How we got there: We drove. There is abundant, free street parking. You can check other public transportation options with the CTA Trip Planner.
Marge’s comments: What a delightful walk this was! Most notable is the historic district which contains houses from 1880 – 1940. The homes are laid out on curving streets with nice setbacks. Parks and green space are sprinkled all over the district. The trees are huge and I imagine it would be the perfect walk to take when the autumn colors peak. This is a walk for peaceful meandering and chatting with the neighbors who were outside everywhere on the day we were there. We ran across them sitting on their porches, doing yard work, walking the dog or hustling children to and from activities. We even came across a block party where we were welcomed and offered a beer! Make sure to stop in the Norwood Park Historical Society where a docent will give you a tour of the Noble Seymour Crippen House (in which it is housed) and tell you the history of Norwood Park and some of its residents.
When you are driving on the Kennedy Expressway, did you ever wonder what lies just over the retaining wall? This idyllic neighborhood with curving streets, parks everywhere, and free range children would be the farthest thing from your mind. It is rich in history and yet is quite livable today. A jewel hiding in plain sight.
In 1833 Mark Noble filed claim to 150 acres of land in the area. He built a frame house on a glacial ridge and lived the life of a gentleman farmer. Today his home, at 5634 North Newark Avenue, is the oldest building in Chicago and home to the Norwood Park Historical Society.
Other farmers followed Noble. Then in 1868, a group of Chicago investors purchased 860 acres near the railroad for real estate development. Taking their name from a popular novel (Norwood by Henry Ward Beecher, the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe), they called their community Norwood Park.
The new town featured wide lots with expansive front lawns. Instead of following the rigid Chicago grid, the streets were pleasantly curved–one of them even formed a circle. Three small parks were laid out and hundreds of shade trees planted.
To promote development, frequent ads were run in the Chicago newspapers. It’s worth quoting one of them:
“Only 11 miles from the Court House on the Chicago & Northwestern, 30 minutes ride. Eighty feet above the lake on beautiful, rolling ground, perfect drainage. No malaria, no saloons, no nuisances of any kind. Good society, churches, graded schools, stores.”
New settlers arrived. They built large Victorian homes on the high ground near the ridge. As Norwood Park grew, the residents saw the need for city services. In 1893, they voted to become part of Chicago. Today the historic heart of the original town is called Old Norwood. (from Norwood Park, Past and Present, WBEZ Blog, by John R. Schmidt)
This walk encompasses only the “Old Norwood” neighborhood of Norwood Park.
1.Taft High School 6530 W. Bryn Mawr
Jim Jacobs, the writer of the musical, Grease, based it on his experiences as a student here.
2. Norwood Park 5801 N. Natoma Ave.
The Norwood Park District purchased 14 acres for its first park in 1921. Site drainage began in 1922, and bath house and swimming pool construction shortly thereafter. In 1928, the park district added a fieldhouse with a 500-seat assembly hall.
3. Norwood Park Train Station 6088 N. NW Hwy
The tracks were built in the 1850s and the current train station was built in 1907 and designed in the Prairie style by architects Frost and Granger. It is on the Register of National Historic Places. You can see it across the tracks as you walk along Avondale. Before the roads were paved, the only way you could get from Chicago to Norwood Park was the train. The roads were often impassable. The job of the sole Norwood Park Police Officer was easy. He parked himself at the train station and watched everyone getting off the train. If he didn’t know you or you couldn’t justify why you were there, he sent you back on the train!
4. North West Circle Avenue and North East Circle Avenue
The residential section of Old Norwood Park was designed to the “Picturesque Ideal”, holding that neighborhoods should be designed to imitate patterns found in nature. The curved streets of Norwood Park stand in sharp contrast to the gridiron plan of Chicago. The streetscape provides focal points in the neighborhood and helps define the community as distinct from its surroundings. Norwood Park was designed to create an image of nature and parks and vistas.
Although most streets in the district feature historic homes, large trees and curving roads, the Circle Avenues are unique for their size and presence. It is believed that informal horse racing took place around the circle in the old times followed by car racing after the circle was paved. The Circle Avenues were the first streets to be paved in Norwood Park.
5. Noble-Seymour-Crippen House, home of the Norwood Park Historical Society 5622-24 N. Newark Ave.
The House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest existing house in Chicago. It is named after its first three owners. After Mark Noble’s time, Seymour and Crippen added to the original humble structure. (Noble Square in West Town is named after Mark Noble’s two sons.)
