Irving Woods is a small neighborhood within the larger Dunning community area on the far northwest side of Chicago. Bound to the west by the Indian Boundary Golf Course and the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve, Irving Woods enjoys more green space than most Chicago neighborhoods combined. Winding hiking trails through the deep woods are something you wouldn't likely expect to find in a city setting, but in Irving Woods, acres of trees and undeveloped land are within walking distance of your front door. Nature-loving Chicagoans who love mountain biking and wilderness treks, are starting to move into the area, giving this quiet community an injection of youthful energy and increasing number of growing families.
Irving Woods Facts
Location: about 13 miles northwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Belmont Terrace, Belmont Heights, Schorsch Forest View,Franklin Park, Schiller Park
Boundaries: Irving Park Road to the north, Pacific Avenue to the east, Addison Street to the south and Cumberland Avenue to the west
Then and Now
Nestled between the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve and three large cemeteries (Irving, Westlawn and Acacia), Irving Woods neighborhood is a charming urban retreat dominated by gardens and wilderness.
Before the city’s fabled first settler Jean Baptiste Point du Sable set up his trading post in Chicago, the area on which Irving Woods now sits was inhabited by the Potawatomi Indians. Having been driven out of their native land in Michigan, the Potawatomis settled near the north branch of the Des Plains River in what is now the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve. In the ensuing years, the Native American tribe was forced to relinquish their land (which included terrain in and around present-day Chicago) to the U.S. government in exchange for territory in Kansas. Once vacated, the grounds were prime property for settlement and urban expansion.
However, during the time of Chicago’s infancy Irving Woods neighborhood experienced slow growth, mainly because of the developments in the neighboring community of Dunning. In the early 1850s, Chicago opened a work farm for the poor and an insane asylum on Irving Park Road about a mile to the east of Irving Woods. The mental institution was poorly planned and managed, and by the 1870s there were nearly twice as many patients as the facilities were intended to house, many of them living in a state of squalor and discomfort. The next decade saw major improvements as the grounds and amenities were expanded to accommodate the overflow of patients. During this time attempts were made at attracting residents to Irving Woods and surrounding neighborhoods. Unfortunately, efforts were stunted due to the communities’ proximity to the asylum.
So, development and settlement in the area began slowly, as local nurseryman Andrew Dunning purchased 120 acres and set about one-third of it aside to start a town, but transportation links to the city were poor and potential investors were discouraged by the aforementioned nearby asylum. While people were not so quick to move to the area to live, plenty saw it fit to inhabit the region upon death … what do we mean? Well, the great cemeteries that separate Irving Woods from other west side Chicago neighborhoods opened around this same time period to serve as burial grounds for the several hundred victims of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Okay, so far this place seems a little morbid—but all that was about to change—slowly but surely. Development continued on a gradual yet steady path through the first half of the 20th century, pushed forward by the paving of Irving Park Road in the 1920s. Construction of residences and businesses was still sluggish as the decades trudged on, thwarted by demographic shifts and the onset of urban sprawl that began in the 1950s. But the Irving Woods community continued to look to the future.
Then, in the 1980s and ‘90s the number of inhabitants in Irving Woods and the greater Dunning community began to skyrocket. The growth they’d been yearning for was finally at hand and the west side neighborhoods’ populations exploded onto the scene. A new wave of Hispanic and Latino immigrants moved into Belmont Central and Montclair in great numbers, and in turn, the Polish American and Eastern European residents that once lived in these regions (southeast of Irving Woods) moved west into the Belmont Heights and Irving Woods neighborhoods. Since then, things have been on the up for Irving Woods which is making a name for itself among Chicagoans from all walks of life as a great place to settle down and raise a family in the midst of ample greenscapes, lush plant life and the tranquility of final resting grounds.
While there are no parks within the small neighborhood of Irving Woods, the area surrounding the tiny residential community abounds with green space, so you can get your nature fix without ever having to get in the car.
