Chicago has a number of defined neighborhoods. Somewhat like the Parisian arrondissements they have somewhat of a unique feel and separate identify. One such neighborhood that I had never been to before (I've driven by and through it, but never walked around is Logan Square. I joined a photography group this year that ventures into a number of these Chicago neighborhoods and was fortunate enough to be able to spend a couple of hours with some other amateur photographers taking street photography.
A little bit of history about this neighborhood first. The community area and neighborhood are named for General John A. Logan who served in the Civil War, and later in Congress. The unique feature of this neighborhood is the very striking intersection formed at the meeting of Kedzie and Logan Boulevards and Milwaukee Avenue. At that intersection you will see a large column (Illinois Centennial Monument) built in 1918 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Illinois statehood. The column is located inside a large public green space designed by architect William LeBaron Jenney, Landscape architect, Jens Jensen and others. The column itself was designed by Henry Bacon, famed architect of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. I didn't get much of a chance to explore the column or take pictures so I'll have to get back there again.
As I stated in my title on the day I visited the neighborhood had a Parisian neighborhood feel. Several cafes and restaurants had seating outside and with the temperatures in the 60's and since in another month snowy weather would be starting, there were a number of people enjoying the weather while grabbing lunch outside. The neighborhood itself is home to a diverse population including Latinos, a number of ethnicities from Eastern Europe, and African-Americans and thus is not specifically identified with any one particular ethnic group.
One of the photographers I was with that day had grown up in the neighborhood and his mother still lived here. He mentioned when he was growing up here 25 years or so ago it was kind of a rough neighborhood, but in the past 10 years or so has seen an influx of young urban professionals who can't afford some of the neighborhoods closer to downtown Chicago, but still need the public transportation of the subway system (the Blue Line) to have access to their jobs downtown.
Our photography groups main walking path that Saturday morning was down a portion of Milwaukee Avenue. About 20 of us walked, took photos of buildings, people and a very unique graffiti wall. I have included one of the pictures from that wall to give you an idea. I also took some additional photos and had lunch after the group ended its 2 hour session.
I finished off the day having a Crepe at a small local restaurant which I will have to write another tip about.
Summer in the city!
Miko's Italian Ice has two walk-up locations in northside neighborhoods: Bucktown, and this one in Logan Square. I happened across the Logan Square location entirely by accident, so it was indeed "off the beaten path" for me. It appeared to be a purely seasonal business, selling the luscious flavored ice out of a window in a private home. A short line snaked along the sidewalk; every few minutes someone would emerge from a passing car with instructions to fill the order while the driver searched for an on-street parking space.
2234 N. Sacramento in Logan Square; also 1846 N. Damen in Bucktown
Everyone who loves jazz runs to the Green Mill and Andy's. A lesser known place with some really good acts (and usually low cover) is Jazz Showcase in the South Loop. It's easy to get to by either the Red Line Subway (Harrison Stop, walk all the way south and walk up the stairs at Polk) or the Blue Line (exit LaSalle), or a half dozen busses. It's a relatively small venue in the old Dearborn Park train station at the end of Printers Row. Chicago's infamous Levee district was around here, enticing traveling salesmen into a row of brothels on a (now renamed street) called Custom House Row. Interesting area, good music.
We 1st visited Beverly probably around 20 years ago when we used to go out to Maple Tree Inn when it was located in Chicago on Western, we would drive down Longwood and gape at the beautiful mansions up on the ridge before heading to dinner. Once a year we would participate in the History/Mystery bicycle tour and then they stopped doing the bike ride, Maple Tree Inn moved to Blue Island and we stopped going to Beverly
So I was pleasantly surprised when Groupon had an offer for the The Beverly Area Planning Association’s (BAPA) History Mystery Bike Tour, they had revived it in 2009 after taking 10 years off. I was even more pleasantly surprised when we had a beautiful sunny 80 degree day in October. The bike ride is not timed, you fill out clue sheets while riding through the neighborhood, one year we even won a bicycle.
