For many Chicagoans, Uptown’s Argyle area is just a place to grab a cheap tasty meal, but for the Southeast Asian refugees and their children who settled and grew up here, it is much more.
Once the stomping ground of Native Pottawatomi, the area was developed as the model suburb of Argyle Park in the 1860s and quickly boomed once it was linked to Chicago via train. Soon after being annexed into Chicago, the area became a Jewish community but declined after WW2 as White Flight hollowed out America’s urban cores. Then, in the 1970s a group of Chinese entrepreneurs bought up the area’s dilapidated buildings to found a “New Chinatown.” Uptown’s cheap housing, network of social service agencies, and the already-present Asian community made it ideal for an influx of Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, and Hmong refugees and by the 1980s the area was packed with Asian groceries, eateries, and businesses. Now dubbed “Asia on Argyle,” it retains a multi-cultural identity even though aging, soaring housing costs, and gentrification have displaced many immigrants from the area.
The “Argyle Museum of Memories” explores how memory shapes the meaning of place. Collecting the memories and recollections of the area paints a compelling image of an area shaped by a century of immigration that is rapidly changing. With over 100 memories collected so far, the ongoing project also challenges passersby to consider the hidden history that makes a place special.