Monday, November 29, 2010

A brief introduction to Lincoln Village

 Lincoln Village is a diverse neighborhood on Milwaukee's near south side. The neighborhood - officially bound by Becher Street to the north, Cleveland Avenue to the south, 5th Place to the east, and 16th street to the west - was first settled by Polish immigrants in the late 19th century.

There are many remnants of those early "Polonia" days. St. Josaphat's Basilica, funded and built by faithful Polish residents, was the second church in the entire country to become a basilica. A monument to General Thadeus Kosciuszko, a Polish hero who fought against the British in the American Revolutionary War, proudly faces Lincoln Avenue from his pedestal in Kosciuszko Park. Residents can thank the Poles for the area's solid and attractive housing stock, too. The neighborhood has always been one of the most densely populated in the city, and the old Polish flats - two story frame houses raised half a story to create a ground-level dwelling space for more tenants - speak to the immigrant history of the area. Lincoln Villagers have always been hard workers, and long-time residents pride their community on its blue collar roots.

Lincoln Village today is a much more diverse community. In 1910, the neighborhood was virtually 100% Polish Catholic. In 2010, the neighborhood - as surveyed thus far - includes representatives from over 108 nations, including the many Indian nations of Wisconsin and other states. While many Polish families have remained here through the generations, Mexican Americans make up over half of the population. The six largest ethnic groups in the neighborhood today are Mexican, Polish, Puerto Rican, African American, German, and native, with Lincoln Village having perhaps the largest concentration of urban Indians in the city of Milwaukee. Other residents hail from South and Southeastern Asia, North and East Africa, Eastern Europe (particularly the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia), and of course, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The experience of several Lincoln Village cultural groups are documented in the rooms of the Old South Side Settlement Museum at 707 W Lincoln Avenue. Mexican, Peruvian, Salvadoran, and Serbian restaurants, Mexican bakeries and supermarkets, a Mexican butcher and old-time A & J Polish Deli serve residents and visitors to Lincoln Village today.

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