The southwest side neighborhood is filled with beautiful large homes in many American styles, Victorian, Queen Anne, Colonial, Georgian, Art Moderne, Prairie Style, Chicago Bungalow, and more with buildings designed by well known architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham, and Howard Van Doren Shaw.
November 15, 2008 update, now that Barack Obama is our President elect, you can no longer get anywhere near his mansion, the street is closed off to non residents and there are police and secret service everywhere
As part of the Great Places and Spaces weekend, we did a tour of the southside neighborhood of Kenwood with a guide from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The CAF gives a similar tour several times a year.
According to our guide, Kenwood became popular as a place for the wealthy to live after the area around 18th Street and Prairie Avenue fell out of favor. It was developed as a suburb around 1850-1880, it was annexed by the city of Chicago in 1889. Some of the areas famous former residents include Sears Roebuck executives Julius Rosenwald and Max Adler (as in Adler Planetarium), meatpacker Gustavus Swift, Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan (the Elijah Muhammad House) and boxer Muhammed Ali.
We started the tour at the K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple, 1100 E. Hyde Park Boulevard, which happens to be right across the street from Barack Obama's mansion on Greenwood (psst, Mr. Obama, you might want to get rid of some of those dead bushes on Mr. Rezko's, I mean your property), you could see all the cars filled with Secret Service agents. From there we did a 2 hour and 20 minute walking tour through an area filled with mansions of incredibly diverse architectural styles.
Most of the houses are mansions dating back to the late 1800s, early 1900s but Kenwood went through a period where it wasn't such a desirable place to live and many of the houses fell into disrepair and were eventually torn down and replaced, some with styles that integrate into the neighborhood, some that were definitely reflective of the time when they were built.
For me the highlight was the several examples of houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, two of which I never would have guessed were his designs, the George Blossom House at 4858 S. Kenwood (1892) and the Warren McArthur house at 4852 S. Kenwood (1892). The Isadore Heller house at 5132 S. Woodlawn (1897) which resembles the Prairie style architecture that he designed in the early 1900s. You will also see examples of many other styles including Prairie style by architects other than Wright, Tudor, Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, Italianate and several modern houses.
Boundaries are Foster to the north and Irving Park Rd to the south, the lake to the east, and Ravenswood to the west. It's an interesting little pocket of Chicago and doesn't quite get as much of the spotlight as it could or should. Ethnically, the neighborhood is much more diverse than places such as Wrigleyville, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and there's a good mix of black, white, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian residents.
Uptown has a rich history. You can read about that elsewhere, but if you're here, at least check out some of the ornate building facades that hearken back to a time long past. Some specific areas of interest in Uptown include the Lawrence/Broadway area (red line to Lawrence). There are three historic theatre buildings in about a 4 block zone: the Aragon, the Riviera, and the (defunct) Uptown. The Aragon and Riviera are popular venues for concerts and other events and have been known to attract some big name acts. There is also a fairly nice bar scene in that area. The Green Mill is the most popular jazz venue in Chicago. Also check out the Annoyance Theatre and Bar for drinks and off-the-wall theatrics. There's a cute indie book/record store called Shake Rattle and Read on Broadway.
If you go a little further north up Broadway to Argyle you find what I call (for lack of a better name) Mini Chinatown. It's a largely Asian neighborhood packed with shops, restaurants, and grocery stores.
Restaurant-wise Uptown is chock full of restaurants serving all kinds of (real!) ethnic cuisine. You can find a good handful of Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese restaurants (I recommend Thai Pastry) and there are at least four restaurants in the neighborhood specializing in African fare. There are two sushi restaurants (that I know of): Dib and the trendier Agave. Alma Pita is a Meditteranean restaurant on Wilson just west of Broadway, and going a little further west you'll find The Cupcake Gallery, a store that specializes in... cupcakes, of course. If you're looking for a fantastic (albeit, a little pricy) meal, I recommend Magnolia Cafe. On Sheridan, you can find Tweet and Cafe Too- nice little cafes. There are plenty more places to eat in the Uptown area, but I can't begin to list them all.