When we popped in, a docent was on duty and gave us a tour of the house which acts as a museum for the historical society. The docent will tell you about the history of the house, the area and some of its residents. The museum collection has old photographs, letters and artifacts found in the area. They even have a hollowed out log which served as a water main back in its day. This is a worthwhile stop!
Where it is located: These walks take you through the Gold Coast neighborhood of the Near North Community Area of Chicago. It is Walk #7 on the Walk Locations Map.
How we got there: There is limited parking in this neighborhood and it is expensive. Check Spot Hero or look for parking lots on Google Maps if you are determined to drive. The area is well served by public transportation and taxis are abundant.
This area is one of the most beautiful in the city. Historical mansions line leafy, quiet streets, yet it is a quick walk to many restaurants and exclusive shopping. It is no wonder the city’s wealthiest residents call this area home. There are many options for touring this neighborhood. The Chicago Architectural Foundation conducts walking tours here as well as several other companies. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I list links to two options below for self guided walking tours; one from Frommer’s and the other by MetrowalkZ.
Tourists from all over the world throng to this popular and storied neighborhood. A short walk from Michigan Avenue with restaurants galore, what better way to spend a free morning or afternoon. The highest property values in the city insure that these mansions and town homes are distinctive and in mint condition.
The Gold Coast neighborhood grew in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire. In 1882, millionaire Potter Palmer moved to the area from the Prairie Avenue neighborhood on the city’s south side. Other wealthy Chicagoans followed Potter into the neighborhood, which became one of the richest in Chicago. In the late 1980s, the Gold Coast and neighboring Streeterville comprised the second most-affluent neighborhood in the United States, behind Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Today, the neighborhood is a mixture of mansions, row houses, and high rise apartments. Highlights include the Astor Street District and the James Charnley House.
The Astor Street District forms the core of most walking tours. Constructed over a period of more than 100 years, the buildings along Astor Street reflect the fashionable styles favored by their original high-society residents. The numerous 19th-century houses are designed in a variety of historical revival styles, and are interspersed with apartment buildings and townhouses. It was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1975. Interestingly, Astor Street was named after John Jacob Astor who never lived in Chicago. Because he was one of the richest citizens in the United States in the mid 1800s, his name gave a luster to the area. (From Wikipedia)
Where it is located: This walk is in the Kenwood Community area of Chicago. It is Walk #5 on the Walk Locations Map.
How we got there: We drove and parked near S. Drexel Blvd. and E. 49th Street. Street Parking is available. You can check out your public transportation options at: CTA Trip Planner
Marge’s Comments: What I felt was most special about this walk were the stories about all the prominent Chicagoans who once lived here. It was so interesting to find out why the names Ryerson, Swift, Blackstone and Rosenwald are seen on buildings and plaques around town. As you stand outside their former homes you feel connected to their history of achievement and generosity. Block after block of impressive homes and architecture has earned this part of Kenwood its own designation as a historical district on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ed’s Comments: When you see this paradise nestled in the South Side of Chicago, you won’t believe your eyes. These stately blocks, rich in history, are a delight of pleasant surprises. The walk takes so long because you stop constantly to learn and adore.
The first resident of Kenwood was John Kennicott who named his home Kenwood after his ancestral land in Scotland. When the Illinois Central built a small depot in the area, they named the station Kenwood and eventually the area became known as Kenwood. Kenwood developed between 1850 and 1880 as a pleasant respite from the congestion of the city. Kenwood became home to many of Chicago’s most prominent citizens and was referred to as the “Lake Forest of the South Side.” It was annexed to Chicago in 1889.
The Historical Kenwood District is on the National Register of Historic Places as are some of its most notable homes. Architectural styles ranging from Italianate and Colonial Revival to Queen Anne and Prairie School can be found here.
Drive to E. 48th Street and Drexel Boulevard and look for a place to park along Drexel Boulevard or nearby. Walk south down the boulevard on the west side of the boulevard and take in the homes on the way to your first stop.
1.) 4938 S. Drexel Blvd., McGill House
1891 Henry Ives Cobb, Architect
One of the grandest mansions in the Kenwood community, the McGill House is a commanding presence on Drexel Boulevard, one of Chicago’s most impressive South-Side boulevards. The massively-scaled “picturesque” mansion was constructed in 1891 as the residence of physician and entrepreneur Dr. John A. McGill. Drawing inspiration from medieval and French Renaissance building traditions, the McGill House, designed by nationally noted architect Henry Ives Cobb, is an exceptional early example of Châteauesque-style architecture. Following the completion of the McGill House, Cobb was instrumental in the planning of the campus of the University of Chicago and the design of eighteen of the campus’s striking Gothic structures in the nearby Hyde Park neighborhood. Cobb’s skillful execution of traditional designs made him an outstanding architect in Chicago during the late 19th century and earned him a national reputation as one of the premier architects working during this period in historic revivalist styles. Besides the University of Chicago buildings, he also designed the Newberry Library, the (recently restored) Chicago Athletic Club at 12 S. Michigan and the Harry Caray Restaurant Building on Kinzie.
