Lincoln Place: A Brief History
The industrialization of the United States in the late 19th century and in the early 20th century attracted millions of immigrants from all over Europe, Asia Minor, and Mexico. Thousands of these hard-working people, seeking freedom, opportunity, and a better life in America, came to the Illinois town of Granite City.
Along the railroad tracks leading to St. Louis, industries thrived. It was here that Frederick G. and William Niedringhaus established the National Enameling & Stamping Company, which produced metal graniteware. Other factories followed, including Commonwealth Steel. These industries employed many immigrant workers who, in order to remain close to their jobs, settled in an undeveloped area west of town in the first decade of the twentieth century. Because of the large Hungarian population and the fact that the area sloped down into a small valley, this area became known as “Hungary Hollow.”
Initially, the population of Hungary Hollow consisted of many immigrants, most of whom were single men with ethnic origins in Hungary and later on, Bulgaria, and Macedonia. Because of its large Bulgarian population, the neighborhood also was known as the unofficial capital of the Bulgarians in America. In 1909, it became the site of the first Bulgarian Church in North America.
Other nationalities followed around 1909. There was an influx of Italian and Armenian immigrants who arrived to work in the steel foundries and building the railroads. The number of Armenians increased significantly after 1909 and again after 1915, when many fled the genocide of a million and a half Armenians carried out by the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which had conquered much of Armenia in the 1200s. Beginning around 1910, a large number of immigrants from Mexico also found their way to Hungary Hollow.
In early 1916, the Granite City Commercial Club, an organization of local professional men, union leaders, and businessmen, held a conference with leaders of the immigrant community and agreed to help the immigrants Americanize. At the conclusion of the meeting, the immigrants chose to change the name “Hungary Hollow”, to Lincoln Place, demonstrating their admiration for President Abraham Lincoln, who rose from nothing to achieve greatness in America.
Changing the name of “Hungary Hollow” to Lincoln Place also indicated that it had grown into a true neighborhood. Lincoln Place consisted of families from many ethnic backgrounds, all with the same aspiration to make a better life for themselves in America. Through several generations, the many ethnic groups that settled in Lincoln Place, have preserved the rich cultures of their immigrant ancestors. Today the descendants of those original immigrants host the Lincoln Place Heritage Festival and “A Taste of Lincoln Place” to honor their immigrant ancestors and to commemorate and promote their ethnic heritage.