Other places of note in Uptown include Z Wallis Army Surplus (never been, but hear good things), Uptown Bikes (supposedly a fantastic bicycle shop), Smoke Dreams (a head shop), and Tattoo Factory for anyone interested in body adornment.
One caveat: Uptown is can be somewhat of a seedy area- there is some gang activity, panhandlers, and some homeless and other sketchy characters wandering around due to Uptown's large concentration of social services. The neighborhood is not for the easily intimidated, but as a young single woman who probably lives at the worst corner of the neighborhood, nothing bad has happened to me yet (knock on wood). My best advice is know where you are going before you get there, carry a cellphone, don't give away your change, and avoid walking past groups of loitering gangbangers. Avoid the Wilson/Broadway and Wilson/Sheridan areas unless you're brave or jaded. If someone makes you nervous, cross the street or go into a business. I know this sounds pretty nerve-wracking, but there is a large police presence in the neighborhood and a lot of people are usually out and about.
But don't be scared away from Uptown. If everyone is scared to come here, the neighborhood will never improve- support the unique establishments here in this diverse and historic pocket of Chicago.
Broadway Street was one street I may have been on once or twice while driving in Chicago, but until I became a member of VT I've never paid that much attention to what has been around me. The first 2 pictures which I took are almost next door to each other and to me represent what Chicago in the 1920's and 1930's must have looked like. The first building is an active bank building while the second is looking from some new tenants.
Uptown is an area of Chicago that didn't have the best of reputations for a number of years. It is located north and east of Wrigleyville (which has come alive in the past 20 years). This could be the next area of town which sees a major resurgence in young people. It has easy access to the "L" to downtown Chicago and is also the home to the Aragon Ballroom which has live shows and was used for some of the interior shots of the John Dillinger movie, Public Enemies, filmed in Chicago in 2008 and released in July, 2009. My niece actually was an extra in some of the Aragon Ballroom shots with Johnny Depp. The 3rd picture shows some of the outside decor of the Aragon Ballroom.
We were supposed to do a tour of Ukrainian Village as part of the Great Places and Spaces weekend but we were running late and skipped the tour, instead trying Sak's Ukrainian Village, one of the Ukrainian restaurants on Chicago Avenue, buying some pastries at Ann's bakery and stopping in for a brief tour of St. Nicholas' Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral (2238 W, Rice).
Ukrainian Village is located south of Wicker Park which together form what is known as "West Town". The boundaries are Division St. (1200 N) to the north, Chicago Ave (800 N) to the south, Western Ave (2400 W) to the west, and Damen Ave (2000 W) to the east. Obviously, the name suggests that many of the residents were originally of Ukrainian descent, the 1st wave came to Chicago from 1877-1914, the 2nd wave came after the end of World War II between 1945 and 1957, largely highly educated professionals that had been displaced by the war. Like many of Chicago's neighborhoods, the area underwent a period of decay in the 1906s and 1970s and then saw gentrification along with many other Chicago neighborhoods as people were looking for the new hot neighborhood ie affordable, as the older generation died off or moved, the area's population became more diverse.
In addition to the impressive St. Nicholas' Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, there is another cathedral at 1121 N. Leavitt, the Louis Sullivan designed Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, funded by the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, in 1903.
There's a good article from the Chicago Reader from May, 2008 if you want to know a little bit more about this area.
With one of the city’s longest stretches of traffic-free biking and designated bike lanes along many of the main streets, it’s no wonder Lincoln Park is a favorite Chicago neighborhood among avid cyclists and recreational bike riders alike. Paved paths crisscross the expansive namesake park, providing easy access to the site’s many attractions (such as the Lincoln Park Zoo, Conservatory and History Museum), and underground passes and a skywalk with ramps to North Avenue Beach make crossing busy Lake Shore Drive carefree. The bike trail along the edge of Lake Michigan has become a main artery for city cyclists heading south to downtown and beyond or north to Lakeview and other north side neighborhoods. Actually, the path is part of a continuous 18-mile-long lakefront bike trail that hugs the shoreline from the South Shore Cultural Center up to East Rogers Park.
