Uptown Home Inspection
The historical, cultural, and commercial center of Uptown is Broadway, with Uptown Square at the center. In 1900, the Northwestern Elevated Railroad constructed its terminal at Wilson and Broadway (now part of the CTA Red Line). Uptown became a summer resort town for downtown dwellers, and derived its name from the Uptown Store, which was the commercial center for the community. For a time, all northbound elevated trains from downtown ended in Uptown. Uptown became known as an entertainment destination. Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson and other early film stars produced films at the Essanay Studios on Argyle Street. The Aragon Ballroom, Riviera Theater, Uptown Theatre, and Green Mill Jazz Club are all located within a half block of Lawrence and Broadway. Uptown is also home to one of Chicago’s most celebrated final resting spots, Graceland Cemetery.
The Uptown neighborhood boundary once extended farther to the North, to Hollywood Avenue. Beginning at the turn of the 20th Century, just after the World’s Columbian Exposition, the entire area had experienced a housing construction boom. In the mid-1920s, construction of large and luxurious entertainment venues resulted in many of the ornate and historic Uptown Square buildings which exist today. The craftsmanship and artistry of those Uptown Square buildings reflects the ornate pavilions of the Exposition.
For over a century, Uptown has been a popular Chicago entertainment district, which played a significant role in ushering in the Gilded Age, the Lyceum Movement, the jazz age, the silent film era, the swing era, the big band era, the rock and roll era, has been a filming location for over 480 movies, has ties to significant spectator sport athletes and organizations, including the Chicago Blackhawks and three Olympic figure skaters, as well as theater, comedy clubs, dance performers who later became nationally famous, and even “The People’s Music School,” a needs-based, tuition-free music school for formal classical music training.
By the 1950s, the middle class was leaving Uptown for more distant suburbs, as commuter rail and elevated train lines were extended. Uptown’s housing stock was aging, and old mansions were subdivided. Residential hotels which had housed wives of sailors attached to the Great Lakes Naval Station during World War II now served low-income migrants from the South and Appalachia. Uptown developed a reputation as “Hillbilly Heaven” during the 1950s and 1960s. The Council of the Southern Mountains, headquartered in Berea, Kentucky launched the Chicago Southern Center in 1963 in Uptown, with help from Chicago philanthropist W. Clement Stone. Chicago’s anti-poverty program opened the Montrose Urban Progress Center. Students for a Democratic Society initiated a community organizing project, JOIN (Jobs or Income Now) in 1963. Large-scale urban renewal projects like Harry S. Truman College eliminated much low-cost housing, and the low-income Southern white residents dispersed. New waves of Asian, Hispanic, and African-American migrants moved into the remaining neighborhoods.
Latinos forced out from other near downtown and lakefront areas by urban renewal settled close to the border with Lakeview at Sheridan, near Irving Park. In 1975 Young Lords founder Jose (Cha-Cha) Jimenez joined with a broad coalition of whites, blacks and Latinos and ran unsuccessfully against Daley-sponsored Christopher Cohen. They still were able to garner 39% of the vote. His main campaign issue was housing corruption, which was then displacing Latinos and the poor from prime real estate areas of Chicago.
Most recently, since 2000, gentrification has spread north from neighboring Lakeview and south from Edgewater. Median condo prices jumped 69.1% from 2000-2005.
Historical images of Uptown can be found in Explore Chicago Collections, a digital repository made available by Chicago Collections archives, libraries and other cultural institutions in the city.
Buena Park is a neighborhood bounded by Montrose Avenue, Irving Park Road, Graceland Cemetery and Lake Shore Drive. At the core of the neighborhood is the Hutchinson Street Historic District, a tree-lined stretch several blocks long featuring mansions that make up “one of the best collections of Prairie-style architecture in the city.” It is in sharp contrast to the skyscrapers that populate the area around it. The neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It can be accessed from the Sheridan stop on the CTA’s Red Line.
