Austin, first established as a 280-acre subdivision in 1865, has grown into one of Chicago's largest community areas, in both size and population. Originally home to the government seat of the Township of Cicero, Austin became a part of the city in 1899 after "people from other parts of Cicero Township resented the influence and the dominance of Austinites and began an election to have" it annexed into Chicago. Residents of the neighborhood didn't like this, and they fought to maintain an independent identity after annexation. One example of this was the 1929 construction of Austin Town Hall, which was modeled on Philadelphia's Independence Hall.

Aided by the presence of street railways and the Lake Street "L" (now the Green Line), Austin was one of the "best-served commuter areas" in the city by 1920. "Commerce in Austin followed transit lines" and the population exploded. The community had more than 130,000 residents living within its borders by 1930, and the area transformed from a village filled with large frame homes into a densely populated area that featured "brick two-flats, small frame houses, and the ubiquitous brick story-and-a-half bungalow." Austin's"nineteenth-century village" feel is not completely gone, though. The "residential core is still visible in the Midway Park area," and it boasts "stately neoclassical and Queen Anne–style homes, many designed by architect Frederick Schock, as well as several structures by Frank Lloyd Wright and his students." One of Austin's other "crown jewels" is Columbus Park, which was designed by Jens Jensen in 1920, and includes "a lagoon, a golf course, winding paths and an imposing refectory overlooking the lagoon. "