West Town and its public gardens

Frankie Machine gardenThe Frankie Machie garden, which I currently have a plot at, was formed by concerned community members wanting to preserve open land for shared public use in 1988. Ten years later the NeighborSpace, a nonprofit dedicated to helping communities protect their community garden or parks from potential development, partnered with the gardeners at Frankie Machine. NeighborSpaces works with the City of Chicago, Chicago Park District and Forest Preserve District of Cook County to give community members the resources to transform vacant or unused land  for public gardens. There are over 400 public gardens in the city, however less than 60 are registered and protected by NeighborSpaces.

Real estate prices continue on the up trend in West Town as more and more new restaurants, bars and shops continue to change the landscape and populations of this neighborhood.  Gentrification can largely be attributed to an influx of artists and students over the last  30 years.  A group of local artists even came up with the garden’s name.  “Frankie Machine” is the main character in  Nelson Algren’s novel “The Man With the Golden Arm.”

Although a lot of young people reside in West Town, what was once a large Hispanic population is starting to decrease because of the rising cost of living. Hispanic populations have dropped from the area by 47 percent from the 1990s to 2000.

Since beginning to garden at Frankie Machine in spring of 2008, I have experienced a lot of diversity amongst those who come to garden.Of the people I became closet with was Tom Stone,  73, who was raised in Chicago, Fortino Rodriquez, 68 who immigrated from Mexico 35 years ago, and Dominque Darus, 27, who moved to Chicago from Poland a few years ago.

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Filed under Chicago, Urban Agriculture

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