Robert A. Waller developed Buena Park starting in 1887 by subdividing his property. The site of the original Waller home now holds St. Mary of the Lake church (built in 1917). Buena Park pre-dates the remainder of Uptown by a number of years. Buena Park is also home to one of the most active neighborhood organizations in Chicago: Buena Park Neighbors.
“The Delectable Ballad of the Waller Lot” by Chicago poet Eugene Field:
Sheridan Park is a neighborhood bounded by Lawrence Avenue on the north, Clark on the west, Montrose on the south and Broadway on the east. It is mostly residential, containing six-flats, single family homes, and courtyard apartment buildings. There is a growing business district along Wilson Avenue, which bisects Sheridan Park from Broadway to Clark. Truman College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, is also located in Sheridan Park. The neighborhood can be accessed from either the Wilson or Lawrence stop on the CTA’s Red Line.
In 1985, the Sheridan Park Historic District (a National Landmark District) was established to protect the unique single family and smaller multi-family architecture of the area. Some structures of Uptown Square were also added as contributing structures. In 2007, the Sheridan Park area along Dover Street was also registered as an historic district. Many of the homes along Dover are large single family homes from the early 1900s.
More recently known as “Asia on Argyle,” but also known as “Little Siagon”, and “Little Vietnam”, this neighborhood was mostly populated by residents who had Vietnamese and Cambodian nationality. However, many, if not most, were from ethnic China minorities and, for that reason, became refugees during the Sino-Vietnamese War of the late 1970s. Many ethnic residents continue to migrate to other neighborhoods and to the suburbs while keeping their businesses in the span of just a few city blocks, Argyle Square boasts Asian grocery stores as well many ethnic Vietnamese, Thai, Laotian, and Chinese restaurants.
Regentrification of the neighborhood continues with developers plans for new luxury apartment skyscrapers on Broadway. LGBT and millenials have been drawn to this quaint beach community in the last decade for its restaurants, cafes, edgy underground night clubs, arts, summer market nights, and spectacular northern Lincoln Park lakefront beaches only steps away on Lake Michigan.
The neighborhood should not be confused with Chinatown, which is in the Armour Square community area on the South Side of the city.
The neighborhood is served by the Argyle stop on the CTA’s Red Line and CTA busses on Sheridan Rd.and Broadway.
Margate Park is situated in the extreme northeast corner of the Uptown community, nestled between the recently rejuvenated strip of new construction on Sheridan Road and the pleasantries of the northern reaches of Lincoln Park. It is bound by Lincoln Park and Sheridan Road to its east and west, and Foster Avenue and Lawrences Avenue to its north and south, respectively.
Its tree-lined streets, historic mansions, and gilded mid-rises reflect the area’s development in the bustle of Uptown’s entertainment industry from the early 1900s, now undergoing a burgeoning revitalization. The diverse housing also includes ornate, imposing terra-cotta clad buildings, immortalized in the movies of early twentieth century Chicago as apartment hotels and boarding houses. Some of these 1920s, Jazz-Age hotels have since been converted to high-end condos and co-ops, adding to the tremendously diverse population of the area. The Margate Park community, as well as much of the Uptown neighborhood of which it is a part, is a popular and thriving home to many of the city’s LGBT residents. On Margate Park’s western edge is also one of the city’s longest running gay bars, Big Chicks, owned and operated for the past 30 years. Designed in 1937 by architect Charles Kristen, its asymmetrical facade, clearly influenced by the 1933-34 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, features dazzling decoration, with yellow vertical piers on a backdrop of cobalt blue, as well as splashes of aqua. The building itself is architecturally significant for its deco facade.
This lakefront neighborhood is home to Margate Park Fieldhouse, a gym and fitness facility. The area around the field house is an official off-leash area in the city for dogs. Annual city permits are required for dogs using the areas.
