HISTORY

When Maxwell Street Market Dominated the West Side

When going to the market meant going to Maxwell Street


It’s known as the birthplace of Chicago Blues music and also the Maxwell Street Polish sausage and where Jane Addams established Hull House, but the Maxwell Street Market was so much more than that. This stretch on the Near West Side near Roosevelt and Halsted was home to so many immigrants that settled in Chicago, namely Eastern European Jews who started moving there in the 1880s and were the largest ethnic group through the 1920s.

The immigrants set up an open-air pushcart market that would eventually grow to cover nine square blocks where you could almost anything — clothes, produce, appliances, furniture, cars. Truly anything. If you could sell it and someone could buy it, it happened at Maxwell Street. Imagine the haggling that must have gone on!

The Great Migration of first half of the 1900s saw an influx of black families from the South and with them came powerfully moving music, which eventually got dubbed Chicago Blues. People would set up outside at Maxwell street to play for large audiences. This eventually gave rise to groundbreaking artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley. The sound would spawn rock ‘n’ roll.

These days, much of the old market has been absorbed into the UIC campus and also the University Village neighborhood, but you can still check out the market on Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 800 S. Des Plaines with vendors, food stalls and live performances. Check out the photos above, from Calumet412.com, to see Maxwell Street Market through the years.

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