Happy St. Patrick Day vector illustration with people having fun

Neighborhood News: For true ‘Cead mile Failte’ Mayfair’s Irish-American Heritage Center is a year-round St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick Day vector illustration with people having fun

According to several sources, more than 200,000 people of Irish heritage live in Chicago (and I’m one of them!) In fact, according to the Third Coast Review, Chicago ranks second only to Boston in the number of Irish people living here. 

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up on Sunday, March 17, Chicagoans will be celebrating…if they haven’t started already! One place to celebrate Irish heritage year-round is located in a former school building in the Mayfair community. The Irish-American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Avenue, celebrates Irish and Irish American culture through events, music, theater, literature, and language. They are also home to the Fifth Province Pub, The Mayfair Theatre, and unique meeting and event spaces.

The Irish in Chicago

According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago history, the Irish population grew from a few hundred residents in the 1830s, following the Potato Famine in Ireland (1845-50). Chicago emerged as the fourth largest Irish city in America by 1860. Unlike their counterparts in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, however, Chicago’s Irish grew up with their city and exerted influence out of proportion to their numbers. Irish labor—first on the Illinois & Michigan Canal (1836–1848) and later on the lumber wharves, railroads, stockyards, and steel mills—contributed to Chicago’s phenomenal growth from frontier town to urban metropolis. As Chicago became even more ethnically and racially diverse, the Irish continued to be well represented at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and city government, especially the police force, fire department, and public school system.

A Place to Celebrate Irish Heritage

The three-story brick building, once known as Mayfair School and Roosevelt High School-Mayfair, according to Classic Chicago Magazine, stood empty for several years in the 1980s before the Irish American Heritage Association bought it, finally securing a site for the organization. The association was founded in 1976, but it was not until 1986 that the center opened its doors in the Mayfair neighborhood, with a mission to “cultivate the cultural bonds of the Irish and Irish Americans to Ireland through gatherings and festivals and by promoting cultural programming such as music and theater, literature, and language.” At the time of the renovation, members and local volunteers worked hard to convert the rundown building into what it is today. The center, especially the foyer, boasts of orange and green traditional Celtic designs painted by volunteer Edward Cox, who also designed the murals that decorate the building.

Today, you can trace your genealogy at their library, listen to authentic Irish music and during Lent, bring the family out for their Irish American Heritage Center Fish Fries! All-you-can-eat meals include fried cod, French fries, coleslaw and peas. There are movies and coloring for the kids, and the Fifth Province Pub is open. Food is served between 6:30pm and 9:00pm, and live music begins at 8:00pm. Irish Dance Schools are performing every week. This week, March 15, the (world-famous) Trinity Academy of Irish Dance performs.

St. Patrick’s Weekend Festival

It’s the return of the Irish American Heritage Center St. Patrick’s Festival, Saturday March 16th from 1:00pm to 11:00pm!

On Saturday and Sunday, come to  IAHC for traditional and contemporary Irish music, dance, food and drink for purchase, children’s activities presented by Irish Community Services – including Wiggleworms performances, a day of Irish Dance Schools in the Mayfair Theatre, the Shannon Rovers, and an Arts and Craft Fair, with vendors selling Irish gifts. Visit the Library, Art Gallery and Museum for programming and exhibits and a used book sale. It’s everything you remember and more!

Tickets are $15 in advance for adults, $20 the day of the party, and children 12 and under are free. 

St. Patrick’s Day

The celebration continues on St. Patrick’s Day, Sunday, March 17th from 3:00pm to 11:00pm! Join IAHC for a day of music in the Fifth Province Pub, and children’s activities in the Erin Room. Doors open at 3:00pm. Admission is $10 for adults. Children 12 and under are free. Have a ticket for the Screaming Orphans at 7:00pm? Your admission is free. For more information, click here.

Alison Moran-Powers and Dean’s Team Chicago