Find a piece of Asia on Argyle

Authors: JP Castella, Mira Koster, Kristen Lubawski, Emily Orenstein and Beatriz Shaver.

The History

Uptown has historically been a first destination for immigrants. This tradition stretches all the way back to the 1940s and 50s, when the neighborhood’s declining economic fortunes lowered rents dramatically and made Uptown an affordable point of entry for newcomers to Chicago. Uptown’s high concentration of social service organizations served as a landing pad for generations of immigrants and refugees, as well as Americans down on their luck. These organizations included the following: soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and later, refugee resettlement organizations.

In these decades, Native Americans and migrants from Appalachia settled in Uptown. In later years, diverse groups of immigrants from Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East established communities in Uptown. Today, Uptown’s highest profile immigrant group is the Southeast Asian community anchored around Argyle Street. The area is home to a large Vietnamese population, as well as Cambodian, Thai, and Laotian immigrants.

Today, Argyle Street has served as a pioneering example of the potential for redesigning Chicago’s public spaces to make them more people-friendly. Chicago’s first ‘shared street’ opened on Argyle Street in 2016. The design creates a number of advantages for the community including new space for sidewalk cafes and events.

The Community

 Argyle Night Market, Argyle Street (Uptown Update)

Argyle serves as the community’s main shopping center, with Asian grocery stores and restaurants lining the block. The tradition of Asian businesses on Argyle began in the 1970s, when Chicago ‘restauranteur’ Jimmy Wong planted the seeds for a “New Chinatown”. Wong and his friends purchased nearly 80% of the properties along Argyle Street around the L stop, and rented them out to Chinese and Vietnamese business owners. In 1979, a friend of Wong’s named Charlie Soo successfully petitioned the city to spend over $250,000 on a renovation of the Argyle L stop that included a Chinese-style pagoda roof. Soo, who was known as the “Mayor of Argyle Street”, also founded the Taste of Argyle street festival, a tradition that has continued for over 30 years.

Lunar New Year Parade (All Events In)

Today, Uptown is a major hub of Southeast Asian culture. In addition to the Taste of Argyle, Argyle Street hosts the Argyle Night Market and the Argyle Lunar New Year Parade. The Buddhist Temple of Chicago is located in Uptown. Public artwork in the Argyle section of Uptown celebrates its Asian heritage. Local artist Ginny Sykes’ “East Meets West” mural, which can be found on Argyle and Broadway, celebrates the peaceful coexistence of Asian immigrants’ cultural traditions with those of the rest of Uptown’s diverse population.

“East Meets West” mural (LISC Chicago)

Brother Mark Elder’s “Roots of Argyle” mural, located on Winthrop and Argyle, depicts 120 years of Uptown immigration history, as well as key historical figures like Jimmy Wong and Charlie Soo. The mural takes the viewers through give generation periods. If one pays close attention, one can even see the depiction of a ship similar to one taken by immigrants upon travelling to the United States.



“Roots of Argyle” Mural (Explore Uptown)

Visit Uptown’s Asia on Argyle

Uptown is the combination of a love for conserving, promoting and sharing culture in the form of a neighborhood. As one walks down an avenue in Little Vietnam, one can engage with the current, and historical, cultural diversity. The local traditions and heritage have not been lost as it has been preserved in a mural and events continue to be held each year. It is our hope that this beautiful community will continue to prosper in the years to come as newcomers immediately find a piece of home in Chicago, and visitors continue to appreciate its beauty.


Chicago Tribune Jimmy Wong 1914-2001

Chicago Tribune Charlie Soo 1945-2001

Explore Uptown Asia On Argyle

Explore Uptown Community Arts

Chi Streets Blog Shared Street

DNA Info, Chicago‘East Meets West’ Mural Being Installed on Argyle Street in Uptown (Additional reading on the mural included!)

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