I was born and raised here in Chicago. I grew up in Uptown, went to Senn High School, and graduated from Northeastern Illinois University. When I was a student at Northeastern, I used to get off the bus and walk to school and I was enamored with the tranquility of the area. That’s what drew me to North Park. So after I got married, we bought a 2-flat on Christiana and lived there with our three kids until we outgrew the place. We knew we wanted to stay in this neighborhood and have our kids go to Peterson School.
The day after 9/11, I saw this house on St. Louis come on the market. It was a weird time; fear was coming over people and I had a couple of clients cancel contracts. But I didn’t want 9/11 to make me fearful or change my plans, so I deliberately chose to move forward.
We’ve been in North Park for 25 years now and still love it here. It is centered around its schools, and people know each other. Families know each other and kids know each other. People come here and stay for a long time. There isn’t a revolving door like the neighborhoods just east and south of us. And there is a lot of positive interaction in the community. Lots of people talk about diversity, but there are lots of versions of that. North Park is truly a diverse community that has always been inviting to people. Seeing different people from different backgrounds isn’t rare; seeing all different kinds of people is literally the norm here.
[I see you have chickens? How did you get into that?]
Seven or eight years ago, I saw a documentary about the poultry industry and its cruelty towards animals. I kept thinking about it and decided there was no reason I couldn’t have some chickens that are treated humanely. It really wasn’t much more than that; it seemed like a simple solution. And we had the space to do it. Today I have seven chickens—one is eight years old from my original flock. I get a couple dozen eggs per week now; but in the spring I get 4 or 5 eggs each day.
But there are responsibilities that come with being the steward of these animals. You have to keep track of their health. You have to make sure they are not overheating in summer or too cold in winter. And sometimes you have to make hard decisions—like whether it is time to put a chicken down to put it out of its misery. I’ve had to put a couple down.
[If you could change one thing about this neighborhood, what would it be?]
I’d love to have a community center where we could all socialize and see live performances. We have a little bit of that with NEIU, but I’d like to see something more connected to the community.
Tony Rodriguez was interviewed by a neighbor in July of 2022.