The bike lanes in Lincoln Park are especially useful in areas like DePaul University where many students ride bikes around campus; Armitage Avenue, which is a popular boutique shopping district that is easier to walk or bike to than drive; and the Clybourn Corridor where a bunch of big box stores and chain retail options make for a parking shortage that bikers do not have to deal with. Lincoln Park residents who work in downtown have a quick commute to the business district in the Loop. Bikers can shoot down Wells Street and be in the midst of City Hall, Chicago Board of Trade, Sears Tower and other major office buildings in less than 10 minutes.
Living in the Loop, you are already in the heart of Chicago and close to many of the city’s main attractions and its thriving business center. That’s exactly why a good number of Loop residents ride bikes around the neighborhood: everything is nearby and it sure beats sitting in traffic or waiting for the “L” train to come by. The inner blocks of the Loop are fairly congested with cars, taxis, buses and pedestrians, so cyclists should be cautious when riding through these hectic downtown streets (wearing a helmet and reflective gear is always recommended). Just west of the Chicago River, Canal and Clinton streets have bike lanes, which make for quick and safe north-south routes that pass by both Union Station and Ogilvie Center (Chicago’s main transportation hubs). Ride east pass Michigan Avenue and you’ll be in the sprawling park grounds of Millennium and Grant parks, which offer several outlets to the extensive lakefront bike trail—a wildly popular means for travel by city cyclists.
Once on the lakefront trail, bikers enjoy well-maintained, paved paths with mile markers and lane designations for orderly riding and directional assistance. From the Loop, bicyclists can head down the trail 5 minutes to the Museum Campus to spend a day at the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium or Adler Planetarium, or see the Chicago Bears play at Solider Field. And, instead of paying through the nose for parking, bikers can lock up their bikes outside for free!
Bike riding is such a common form of transportation in Lakeview that you’re bound to see bicyclists coasting down the streets even during winter! The strong cycling interest in this north side Chicago neighborhood has prompted the establishment of bike lanes and shared lanes on several of Lakeview’s major thoroughfares. Halsted Street, which divides East Lakeview and Lakeview proper, has handy bike lanes that provide a north-south travel route right by loads of dining options, trendy night clubs and comfy neighborhood watering holes. During the summer, Cubs games are always cause for bottlenecks around Wrigley Field, but bikers never get caught up in the traffic jams. Those swift two-wheelers can fly right by the line of cars backed up at lights and diverted by barriers set up for the crush of fans flooding the ballpark grounds.
Chicago’s well-traveled 18-mile lakefront bike trail makes a tour through Lakeview East with easy access from the neighborhood streets to the path via three Lake Shore Drive underpasses at Barry, Roscoe and Waveland. Bike riders can take the vehicle-free trail north a few minutes to the Sydney Marovitz Golf Course and Montrose Harbor and Beach, or south past the Belmont Harbor Dog Beach to Lincoln Park and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. And, Lakeview residents who work in downtown might just find this picturesque trail to be the fastest way down to the Loop (roughly a 20-minute ride). Try to beat that time in a car during rush hour!
The South Loop is a budding Chicago neighborhood that has the right idea when it comes to “bikeability.” As one of the lucky communities with public parkland along Lake Michigan, the city’s extensive lakefront bike trail runs right through the South Loop, connecting it with 18 continuous miles of scenic shoreline cycling. On the north end of the neighborhood, bikers can hop on the path from Grant Park. Cruise by Buckingham Fountain and watch the impressive water jets shoot 50 feet in the air then take the paved trail south through the Museum Campus and right past Burnham Harbor. Further down, bikers can easily cross Lake Shore Drive at the overpass/ underpass at 18th Street and another elevated skyway at the massive McCormick Place convention center on Cermak Road.
