"I wish I could go to America if only to see that Chicago!"
Otto Von Bismarck, German Chancellor, 1870
I love Lincoln Square, and it's not just because my daughter lives in that area! I love the old wood-frame Victorians, the Chicago bungalows, the greystone apartment buildings, and the quaint shops of the area. But, of all the beautiful places in Lincoln Square, the one that is the most beautiful example of Chicago architecture is The Museum oof Decorative Arts Building, the last project of the famous Louis Sullivan. Louis Sullivan is most famous for such Chicago landmarks as the Auditorium Theatre, the Carson Pirie Scott building on State Street, and the old Chicago Stock Exchange.
William P. Krause wanted to build a music store in about 1920, and with the help of Sullivan, Krause's builder created this ornate little place for a music store with Krause's apartment above it. The facade of this building is hard to miss. It has built-in lights as well as white & black & grey tiles. There is also an ornamental letter K at the top of the facade (which you can see in the photo) that represents William Krause.
Unfortunately, the music shop was only in business for about seven years. After the music store, there was a funeral home there for several years, and today, it is the home of the Museum of Decorative Arts which boasts a collection of decorative arts & objects which date from 1870 until 1930. It's more than just a museum; there are items available for sale from several eras: Victorian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, & Arts & Crafts movements.
When in Lincoln Square, be sure to drop in for a "look-see" and maybe a purchase!
It's located on North Lincoln Avenue kind of across from the Davis Theatre.
Chicago has a lot of beautiful parks that most visitors to Chicago will never see, Humboldt Park is not really on the tourist path and the area surrounding the park has one of the highest crime rates in the city although I did not feel unsafe at anytime during our visit. Humboldt Park is located on the west side of Chicago and although most people think of the south side (thanks in part to Jim Croce and "Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown") as having the bad areas, the west side has the highest crime rates in the city. That being said, the Chicago Tribune had a recent article (7/16/04) saying that the Humboldt Park area was making a comeback.
We visited the Humboldt Park boathouse for a tour by the Architecture Foundation, the boathouse seen in the picture is in the process of being renovated. It was constructed in 1906/7 in the Prairie style made popular by Frank Lloyd Wright.
There used to be rowboats out on the lagoon, there is some talk of bringing them back. If you see old postcards, all of them feature boats.
The boathouse is located at 1301 N. Humoldt Blvd. in the center of Humboldt Park, just west of California between Division and North. If you stop here, be sure to go a little north on California and grab a jibarito sandwich-see my restaurant tips.
If you are driving, there is a parking lot right in front of the boathouse.
Humboldt Park, incidentally, gets it's name from Baron Friedrich Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt, a German scientist and explorer with no apparent connection to Chicago, but the neighborhood had many German families when the park opened in 1877. There's a 10 foot bronze sculpture of him in the park that I somehow missed.
And one more fact, Saul Bellow, the famous author, grew up in this neighborhood and used Humboldt Park as the setting for the book that made him famous "The Adventures of Augie March". Better add that to my reading list!
The Uptown neighborhood is located on the northside of Chicago. If you are a fan of ornate terra cotta buildings, Uptown has many fabulous examples, many of which are still in use such as the Aragon Ballroom and many which are in need of interior renovation such as the Uptown Theater.
The area was originally known as the Wilson Avenue District, the name Uptown was created to give the appearance of high class. It was home to many entertainment venues and inhabited largely by young single folks so when the depression hit in 1929, many of these renters were forced to move out and the area became economically depressed.
Today it is a diverse neighborhood and although still a bit dodgy, I didn't feel too unsafe walking around in the daytime.
See my Uptown travelogue for more sights to hit.
The Lincoln Square neighborhood is bordered by Foster Avenue (north) to Montrose Avenue (south), Damen Avenue (east) to the Chicago River (west). The heart of Lincoln Square is on Lincoln Avenue from Lawrence on the north to Montrose on the south. You can get here by driving, there is metered street and lot parking, or by taking the CTA (el) brown line.
Lincoln Avenue is filled with restaurants ranging from the popular Chicago Brauhaus for German, to Turkish, Thai and Italian.
There are also many shops lining the street, including several delis selling German food/ sausages and gift stores. Some places you'll want to stop in, even if just for a look include Merz Apothecary at 4716 N. Lincoln and Quake Collectibles at 4628 N. Lincoln. Sadly, one of the last remnants of Lincoln Square German history, Delicatessen Meyer, closed in April 2007 after 53 years.
The last project of architect Louis Sullivan, the Krause Music store, is located at 4611 N. Lincoln Avenue. It now houses the Museum of Decorative Arts.
You might also want to stop by the Old Town School of Folk Music at 4544 N. Lincoln to see the WPA mural that can be found on the 2nd floor in an art deco building that used to be a branch of the Chicago Public Library, look for the detail on the exterior of the building. Or you might even catch a performance here.
Several big festivals take place in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, there's a Mayfest that's held in June and an Oktoberfest that's held in September. Is there a different calendar in Germany????? LOL Be sure to find the Chicago's only maypole on Lincoln Avenue.
