Chicago was once the second-largest Bohemian city outside the Czech lands. The Czechs first settled, serendipitously, behind the notorious O’Leary barn. Spared the Great Fire of 1871, they were displaced several blocks south by the ensuing land crush. There they built more permanent quarters in the community that became known as Pilsen, a neighborhood whose name and architecture survive to recall its Bohemian origins. The thriving Czechs soon began a century-long move westward from Lawndale to Cicero to Berwyn, and today they flourish across the western suburbs. From the desolation of the 1915 Eastland disaster, in which hundreds of victims were of Czech descent, to the triumphant Depression-era election of Czech-born mayor Antonín Cˇermák, Czechs of Chicagoland depicts how the Czech community and its great leaders, benevolent societies, and charitable and social organizations have shaped and continue to shape the course of Chicago’s history.
About the Author
Malynne Sternstein can trace her roots through her father back to the Bohemian lands. She is associate professor of Slavic studies at the University of Chicago, where her main research concerns are in central European art, literature, and film. Her interest in local history is stimulated by her 25 years living on Chicago’s South Side.