The easiest and most popular escape for outdoorsy-types is the mammoth Schiller Woods Forest Preserve that lies just to the west of Irving Woods neighborhood. A quick jog, stroll or bicycle ride down Irving Park Road past Cumberland Avenue lands you in the deep wooded area that continues for acres, stretching as far west as the Des Plaines River. The preserve offers a series of winding trails for walking, running and biking and provides the ideal setting for communing with nature or just taking time out from the concrete jungle of city life to enjoy the crisp air and admire the beauty of undeveloped land. Unlike most folks living in Chicago, Irving Woods residents can go from city blocks—tightly packed with homes and buildings—to forest reserves—tightly packed with trees and foliage—in a matter of minutes (and that’s on foot). You’d be hard up to find that in other metropolitan neighborhoods where 'greenery' refers to the potted philodendron sitting out on the patio. So take it from us, if you’re the kind of person who likes to wear Timberland jackets, keeps a granola bar in your pocket for emergency use, and prefers trekking it along a dirt path as opposed to the clean-swept sidewalks of the Magnificent Mile, you’d find this section of town a welcomed sight.
On the north side of Irving Woods neighborhood, the forest preserve juts out a couple of blocks east of Cumberland Avenue. This area is occupied by a large field known as the Schiller Playfield that is used for baseball, soccer and football. And if you walk west a short ways, just past Cumberland Avenue, you will arrive at a small hourglass-shaped pond called Schiller Pond, a lovely spot for a picnic or settling in to read a good novel. Fellow park-goers are often gathered around this relaxing oasis—especially in the summertime—to enjoy the picturesque scenery and to get away from the monotony of the daily routine.
Now, not quite as rustic, and certainly much better manicured than the immense forest preserve to the north, Indian Boundary Golf Course (8600 W Forest Preserve Ave, 773-625-1233) is a beautiful and expansive par 72 18-hole golf course that provides Irving Woods residents with yet another exquisite locale for outdoor activity. Situated at the southwest corner of Irving Woods neighborhood, the greens meander through the landscape, sectioned off by thick rows of trees and the occasional water hazard, which can really ruin your score if you’re not careful. We’ve had quite a time trying to get past the abominable lagoon between the 16th and 17th holes—a word of advice: bring extra balls.
Whether you’re heading out to the Schiller Forest Preserve for an afternoon hike on your own or are planning to tee up at the golf course with the crew from work, be sure to visit during the late fall when the leaves are changing. All those oaks, elms and maples create a wonderful autumnal backdrop as they turn every shade of red, yellow and orange imaginable.
Irving Woods Real Estate
Until recently, the quiet tree-lined residential blocks of Irving Woods supported a community of older residents, people who had resided in the area for much of their lives. But that trend has reversed in recent years as the natural cycle of life catches up with the neighborhood’s elderly inhabitants and in turn makes room for younger folks and families to move into the lovingly maintained homes that occupy these beautiful northwest side Chicago streets.
The majority of real estate in Irving Woods neighborhood is detached single-family houses that afford modest front and back yards in addition to private garages. Like in many Chicago area communities, residents access their garages via a system of alleyways that run along the backs of the lots. A mixture of one- and two-story homes rests on these long, narrow plots of green grass, offering homeowners a good variety of architectural styles and comfortable living spaces for singles, couples and families alike.
Your basic one-level frame house in Irving Woods starts at around $220,000, pus there are plenty of the traditional Chicago bungalows to choose from, which can cost in the upper $200,000s to start. On the other end of the spectrum, several large, two-story new construction homes have sprung up in the area, built with intricate brick and stone designs and dramatic rooflines that present a fresh new elegance to the neighborhood’s predominantly simplistic real estate. These houses are more expensive than the typical Irving Woods property, but they often include four or five bedrooms, not to mention luxury features and landscaped lawns. Homebuyers should expect to pay up to $700,000 for these gorgeous new residences.
