Little Sicily, St. Philip Benizi Parish, Fr. Luigi Giambastiani

Nov 07, 2013 2642

by Calogero Lombardo

The history of the Sicilian neighborhood on the Near North Side of Chicago begins around the time of the Chicago Fire. Scandinavians and Germans had by then established colonies there, and were infiltrated by the Irish soon after. Italians had begun filtering in by the 1850s, but their inhabitation would not coalesce into neighborhoods, or communities, until the turn of the century.

The neighborhood has been called, among other names, "Swede Town," "The Patch," " Kilcullen," and "Smoky Hollow" before "Little Hell" (dubbed when the gas refinery and industry were illuminating the night from furnaces, shooting pillars of flame and noxious fumes from the furnaces producing gas; some blame the Mafia for the name, because of the obvious satanic allusion), and ultimately, by the 20th century, Little Sicily.

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