In 1928 the house became the Carrie McGill Memorial YWCA Building. At that time a three story limestone addition, in a simplified version of the Châteauesque style, was added to the rear of the McGill House, forming a “T” in plan. Respectfully set back from the main residence, the addition was designed by architects Berlin & Swern. Today the house is home to 34 Condominiums.
(from The Chicago Landmark Designation Report on McGill House)
2.) Drexel Blvd and E. Hyde Park Blvd in Drexel Square: Francis M. Drexel Memorial Fountain
1881 Henry Manger, Sculptor
The oldest public sculpture in Chicago, the figure at the top of this elaborate fountain represents Francis M. Drexel (1792-1863), Austrian-born banker, real estate speculator and founder of brokerage house Drexel and Company, based in Philadelphia. Although Drexel did not live in Chicago, he owned land in the city that he came by through a foreclosure and donated a portion to be used as a boulevard bearing his name. Drexel’s two sons, Francis A. and Anthony J. Drexel, commissioned Henry Manger, a Philadelphia sculptor from Germany, to create this $40,000 bronze and granite monument. The four bronze bas-relief panels feature the god of oceans, Neptune, riding a dolphin, as well as other figures representing lakes, rivers and springs. In 1888, the Drexel brothers funded the addition of jets to allow water to run continuously in the fountain.
Following a series of restorations over the decades, the fountain suffered neglect and was inoperable until the early 2000s, when the Chicago Department of Transportation and Public Building Department performed the repairs necessary to allow the water to flow again.
3.) Hyde Park Blvd at the base of the green median on Drexel Blvd
There is an interesting sign about the Boulevards of Chicago, including Drexel Blvd.
4.) 930 E. 50th, Rainbow Push Coalition
This building was built in the 1920s, but I couldn’t find any history on it, despite its impressive presence on the boulevard.
5.) 4851 S. Drexel Blvd., Martin Antoine Ryerson House and Coach House
1887; Treat and Foltz, architects
Of those men and women whose contributions to the civic life of Chicago have had a profound and lasting effect, Martin A. Ryerson is rightly placed in the very forefront. Unquestionably among the commercial leaders of the city—the Corn Exchange National Bank, Northern Trust Company, and Elgin National Watch Company were among his directorships—it was in education and art that he was most significant: most probably neither the University of Chicago nor the Art Institute of Chicago would be what they are had it not been for him.
He was one of the University’s most important early benefactors. His efforts on behalf of the Art Institute were, if possible, even more significant. He gave his entire collection, one of the most wide ranging in the nation, to the museum. Despite innumerable subsequent gifts and purchases, the Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection retains the core of the Art Institute’s holdings.
The French Impressionist Paintings seen today at the Art Institute once hung on the walls of this house.
(from: National Register of Historic Places)
6.) 4801 S. Drexel Blvd., Moses Born Residence
1901; Frost and Granger, architects
Moses Born, a native of Germany, came to Chicago in 1876 and engaged in the retail clothing business. In 1877, he began the firm of M. Born and Co., wholesale tailors “to the trade.” The house is covered in smooth-faced limestone.
(from: National Register of Historic Places)
7.) 4848 S. Ellis Ave., Gustavus Franklin Swift House
1898; Flanders and Zimmerman, architects
This meatpacker’s palazzo features sweeping verandas, Palladian windows, and at each corner of the third floor, a terra cotta lion bearing a shield emblazoned with a huge S. (from AIA Guide to Chicago)
Gustavus F. Swift, one of the great figures in the business world, not only of Chicago, but of the nation, came to the city in 1875 as the cattle buyer for the Boston firm of Hathaway and Swift. Two years later, he entered the packing business on his own, and, by 1880, had opened eastern markets to western dressed beef through his pioneering use of refrigerator cars. The result was a revolution, not only at Chicago’s Union Stock Yards, but in the nation’s whole business of supplying perishable food products. By 1918 Swift and Co. was second in volume among the nation’s businesses, exceeded only by U.S. Steel.