Multi-unit housing is less common in Irving Woods, but there are some options that offer affordable, well-kept properties that range from older residential buildings to half-duplexes and new construction townhouses. Typically, homebuyers will find condos in Irving Woods start at $135,000 for one-bedroom units and around $160,000 for two-bedrooms. Most condominiums are in low-rise buildings that look slightly out-dated from the exterior, but you’ll discover a number of the units have been remodel on the inside providing upgraded amenities and finishes that are comparable to any rehabbed property closer to the city’s center. On the higher end, condos here are listed in the mid $200,000s, and for a duplex or townhome you’re looking at prices between $270,000 and $350,000. So while the price range for real estate in Irving Woods neighborhood is not too extreme, there is still enough variance to accommodate homebuyers with all sorts of budgets.
Like most neighborhoods that are more than ten miles away from the Loop, driving is the most convenient means of getting around in Irving Woods. Being tucked away between the forest preserve and the sprawling grounds of the cemeteries, Irving Woods is secluded from the bulk of Chicago’s tightly-packed neighborhoods and bustling commercial districts. That means residents have to drive a good distance in order to get most places outside their quaint residential streets.
So, now that you know you’ll probably be driving a lot if you live in Irving Woods, you’d probably also like to be clued in on the best way to get around once behind the wheel of your trusty vehicle. No problem. The neighborhood is roughly equidistant from two major highways: the I-294 Tri-State Tollway to the west and the I-90 Kennedy Expressway to the north. They are each about two miles from Irving Woods, so depending on where you’re headed—take your pick. We tend to use I-90 for most destinations as it heads straight down towards Chicago’s city center (known as the Loop) and it doesn’t cost anything to use it. As for surface roads, Irving Park Road is a fairly fast-moving travel route that cuts along the north end of the neighborhood and runs all the way to the lakefront. As you may have guessed, the majority of residents in Irving Woods do have cars yet the common anxiety of city dwellers when it comes to parking is pretty much non-existent around here. Almost every house has a garage and street parking is wide open—so none of that tedious searching for a spot for 20 minutes or having to fork over a 20 spot for a half-hour in a lot.
Although no commuter or city trains service Irving Woods, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) buses operate on Addison Street and Irving Park Road, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares. So, if you don’t have a vehicle, not to worry, the #152 bus runs along Addison Street and the #80 parallels it to the north cruising down Irving Park. Both routes make stops at the CTA Blue Line to the east, which runs in the median of the Kennedy Expressway, and then they continue on all the way to the lakeshore, in case you feel like hitting up the beach. If you want to get downtown, hop off the bus at the Blue Line stop and jump on the train for a quick ride into the Loop.
School’s in Session
For parents with young children, many times one of the most important factors in deciding where to live is the quality of the nearby schools. Though there aren’t many options directly in Irving Woods neighborhood, there is one elementary—and parents, you can rest assured, it’s a good one: Canty Elementary, a local magnet school. You can also go to Chicago Public Schools Great Schools to learn more about Canty and other Chicago area schools.
Arthur E Canty Elementary School - 3740 N Panama Ave - (773) 534-1238
We said it before and we’ll say it again, Irving Woods is a small, primarily residential Chicago neighborhood surrounded by a whole lot of greenscape (forest preserves, golf courses, cemeteries)—that means there isn’t much more than houses, trees, grass, golf and graves around here. But along the two main roads that border the community (Addison Street and Irving Park Road), residents can get those useful everyday items that are hard to live without. You know, pizza, tools, beer … and those other essentials like eggs, milk, toothpaste, dish soap, etc.
Chicago Transit Authority - (888) 968-7282
Joseph’s Food Mart 8235 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 625-0118
Miskas Liquor 8227 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 589-1280
Central Hardware 8300 W Addison St - (773) 589-0020
Lonnie’s Pizzeria 8343 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 589-1501
Second Time Around 8301 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 589-9040
Sometimes it makes more sense to view the city of Chicago as a bunch of separate neighborhoods-especially when it comes to real estate. Whether you are in the market for a loft, condo, townhome, or house, it is just as important to inspect the surrounding area as it is to inspect the home’s foundation. Irving Woods neighborhood is just one Chicago community with an abundance of residential properties, and a life all its own. From where you send your kids to school to where you dine at night, the information we provide is an essential piece of the puzzle when you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy that beautiful loft or adorable house in Irving Woods.