Get to Know the Area
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. Ask most Chicagoans where they live and you’ll get two answers. First, they’ll say they live in Chicago, but they’ll quickly tell you they live in Hyde Park, or Armour Square, or South Shore or any of Chicago’s over 70 different neighborhoods. Here is an overview of the neighborhoods of Chicago’s South Side. For specific information, just click on the name:
Extending roughly from Roosevelt Road near Chicago’s world famous Museum Campus and continuing east to the Indiana state line as well as south into the South and Southwest suburbs, Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods include: Near South Side, Armour Square/Chinatown, Bronzeville/Gap, Oakland, Kenwood, Hyde Park, South Shore, Washington Park, West Garfield Park, and East Garfield Park.
Armor Square / Chinatown
Historically a working class enclave, the Armour Square area encompasses portions of adjacent communities stitched together to make a thriving, compact neighborhood. Located three miles south of the Loop, the neighborhood features remodeled and repurposed multi-unit residential buildings including both condos and apartments. .
Armour Square itself is one of a series of ten parks designed in the early 20th Century by famed landscaped architect Frederick Law Olmstead (designer of New York’s Central Park and the grounds for Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893). The park is named for Philip D. Armour, owner of the world’s largest meat packing company, and benefactor whose philanthropy including founding numerous charitable and educational institutions, including what is now the Illinois Institute of Technology. The Armour Square neighborhood is also the historic home of the Chicago White Sox, initially at Comiskey Park and now at the new U.S. Cellular Field.
Within Armour Square lies Chinatown, a major attraction for locals and tourists, especially for conventioneers attending events at the newly remodeled McCormick Place just to the east on the lakefront. Chinatown is home to a thriving commercial and retail environment of exceptional restaurants, grocery stores and specialty shops.
Bronzeville / Douglas
One of the South Side’s most important cultural areas is Bronzeville, a revitalized, redeveloping community located on Chicago’s southern lakefront. Historically a neighborhood that was home to thousands of people migrating north between 1910 and the early 20’s, Bronzeville has seen a number of evolutionary periods. Today, the area is benefiting from the razing of a large public housing project, and its replacement by numerous low-rise, multi-unit residential and commercial buildings. These changes are inviting the transformation now underway immediately to the north in the South Loop area to begin working its way into Bronzeville.
In cultural terms, the Bronzeville community was and still is central to the history and evolution of two of Chicago’s signature musical styles: jazz and the blues. Former residents of Bronzeville read like a “Who’s Who” of jazz and blues greats such as Lil Hardin, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Lionel Hampton and Louis Armstrong. The neighborhood is also home to the Illinois Institute of Technology and Illinois College of Optometry, as well as the Ancient Egyptian Museum and the DuSable Museum that celebrates African-American history and culture.
Named after Illinois politician Stephen A. Douglas, principal in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, Douglas is a community adjacent to Bronzeville. Built on a tract of land given to federal government in Douglas’s will, during the Civil War the area was the site of the Union’s notorious Camp Douglas prison camp. Today, the community is home to a thriving community of rehabbed greystones and rowhouses, as well as new residential, commercial and retail development.
Kenwood / Oakland
The largely residential area of Kenwood / Oakland is known throughout the city as an affluent neighborhood that is home to some of Chicago’s finest and most architecturally important residences. Blending historic older homes in a variety of classic architectural styles with carefully zoned newer construction, Kenwood is a charming community that exudes an atmosphere that feels more suburban than urban. Many Kenwood and Oakland homes were built in the late 19th century by famed architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Benjamin Marshall, and many are situated on large lots. In recent years, new condo and townhouse developments and newly constructed single-family homes have attracted a growing number of newcomers to the area.
Situated just north of Hyde Park and the University of Chicago, Kenwood is also home to many of the University’s professors and faculty members. In addition, the area offers a number of excellent restaurants and intriguing shops. Helping to preserve the community’s unique aura, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks has designed the Oakland Multiple Resource District a conservation area, helping to preserve almost 100 of the area’s beautiful turn-of-the-century homes and buildings. Kenwood / Oakland is also near the world-famous Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
Seven miles south of the Loop lies one of Chicago real estate’s most famous neighborhoods: Hyde Park. Known worldwide as the home of the University of Chicago, Hyde Park is also one the city’s most cosmopolitan residential and commercial communities. A study in contrasts, Hyde Park is a traditional neighborhood of suburban-like streets and meticulously kept homes. It also boasts some of Chicago’s most influential architecture including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and buildings by Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei and Mies van der Rohe. At the same time, the community is on the cultural leading edge with its proximity to the University of Chicago.
Hyde Park is also a study in urban diversity. Residents and students have a world of choices in restaurants and specialty shops representing an eclectic mix of culture. In addition, Hyde Park’s lakefront is the location of one of the most famous museums in the world, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. The community is also home to a number of other educational and cultural institutions and societies, including the DuSable Museum of African American History, The Catholic Theological Union, The Chicago Theological Seminary, the Hyde Park Art Center and the Chicago Renaissance Society. In addition, the University of Chicago offers a variety of programs for both students and residents of the community.
Located to the west of Chicago’s spacious Washington Park is the Washington Park neighborhood that shares its name. While this largely residential community has lately been characterized by numerous vacant lots and a declining population, the winds of change are blowing and there has been a recent spurt of growth in new construction and rehab projects
In part, this new revitalization effort reflects Washington Park’s major role in Chicago’s proposed bid for the 2016 Olympics. The park itself is the site of the proposed Olympic Stadium, plus hockey fields, logistics center and broadcast compound. Olympic warm-up facilities are also scheduled to be added to the existing University of Chicago Athletics Center located just west of the park.
Whether or not Chicago is awarded the 2016 Olympics, however, Washington Park seems to be a neighborhood well positioned for revitalization and change.
East/West Garfield Park
Situated on either side of Chicago’s 180-acre Garfield Park are the communities of East Garfield Park and West Garfield Park. Anchored by the attraction of the famed Garfield Park Conservatory, the area holds a great deal of promise as new construction-including new high-rise condos and townhouses-continues spreading west from the Loop and West Loop. .
East Garfield Park has been experiencing a significant revitalization in recent years. Many of its single-family homes and vintage structures have been rehabbed and restored, and community residents are taking an active role in renovating their community. Developers are taking notice and bringing new developments to the neighborhood, which is rapidly becoming one of the up-and-coming communities on the South Side. West Garfield Park, located to the west of the park itself, is also a mainly residential neighborhood experiencing revitalization, although at perhaps a slower pace than its neighbor to the east.
The famed Garfield Park Conservatory, which opened in 1908, provides 4.5 acres of botanical splendor for residents of both communities, and is considered one of the largest enclosed gardens in the world. With a wide range of flowers and trees, plus a treasure trove of exotic plant life, the Conservatory also provides numerous programs for both youngsters and adults.