Aside from his importance in the development of American industry, Gustavus Swift was also a philanthropist of at least local significance. Among the recipients of his generosity were Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and the Hyde Park Y.M.C.A.
(from National Register of Historic Places)
Another notable home is on the NE Corner of 49th and Ellis (4849 S. Ellis Ave.), just across from the Swift and Rosenwald homes. The interior was filmed as Kelsey Grammar’s house in “Boss”, a TV show about a Chicago mayor that aired from 2011-2012 and only ran two seasons.
8.) 4901 S. Ellis Ave., Julius Rosenwald House and Coach House
1903; Nimmons and Fellows, architects
The outlines of the career of Julius Rosenwald can only begin to indicate the enormous influence he had on Chicago and the nation. He came to Chicago in 1885 and joined Sears, Roebuck and Company in 1895, acquiring a half interest in the company. Closely identified with the rise of the mail order firm and personally responsible for much of its rapid growth, he was its president from 1910 until 1925, when he became chairman of the board.
Important as Julius Rosenwald was in the development of American merchandising techniques, his significance as a philanthropist cannot be termed secondary. He gave the University of Chicago $5 million in his lifetime, and many, many millions to housing and education in the disadvantaged rural south. One of his last gifts also produced one of the most visible monuments to his charity: an initial $3 million to restore the World’s Columbian Exposition Palace of Fine Arts and establish it as an industrial museum. Those millions finally swelled to $7.5 million and gave Chicago the Museum of Science and Industry.
(from National Register of Historic Places)
Regarding the house: “Apart from such Prairie School elements as the hipped roof and Roman brick, it’s otherwise a grand, styleless galoot.” (from AIA Guide to Chicago)
9.) 1030 E. 50th Street, Ezra S. Brainerd House
1867, Architect Unknown
Built by a Civil War soldier with his mustering-out money, this back lot frame house with an extensive veranda evokes Kenwood’s era as a community of lakefront cottages.
(from AIA guide to Chicago)
10.) 4944 S. Woodlawn Ave., Muhammad Ali House
Muhammad Ali, the famous heavy weight boxer, once lived here to be closer to his spiritual mentor, Elijah Muhammad.
11.) 4855 S. Woodlawn Ave., Former home of Elijah Muhammad, Current home of Louis Farrakhan
12.) 4858 S. Kenwood Ave., George Blossom House
1892, Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect
To supplement his salary, Wright began taking on independent commissions in violation of his five-year contract with Louis Sullivan. Known as the “bootleg houses,” these early designs typically reflect historical architectural styles, yet exhibit elements that would manifest themselves fully in Wright’s mature Prairie style. Reflecting the nineteenth-century taste for academic Colonial Revival design, the George Blossom house is nearly symmetrical in plan. A library, reception room, and living room radiate from a hall, and Palladian windows are distributed evenly across the first floor of the western elevation. A semi-circular conservatory at the rear of the building echoes the covered, columned porch at its front. Despite the Colonial design of the exterior, interior elements, such as the centrally located fireplace framed by an inglenook, also appear in Wright’s more progressive designs. (From Frank Lloyd Wright Trust)
13.) 4852 Kenwood Ave., Warren McArthur House
1892 Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect
The McArthur house was designed as a “bootleg” project for Wright’s friend, Warren McArthur, and his family. Wright built the house at age 24, moonlighting for some extra cash to support his new family. Its dormered gambrel roof and octagonal bays are reminiscent of the Queen Anne style, as well as the architecture of Joseph Lyman Silsbee, Wright’s former employer. Wright had a longstanding relationship with the McArthur family. Warren McArthur’s eldest son, Albert, eventually became an architect. He apprenticed under Wright at the Oak Park Studio from 1907 to 1909 and is well known for his design of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. (from Frank Lloyd Wright Trust)
In 2013, Col. Jennifer Pritzker wanted to buy this house and the Blossom House next door, restore them and turn them into bed and breakfast houses. There was some vocal opposition in the community and the deal never happened.
14.) 4904 S. Lake Park Avenue, Blackstone Library
1904 Solon S. Beman, Architect
The Blackstone Library is a stately Classical Revival-style building designed by Chicago architect Solon S. Beman, the noted designer of the industrial town of Pullman. It was presented as a gift to the city by Isabel Norton Blackstone in honor of her late husband, Timothy Beach Blackstone, a Chicago railroad executive and philanthropist. It was the first Chicago Public Library branch. Timothy Blackstone died of pneumonia in 1900 at the age of 71 at his home on S. Michigan Avenue. The home was at the present-day location of the Blackstone Hotel, and the hotel’s name memorializes Blackstone. In addition to his executive position with the railroad, Blackstone was one of the incorporators and first president of the Chicago Union Stockyards.
