50 Wards in 50 Weekdays: 39th Ward’s archaeology pro Claire Yashar says Albany Park is like ‘living in the country’

July 10, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Claire Yashar says her Chicago neighborhood is "country-like."

Claire Yashar immigrated to the United States from Belgium in 1969. In no time, she found Albany Park.

“This is the first house my husband and I bought,” Yashar says, sitting in her backyard. “He passed away [a few years ago]. And I liked the neighborhood, so I’m staying.”

It’s not hard to see why. This day, the neighborhood is quiet; people are watering their lawns or walking their dogs.


“It’s a very family-oriented neighborhood. We have young families with little children,” she says.

“We also have not very much traffic, which is very nice because we only have footbridges or no bridges at all going across. So, it’s very localized and I feel like I’m living in the country, yet I’m living in the city.”

When I first ask Yashar if there’s anything she doesn’t like about her neighborhood, she says, “Nothing. That’s why I’ve been living here for many, many years."

But, soon, a small complaint emerges. Yashar wants a ban on Foster Avenue parking, in the eastbound lane, between 4 and 6 p.m.

“There’s always…terrible congestion there,” Yashar says. “And, you know, there’s always one or two person who park there – well, they can, because you allowed to park – and it totally blocks the traffic. You have a lot of people coming out of Northeastern [University].”

That’s a very specific concern. Get on it, city officials. Speaking of, I ask Yashar how she thinks Rahm Emanuel has done in his first year as mayor.


“As far as I know, he’s doing good. I’m not really keeping too much in touch with the news.”

That’s because Yashar is freshly back from a trip to Israel. She still has jet lag, but it was worth it. Yashar is an anthropologist who worked in archaeology.

“That’s why you know Israel was really the place to go. I got lots of pictures,” she says.

This gets me wondering about archaeology sites near Chicago. Lucky for me, I have an expert three feet away.

“There was a site in Thornton, Illinois, just outside of Chicago near the Indiana border. We worked there for a whole season,” Yashar says. “Actually, there was a whole [American Indiana] village there… probably from the 1600s.”

As I leave, she tells me about how the archaeology crew would buy their clothes from a thrift shop so they wouldn’t destroy good outfits. As any two-year-old – or any archaeologist – can tell you, digging is dirty business.