The field house is also host to the Margate Playground, with 1,400 square feet (130 m2) of play-space for children. Artists Jim Brenner, Corinne D. Peterson, Ginny Sykes, and Roman Villareal created a unique space reflecting the urban locale catering to children’s interests and local fauna. Margate Park contains a Lake Shore Drive underpass near Argyle Avenue adjacent to the Margate Playground, just east of Marine Drive, which permits pedestrians and bikers easy access to the lakefront path and the Foster and Lawrence Avenue beaches.
Many of the houses here were built from the 1890s to the 1920s. Although it has remained a mostly white and wealthy area throughout the 20th Century, it is a fairly integrated community. In 1940 some blacks who lived as domestic workers resided in a single block of houses in close proximity to their employers. Those houses were described by Jacalyn D. Harden, author of Double Cross: Japanese Americans in Black and White Chicago, as being “modest”.
At 5000 North Marine Drive is The Aquitania, a co-op building constructed in 1923 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2002. The Aquitania was built by Ralph C. Harris and Byron H. Jillson in the Classical Revival style. It was developed by George K. Spoor, the co-founder of Essanay Studios, a producer of silent movies in the first decades of the twentieth century. At this time, Chicago rivaled both New York City and Hollywood in film production, and Spoor was able to use his considerable wealth to build an apartment he felt fitting for the film stars connected with Chicago’s growing entertainment industry.
Historically a very popular tourist destination, the Uptown Entertainment District is home to various music venues, nightclubs, restaurants and shops. The Uptown Entertainment District is now experiencing a revival, with new restaurants and shops opening every year. Uptown Square, at the center of the Uptown Entertainment District, was designated as a National Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Uptown is also a stop for Chicago Gangster tours, with many locations tied to infamous gangsters such as John Dillinger, Al Capone, Machine Gun Jack McGurn, Roger Touhy (“Terrible Touhy”) and others.
The Aragon Ballroom is still a very popular music venue. During the 1920s and 1930s, most of the nation’s well-known jazz groups played the Aragon. Live radio broadcasts from the Aragon helped promote the Aragon’s entertainers throughout the Midwest and beyond. Hotels quickly sprang up in the Uptown area, and it became a mecca for young adults who visited Chicago to dance to the Big Bands of the 1940s and 1950s. Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo, Wayne King and other famous bandleaders often played there. In decades to follow, a very diverse selection of “big name” groups have performed, including The Rolling Stones, U2, The Smiths, The Doors, Snoop Dogg, Green Day, Gwen Stefani, The B-52s, Capital Cities, The Talking Heads/David Burn, B.B. King, Robert Plant, Metallica, Tommy Bolin, Morrisey, Queens of the Stone Age, The Clash, Tangerine Dream, Dead Mou5e, Tiësto, Nirvana, The Ramones and many others.
The Aragon Ballroom is located at the intersection of Lawrence and Winthrop Avenues, just adjacent to the Lawrence Red Line ‘L’ stop.
The Riviera Theater, also a popular music venue, was once a Jazz Age movie palace which featured live jazz performances with the movies. In the 1980s, the seats were removed on the main floor and it was converted to a concert venue.
If you are planning to attend an open house to give it a thorough inspection, don’t go in blind. There’s a whole lot you can find out about a property, either by checking it out yourself in person during the inspection or asking the on-site real estate agent (or both).
We have inspected many homes in the Uptown community, and have many years of experience with the homes in the neighborhood! Call us today to schedule an Uptown home inspection.
- Official City of Chicago Uptown Community Map
- Lakeside Community Development Corporation
- Business Partners- The Chamber for Uptown
- Uptown Chicago Commission
- Buena Park Neighbors
- Magnolia Malden Neighbors
- Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads Collection of articles, some of which relate to Uptown history
- Uptown History Blog Blog with images from Uptown’s past.
- Uptown Update News and Commentary from the 46th Ward of Chicago
- SeeClickFix Report non-emergency issues in the Uptown neighborhood
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