Architect Solon S. Beman’s design for the Blackstone Library draws from Classical and Italian Renaissance precedents. The domed rotunda at the Blackstone Library provides a formal and grand entrance to the interior; the space retains its Classical-style floor mosaics, marble-clad walls and columns, and domed ceiling with murals. (From Chicago Landmark Designation Report)
15.) East Madison Park Avenue
This street along the official Kenwood/Hyde Park border is one of just a few private residential parkways in Chicago. All buildings overlook the green parkway and the neighborhood feels very “tucked away” from the city.
16.) 5132 S. Woodlawn Ave., Isidore Heller House
1896 Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect
As the 1890s came to a close Wright experimented with several elongated building plans that connected a series of distinct spaces along a continuous axis. The designs were markedly different from the square plans that characterized Wright’s earlier houses, and helped shape the plans of Wright’s mature Prairie buildings.
The Isidore Heller house occupies a long, narrow lot in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Conforming to the irregular shape of the lot, the plan is arranged along a horizontal axis that extends back from the building’s street façade. The horizontal emphasis of the design is countered by the vertical form of the building which incorporates a substantial third floor playroom and servants’ rooms. The arcaded exterior of the third floor displays a frieze of classically-garbed maidens adapted from Wright’s cover design for the Eve of St. Agnes, published by his friend and client William Winslow in 1896. The sculpture was executed by Wright’s frequent collaborator, Richard Bock, who designed integral sculptural elements for several of Wright’s most important Prairie buildings, including the Dana and Martin houses, and the Larkin Administration building. (From Frank Lloyd Wright Trust)
Follow the red line on the map back to your car and enjoy viewing more of the stately and architecturally significant homes of Kenwood.
Length of Walk: 1.43 miles (about a one hour walk)
Where it is located: Wicker Park is one of the neighborhoods that make up the West Town Community Area of Chicago. It is marked by a number one on this map: Location of Wicker Park Walk
How we got there: I’ve done this walk several times and always found street parking. It is best to park somewhere near the actual Wicker Park, as that is where the walk starts. If you can’t find street parking, you can go to Spot Hero or a parking app to find a space. The area is well served by the “L” and bus if you prefer to take public transportation. To get there on the “L”, take the Blue Line and get off at the Damen stop.
Comments from Marge: This is a great walk for seeing historical homes and learning the history of the area. I like to bring out of town guests on this walk because it is so interesting and, at 1.43 miles, is short and sweet. Afterwards, we can stop in at any of Wicker Park’s wonderful restaurants for lunch or dinner.
Comments from Ed: Stately mansions with lush lawns side by side with urban grit. Hipsters and young families have invaded this quiet historic neighborhood. It is the pretense, but not the setting, for the 2004 thriller Wicker Park. This delightful little walk is perfect for tourists, out-of-town guests, or even a “date” walk. Full of pleasant surprises.
Wicker Park, along with adjacent Bucktown, is mostly known today as a place to shop at edgy clothing boutiques or try out the latest hip restaurant. This tour takes you along the residential side streets that many tourists overlook but that testify to the rich history of this neighborhood. Middle-class artisans, mostly Germans and Scandinavians, began settling here around 1870. In the following decades, wealthy families whose foreign roots made them unwelcome along the Gold Coast built luxurious homes here as well. In the 20th century, the neighborhood’s respectability gradually declined, and many of the grandest homes were converted into rooming houses. It was not until the 1980s that the distinctive homes here began to be rediscovered and renovated, just as the gritty main streets of Milwaukee and Damen avenues began sprouting new shops and cafes.
Walk south along Damen Avenue to:
Two brothers who were beginning to develop their extensive real estate holdings in the area donated this land to the city in 1870, hoping the green space would make the surrounding area more attractive to prospective builders. Unfortunately, little remains of the 19th-century landscaping, which once included a pond spanned by a rustic bridge.
Cross the park to the corner of Damen Avenue and Schiller Street. Follow Schiller east, along the park, stopping first at:
1959-1961 W. Schiller St.
Built in 1886 for a ship’s captain and a medical doctor, this double home reflects the fashionable Second Empire style. The building became a rooming house in the 1920s but has been restored to its original style. Note the lively Victorian colors of the cornices, tower, and trim. Other distinctive features are the large mansard roof and the decorative saw-toothed pattern in the brickwork.
