rd Street. The Skyway is a toll road that heads directly to the Loop, or takes you quickly to Indiana in the other direction, and then goes on and on all the way to Boston. Two miles to the west you can hop on the Dan Ryan (I-94). This is the way we go if we need to get downtown or even further to the suburbs or up to Wisconsin for a weekend trip. Heading south on I-90/94 (the Dan Ryan) takes motorists to an interchange where you can choose either to continue on I-94 (Bishop Ford Freeway, which heads southeast to Indiana) or switch over to highway 57, which runs south the length of Illinois and beyond. And the bonus? Both of these expressways are free of tolls, unlike the Skyway.
For the public transit enthusiast, there are a few CTA bus services in Avalon Park to choose from. Getting downtown by bus can be accomplished by either taking the #4 Cottage Grove bus or the #28 Stoney Island bus north. These routes border the neighborhood on the east and west, so no matter where you are it’s only a short walk over to the bus stop.
To get to the lake for a swim or just for a more scenic setting, the #79 79th Street bus accommodates Avalon Parkers with a quick ride east to the water’s edge. This same bus also takes passengers two miles west to the Red Line 'El' stop (called the EL for its segments of elevated tracks), which takes commuters to work in the Loop or fans out to US Cellular Field for White Sox games.
For other reliable train services, the Metra Electric District has a stop on 79th Street at Greenwood, right inside Avalon Park neighborhood. This rail line heads north to downtown and south as far as University Park.
School’s in Session
There are a couple schools to send the children to in Avalon Park. To find more info on these schools and others in the surrounding area or throughout the city, check out our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Avalon Park Elementary School - 8045 S Kenwood Ave - (773) 535 6615
Joanie’s Nursery & Kindergarten - 854 E 79th St - (773) 994 3480
Here are some listings that can help when you’re need to get that package in the mail or find the nuts and bolts to do a little home repair.
Avalon Eat Shop - 1016 E 83rd St - (773) 487 9183
Leon’s Bar B Que - 8251 S Cottage Grove Ave - (773) 488 4556
Uncle Joe’s Jerk - 8211 S Cottage Grove Ave - (773) 962 993
Orbit Submarine 8061 S Cottage Grove Ave (773) 994 9199
Food Town - 935 E 79th St - (773) 994 1136
Sam’s Supermarket - 1019 E 82nd St - (773) 994 0193
Stony Island Food Mart - 8240 S Stony Island Ave - (773) 978 2323
Avalon Park - 1215 East 83rd St - (773) 721-8282
Cottage Clinic Pharmacy - 8055 S Cottage Grove Ave - (773) 651 3535
US Post Office - 7740 S Cottage Grove Ave - (773) 483 1207
Aranoff True Value Hardware - 8235 S Cottage Grove Ave - (773) 846 4463
Chicago Transit Authority - (888) 968 7282
The residential real estate in Avalon Park is fairly diverse, providing homeowners with a number of housing options from condos to lofts to townhomes. But there is more to your Avalon Park home than where you rest your head at night. The area surrounding a property can be just as much a factor in the decision to buy as the color of the carpet or the condition of the foundation. Each Chicago neighborhood has its own unique charm that sets it apart from the rest. Our comprehensive online guide is all you need to explore the many streets of Chicago-all from the comfort of your own computer. Shopping, dining, entertainment, schools, you name it, we’ll show you where it is. Find out whether that fabulous Avalon Park condo is immersed in the throes of wild nightlife, or veiled by the tranquility of a quiet residential setting.