I'm not exactly sure when Wicker Park, a neighborhood on the west side of downtown Chicago, started turning around, but you probably wouldn't have seen many recommendations to go visit Wicker Park 10 years ago. A recent boost to the area was when MTV's Real World was filmed there in 2002. Wicker Park is named for the public park that Charles Wicker, a developer/politician, and his brother Joel, donated to the city in 1870.
The old mansions in the neighborhood come from the time when the original residents, German beer barons, lived here in the 1860s. By the late 1800s, the area became inhabited by the Poles, followed by Latino immigrants in the 1960s. The area fell into decline but eventually some people looking for the next hot real estate market took a chance and bought some of the beautiful neglected mansions in Wicker Park and today it is a diverse neighborhood with lots of young people and artists, funky restaurants and stores. Many of the old mansions survived and are intermixed with new development.
Wicker Park has convenient transportation links to downtown, take the blue line el to Damen, and if you'd prefer to stay in a neighborhood rather than the downtown tourist area, there are at least two B&Bs in Wicker Park Wicker Park Inn and House of Two Urns.
Trendy/funky restaurants abound in Wicker Park, the Bongo Room is a great casual spot to have a decadent breakfast/brunch. Spring, housed in a cool building that used to be the North Avenue bath house, is a more upscale place to have dinner. Santullo's is one of the few places in Chicago where you can get a slice of New York style pizza. For more suggestions, check out Center Stage
Being from Vancouver, which has a huge Chinese population, it takes a lot to impress me when it comes to the Chinese section of any city.
Chicago's Chinatown doesn't do much for me. But it's a nice place to see once and get a good meal.
I'd suggest following my golden rule of eating in Asian restaurants: Don't go where all the tourists go, instead visit the places that seem to have a lot of locals. The locals know better!
A memorial for the "Memorial Day Massacre" of 1937, when 10 workers who were striking against the large Republic Steel Works on this site were gunned down outside the factory gates. 30 others were seriously hurt. Most of those who died had been shot in the back.
Republic Steel is long gone, its Chicago plant an abandoned wasteland. This sad little marker, in the parking lot of the Steelworker's Union Hall, offers mute testimony to one of the worst episodes of violence in America's labor history.
As part of the 2006 Great Places and Spaces weekend, we took a tour of the Jackson Boulevard Historic District with the Chicago Architecture Foundation who runs this tour several times a year, each time allowing a visit to a different interior of one of the mansions. We got to visit one that the owners had painstakingly renovated.
The Historic District is really only a 2 block area on Jackson Boulevard and Adams Street between Ashland and Laflin (1500 West and 300 South), almost all that is left of the once fashionable west side . Many of the mansions once lining these grand old boulevards have been razed over the years, the docent said he didn't really know how this one particular block on Jackson Boulevard remained more or less intact. The ones that do remain were built between roughly 1871 and 1900 in the popular styles of that time-Italianate, Queen Anne, 2nd Empire and Richardsonian Romanesque.
A few interesting things we learned on the tour was that at one time many of the mansions had been painted battleship gray (the paint was government issued and cheap), all of them now restored to their original brick color, the ones that were sand blasted didn't fare as well as the others.
The appropriately named Gold Coast is Chicago's wealthiest neighborhood, roughly from Oak Street (or Chicago Avenue depending on who you believe) to North Avenue, between Lake Michigan and LaSalle. If you take a walk through the area you will understand why, tree lined streets filled with million dollar mansions, some so large that they have been split into multiple condos.
This is one of the closest neighborhoods to the tourist area around the Magnificent Mile, you can easily walk here from any of the Michigan Avenue hotels.
I took two different tours of the area during Chicago's 2005 and 2006 Great Places & Spaces weekend. In 2005, we started at Chicago & Dearborn and headed north, turning right on Goethe (pronounced Gerta if you are not familiar with the German philosopher) and left on Astor. Among the impressive things I saw along the way were:
The Newberry Library-Walton & Dearborn
James Charnley House-1365 N. Astor St., designed by Adler & Sullivan in conjunction with Frank Lloyd Wright, free tours on Wednesday at noon, Saturday tours are $10 and include the Madlener House and an exterior tour
Elinor Patterson-Cyrus McCormick House-20 E. Burton/1500 N. Astor, the largest mansion in the area, currently divided into condos which would still be pretty nice sized
Archbishop's Residence-1555 N. State Parkway
In 2006, we started at Lake Shore Drive and Bellevue at the Lathrop House, 120 E. Bellevue, and saw many of the same houses along the way, one of the special things we saw on this trip was the house at 1310 N. Astor Street where John Root lived when he contracted pnemonia at age 41 and died, the owner happened to be there and let the whole group traipse through the house which was under renovation. Cool! If you are not familiar with the name, Root was an associate of Daniel Burnham and at the time of his death was collaborating with Burnham on the architecture for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.
Chicago's far South Side has dozens of acres of abandoned factories. They serve as a reminder of the time in the not-so-distant past when the United States actually was a significant exporter of industrial goods. Here also many of the most important struggles of the modern labor movement were fought. Ironically, it was the very success of that labor movement which may have contributed to the speed with which this part of Chicago's industrial base was abandoned.
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