Chicago was once known as the "Second Croatian Capital." Lured by economic, political, and social freedoms, Croatians, like other immigrants, came to Chicago in search of the American dream. The first documented groups settled mainly in Pilsen, Bridgeport, and the South Side in the late 1800s. By the turn of the century, these immigrants toiled in Chicago's steel mills, meatpacking plants, and construction sites. They soon formed social groups, churches, schools, Croatian-language newspapers, and other infrastructure needed to support the expanding community. Today there are more than 150,000 descendants of Croatian heritage in the Chicagoland area, and many of the foundations built by the forefathers continue to service the community. Ivan Meštrovic's "Indian" sculptures still adorn Congress Parkway and Michael Bilandic remains in the history books as the only Croatian mayor of Chicago. Croatians of Chicagoland examines how this community and its leaders, clergy, laborers, politicians, athletes, benevolent societies, and social organizations helped build and shape Chicago's history.
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