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Lincoln Square's Architectural Gem
"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.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
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!
- Food and Dining
South Chicago - labor strife
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.
- Historical Travel
Jackson Boulevard Historic District
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.
- Historical Travel
South Chicago - post-industrial
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.
- Historical Travel
Old Town, located between Division St. (south) and Eugenie St. (north), between Halsted (west) and Clark St. (east), is a pleasant neighborhood to visit, full of shops, restaurants and entertainment. Old Town is sandwiched in between the Gold Coast to the south, Lincoln Park to the north. The area to the west is still a little rough although the housing project known as Cabrini Green is all but gone now. To the east is Lake Michigan.
Like many of Chicago's neighborhoods it has changed many times over the years. In the 1800s, the area was filled with German farmers who gave the area the nickname the "Cabbage Patch". In the 1960s, the area became a sort of bohemian place to live, rents were cheap and artists and performers gravitated here including many of the talented Second City performers like Bill Murray, John Belushi and John Candy. After a period where the neighborhood turned a little seedy, it has again changed into a higher priced neighborhood where young professionals live.
Places to eat: Twin Anchors for ribs, Bistro Margot for French bistro fare, Adobo Grill for upscale Mexican, Salpicon also upscale Mexican
Entertainment/things to see: Second City comedy club, Zanies comedy club, visit St. Michael's church, Old Town Art Fair June 11-12, 2005, St. Michael Festival June 10-12, 2005, Second City walking tour
Comfortably situated along Clark between Foster and Bryn Mawr, Andersonville is cheaper than a trip to Sweden and better shopping too. This ethnic neighborhood has blossomed as small upstart boutiques, fitness clubs (Cheetah Gym for Yoga), and specialty stores (The Wooden Spoon) sprouting up between the long-standing Swedish bakeries and restaurants. Shop here for unique designer dresses and jewelry, soaps and lotions, or handmade art.
Andersonville's roots as a community extend well back into the 19th century, when immigrant Swedish farmers started moving north into what was then a distant suburb of Chicago. The area is still inhabited by many Swedes, in addition to Lebanese, Koreans and Mexicans. The area is also home to may gays and lesbians.
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
Neighborhoods-Old Edgebrook Historical District
One of the tours offered on 2007's Great Places and Spaces was a tour of the Old Edgebrook Historic District, a neighborhood that I had never heard of, in fact I thought I was touring Edgewater until my husband pointed out that it was Edgebrook, good thing as they are on opposite sides of the city!
We started at the Edgebrook Golf Course parking lot at 6100 N. Central and headed north through the trees to a small neighborhood filled with interesting architecture from as early as 1894. Some of the houses are clearly newer than that, mostly because the vacant lots were sold and people filled in with current architectural styles. But you'll see good examples of Victorian, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and at least one Craftsman style bungalow.
Edgebrook was part of the 1,600 acres given to by the US government to Chief Sauganash, also known as Billy Caldwell, who was half-Potawatomi Indian, half-Irish. He eventually sold the land, some of it became private homes, much of it is now forest preserve or a golf course. If you go east on Caldwell (which becomes Peterson), you will run into the community named Sauganash after him.
To get here take the Caldwell exit (41A) from highway 94, turn left on Central and look for the golf course sign on the right.
The South Loop is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in Chicago with new high rises and construction cranes dotting the sky, a few years ago there really wouldn't have been much down here to draw visitors to this area but there are now several very good restaurants including the Bongo Room's location on Wabash, Yolk, Gioco, Opera, Chicago Firehouse and Custom House.
The borders are roughly between Congress Parkway on the north and Roosevelt Road on the south (although a more generous definition is as far south as 18th Street or Cermak) between Grant Park and the Chicago River which flows north/south at this point. There's a small section inside this area which is known as Printer's Row around Clark and Dearborn.
One of the first developments in this area back in the 1980s was River City, 800 S. Wells, designed by Bertrand Goldberg who also designed Marina City, shaped in the form of an "S". Originally it was supposed to be one of several buildings that would be interconnected in the form of a snake but the area didn't take off, only 1 of the planned buildings was erected and the building sat isolated for many years. I think it looks a lot like Chicago's public housing style that was used for low income residents or maybe something from a Batman movie.
Although technically not in the South Loop, you can get a good view of the Art Deco old main Post Office from nearby River City, it has been vacant since 1996, plans are to turn it into condos, office space and parking.
Chicago's Chinatown is not as large as the ones in San Francisco, New York or Los Angeles but if you are in Chicago for longer than a few days, you might give some thought to heading down here for a little shopping or some dim sum. Chinatown also has a few remnants of when the area was populated by Italians, Bertucci's which our guide said was a terrific Italian restaurant and a Catholic church.
We recently took a guided tour through Chinatown with a local and it was an interesting look into one of Chicago's neighborhoods. He told us that Chicago's Chinatown was originally further northeast and moved to it's present location in 1913. Our guide gave us a historical look at the Chinese in the US, how they came to Chicago and how the area evolved over the years.
The weekend is the best time to visit, on the weekdays Chinatown is pretty empty. We usually make the journey to Chinatown on Sunday afternoon and head to Won Kow, our favorite place for dim sum. Phonenix, 2131 S. Archer, is the dim sum place that comes most highly recommended but expect a wait on a Sunday afternoon.
Occasionally we also stop for dinner, the last time we visited Moon Palace on Cermak and the food was good.
After filling up on the tasty pot stickers, bbq pork buns and dumplings, we take a stroll on Wentworth, stopping by the Chinese gift shops, a bakery to take home some egg tarts and a grocery to get whatever catches our fancy.
Other things to check out in Chinatown is the newly opened Chinese-American Museum of Chicago at 238 W. 23rd and the On Leong Tong Building and Chinatown Gate at Wentworth & Cermak.
Chinatown is very easy to reach from downtown Chicago, the red line el (subway) stops at Cermak-Chinatown, a block or two away from the shops and restaurants. It's a very quick trip, no more than 10-15 minutes by el from downtown. From the el station, head towards the Chinatown Gate and Three Happiness Restaurant which is the start of Chinatown.
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