Students at Roosevelt University and Columbia College (both located on Michigan Avenue in the South Loop) appreciate the convenient bike routes through the park and the designated bike lanes along the neighborhood’s high-traffic streets. Wabash is useful for north-south travel and Roosevelt provides bikers with a safe east-west avenue to cross the Chicago River. Just west of the waterway, Roosevelt meets up with Canal Street, which also has bike lanes and allows cyclists to head up to the business district in the Loop from a less-congested west side approach.
Unlike Chicago’s other top neighborhoods for biking, Bucktown is inland from the water and does not share in the popular lakefront bike trail that runs practically the entire length of the city shoreline. Nevertheless, this ultra-trendy community shows a fondness for cycling that has spurred neighborhood-wide measures to provide safe and convenient bike routes within the Bucktown borders. Streets with designated bike lanes are concentrated in the center of Bucktown, where most of the area’s business and entertainment are focused. Damen is a north-south running thoroughfare that bisects the neighborhood and intersects all the other main avenues in Bucktown with bike lanes or shared lanes. From Damen, riders can pick up Armitage to the west or Cortland to the east, which crosses the Chicago River and hooks back up with Armitage in Lincoln Park and takes bicyclists directly to the waterfront (about a 10-minute trip from the heart of Bucktown).
Slicing diagonally through Bucktown is Milwaukee Avenue, another heavily-traveled Chicago road that passes through numerous neighborhoods and is the site of countless shops, restaurants, bars and other businesses. Up in Bucktown, Milwaukee has shared lanes (marked by chevron and bike symbols on the pavement and yellow diamond warning signs). At Division, the shared lanes change to bike lanes (indicated by solid stripes on the pavement and signage alerting motorists to its existence), which continue to Grand Avenue where Milwaukee dead-ends in the River West neighborhood. Because Milwaukee angles straight towards the Loop, it provides a great way to transverse downtown from the near northwest side community of Bucktown.
You might think for a minute that this DePaul Concert Hall (800 W. Belden) belongs in New England. The structure was built in 1963, and is reputed to have excellent acoustics. The DePaul University School of Music regularly features concerts here.
We have passed by this beautiful Italianate building for years on our way from Chicago back home when we take the Lake Shore Drive/route 41 option and we always remark that we should stop in someday to see what's there. Well, today was that day and it is an incredible building not only on the exterior but on the interior as well.
As you pull up, you can see the beautiful garden in front and the surrounding 9 hole golf course. The building is open to the public, there was a wedding going on so we only got to peek into the grand ballroom but the Solarium was open for viewing as was the main hallway. Out back, you can see Lake Michigan.
The building was originally the South Shore Country Club, built in 1906 as a play ground for Chicago's rich and famous. In the 1960s, the building was abandoned and fell into disrepair. In 1974 it was purchased by the Chicago Park District and is now used for park district programs and the occasional social function.
There's a restaurant inside the building, the Parrot Cage, which is run by the Washburne Culinary Institute. It would be a great place to have dinner when the sun is still out as you'd have a great view of Lake Michigan.
The attached website has some cool old photos from the Chicago Daily News.
If you want to buy some Feng-Shui stuff or Chinese food, this is the place. It`s pretty small and is not worth a visit as a landmark. We went there to look for some good tea and have a Chinese dinner.
RESTAURANT: We went to the Triple Crown at 22nd Place (first street on your right, after you enter Chinatown). The place was OK (3***). Spent $35 for 1 soup and 3 entrees. Loved the 'Hundred Flavours Beef' dish ($9.95). It was spicy and indeed had a lot of flavour. Portions were big, we wished we ordered less.
TEA: Found one store and were shocked by the prices. I mean $140 for a pound of good green tea is way too much!!! When we asked to taste some tea ($44 per pound) to make sure it is a good one, a girl said they do tea ceremovies by appointment only. Yeah, right.
TOUR: The Chinatown Chamber of Commerce offers 1 hour walking tour (in English) and for groups of 10 or more. Tour highlights include an introduction to Chinese culture, several Chinatown landmarks, and history of the Chinese community in Chicago.
Price: $2 per person for school groups, $4 for everybody else.
