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Zoom in: Little Village

21st and Kostner was once home to the country's best soccer team


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Chicago is a city of immigrants. You can see it in the Senegalese restaurants along 79th Street, the characters marking the Chinatown Citibank, the suburban transplants in Wrigleyville. Today, the shops along 26th Street—recently touted as the city's "Second Magnificent Mile" by Mayor Emanuel—are filled with colorful quinceanera dresses and three-table taquerias. But the unlit "Ciznek Men's Wear" sign above Mariano's Western Wear on 26th and Spaulding hints at a time when the neighborhood was Czech, not Mexican.

Now vacant, a lot at 21st Street and Kostner Avenue once held Sparta Stadium, the home of the city's best soccer team, the Sparta ABA Football Club. Founded in 1917 by first- and second-generation Czechs, the Spartans dominated Chicago soccer until the mid-1940s. The team took the U.S. Open Cup in 1938, held in New York, in a championship game described by the New York Times as "a thrilling encounter witnessed by an overflow crowd of 10,000." The team tied for the title in 1940, too, but by the late 50s the stadium fell into disrepair, and by 1962 it was replaced with a parking lot.

The city's Bohemian population has mostly migrated to the near suburbs, but you can still pick up a breaded pork tenderloin at Troja's Chicken and Shrimp House, founded by Czechs in 1920.

Have a particular observation or favorite oddity about a neighborhood? E-mail it to zoomin@chicagoreader.com.

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