Next move to:
1941 W. Schiller St.
Built for clothing manufacturer Harris Cohn in 1888, this home is also known as the Wicker Park Castle. Essentially Queen Anne in design, its limestone facade made it pricier and more luxurious than its neighbors. Granite columns were polished to look like marble, and a turret rests on a shell-shaped base.
At the end of the block, turn right on Evergreen Avenue until you come to:
1958 W. Evergreen Ave.
Novelist Nelson Algren lived in a third-floor apartment here from 1959 to 1975. After he was caught stealing a typewriter in 1933, Algren (1909-81) spent 3 months in jail. This experience, which brought him in contact with criminals, outsiders, drug addicts, and prostitutes, was a strong influence on his work. Algren is best remembered for his two dark novels of the urban semiunderworld, A Walk on the Wild Side and The Man with the Golden Arm (which was set near here, around Division St. and Milwaukee Ave.), and for his tough but lyrical prose poem Chicago: City on the Make.
Continue to Damen Avenue, then turn right (north) back to Schiller Street. Take Schiller west 1 block to Hoyne Avenue, then turn right (north), where you’ll see:
1407 N. Hoyne Ave.
Built by German wine and beer merchant John H. Rapp in 1880, this was the largest single-family estate in Wicker Park at the time. The original coach house, behind the mansion, is now a separate residence. This was not a happy home. Mrs. Rapp went insane, a son was convicted of embezzlement, and Rapp was murdered by his female bookkeeper. The home itself is of Second Empire style, with a large, curved mansard roof. The original wrought-iron fence defines the boundaries of the original grounds.
Heading north, you’ll pass other late 19th-century mansions and, at 1426 N. Hoyne Ave., an example of a worker’s cottage, a reminder that in these immigrant neighborhoods, artisans and their patrons often lived side by side. On the next corner, at Hoyne Avenue and Le Moyne Street, is the:
Wicker Park Lutheran Church
The city’s oldest Lutheran church, it was modeled from plans of Holy Trinity Church in Caen, France, dating from the 12th century. The stone for this Romanesque structure was recycled from a demolished brothel. When one of the scandalized parishioners protested, the pastor remarked that the building material “has served the devil long enough; now let it serve the Lord.”
Walk on to:
1558 N. Hoyne St.
The building permit for this Queen Anne-style home was issued in 1877, making it one of the oldest homes in the area. It was built for C. Hermann Plautz, founder of the Chicago Drug and Chemical Company. Ever conscious of the Great Chicago Fire, the builders created all the decorative trim on both towers, the cornices, and the conservatory of the south side from ornamental pressed metal. The seemingly misplaced cannon in the front yard is a relic of the years (1927-72) when the building housed the local American Legion.
Return to Pierce Avenue and walk west to:
2137 W. Pierce Ave.
This well-preserved gem is one of the highlights of historic Wicker Park. Built for the German businessman Hermann Weinhardt in 1888, it’s a fanciful combination of elements that defies categorization. Notable details include the elaborate carved-wood balcony and the unusual juxtaposition of green stone and redbrick limestone around the large front window. The large lot used to be flooded in the winter for ice-skating.
Across the street is another notable home:
2138 W. Pierce Ave.
The original owner of this home, Hans D. Runge, was treasurer of a wood milling company, so it’s no surprise that elaborate wood carvings characterize the home inside and out; among the unique designs are the Masonic symbols flanking the pair of dragon heads under the rounded arch. A well-heeled local banker and politician, John F. Smulski, acquired the house in 1902, about the time many Poles were moving into the neighborhood. Smulski committed suicide here after the stock market crash in 1929, and the house served for a time as the Polish consulate.
Continue west until you reach Leavitt Street. Turn right (north) and walk to North Ave. Turn East (right). As you pass Hoyne Street, take a quick look at 1617-1619 N. Hoyne Ave.; the building used to house the neighborhood livery stables, where local families kept their horses and carriages. (It’s now condos.) The final stop on the tour is at 2039 W. North Ave., an address that used to house the:
These public baths were built in the 1920s and were reportedly once a hangout for local politicians and wheeler-dealers. Today the building has been transformed into — what else? — condos. Still, it’s a fitting end to the tour, a reminder of the days when this was a neighborhood of European immigrants trading news from home in the Luxor Baths steam room.
Head east to the three-way intersection of Milwaukee, Damen, and North avenues. From here, you can hop on the Blue Line El train, or grab a bite to eat or return to your car.