DIRECTIONS: By underground: Red Line stop Cermak-Chinatown.
Logan Square is another gem of a neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago. Take the blue line to the Logan Square stop, and you'll be at the intersection of Logan Blvd, Kedzie, and Milwaukee. The square itself is not very inviting. It can feel particularly chaotic when there's a lot of traffic. However, Logan Blvd to the east of the square and Kedzie Ave to the south of the square are wide boulevards lined with glorious late 19th/early 20th century mansions and grand apartment homes. The tree-lined side streets are also worth exploring. If you have the opportunity to take a walking tour of the neighborhood, I strongly recommend it. The Chicago Architecture Foundation (www.architecture.org) offers a tour a couple of times a year, and the Logan Square Boulevards District House, Church & Garden Walk happens once a year. As with most Chicago neighborhoods, there is some wonderful history behind the development, decline, and rebirth of this great neighborhood. There's a lovely tapas restaurant called Azucar directly across the street from the blue line subway stop at 2647 N Kedzie. Great food and lovely outdoor dining. We ate outside on a Friday evening at around 8pm, and I was pleasantly surprised by how tranquil it felt, even though we were on a main street. There's another popular restaurant on the south side of the square called Lula Cafe at 2537 N Kedzie.
Another wonderful residential area that is great for walking. Take the blue line toward O'Hare, and get off at the Damen stop. You'll be at the intersection of Damen (2000 west), North (1600 north) and Milwaukee. The first walk I recommend is in the area northeast of this intersection, bounded by Damen on the west, North Avenue on the south, Armitage on the north, and the Kennedy expressway on the east. If you wend your way to the northeast corner of this neighborhood, there's a great little restaurant called Jane's in an old house at 1653 W Cortland. Another area I like to walk is west of Damen, north of the railroad embankment, and east of Milwaukee. (By the way, there are plans afoot to convert this unused elevated track into a bike path. See www.bloomingdaletrail.org) If you find yourself near the intersection of Armitage, Western, and Milwaukee, you may want to check out Margie's Candies at 1960 N Western. An ice cream parlor since 1921, it's a Chicago institution. You can also pick up the L at this intersection to head back downtown.
If you're coming from Ukrainian Village (see Ukrainian Village tip), walk north along Leavitt to Division. Head east on Division. There are lots of restaurants and boutiques along this street. For restaurant recommendations, check out the Chicago Reader's restaurant rater (www.chicagoreader.com, click on "restaurants"). You can enter neighborhood, cuisine, and price range, among other criteria. I've had nice meals at Enoteca Roma and Letizia's Natural Bakery (2144/2146 W Division). My favorite gelateria is Caffe Gelato at 2034 West Division. Crust, a pizza place at 2056 W Division, is Chicago's first certified organic restaurant. Mirai Sushi at 2020 W Division is popular. The closer you get to Ashland, the scruffier the neighborhood gets: more old-man bars, more plastic bags clinging to tree branches, fewer boutiques. Once you get to Division, Ashland, and Milwaukee, you can take the blue line back downtown. If you'd like to head up to Bucktown, you have 2 options. You can take the blue line toward O'Hare and get off at the next stop. Or, if you are interested in observing the evolution of a neighborhood from scruffy to swanky, walk northwest along Milwaukee from Division. You many notice one or two nice restaurants or hipster stores, but they are outnumbered by fast-food joints, dollar stores, boarded-up buildings, etc. As you walk further north, the balance shifts until you get to the intersection of Milwaukee, Damen, and North. This is the heart of Wicker Park. The Bongo Room, at 1470 N Milwaukee, is popular for breakfast and lunch. Myopic Books at 1564 N Milwaukee is one of my favorite used bookstores. The Flat Iron Arts Building at 1579 N Milwaukee is filled with artists' studios. The Double Door is a live music venue at 1572 N Milwaukee. If you head north on Damen, you'll enter Bucktown and see the transformation to swanky begin. Lots of precious boutiques and restaurants line this street all the way from North (1600 north) to Armitage (2000 north) and beyond.