Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park

  • Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park

    Susan O’Connor Davis offers readers a biography of this distinguished neighborhood, from house to home, and from architect to resident.

  • Part1: Lake Park Avenue, at 47th Street

    In its earliest days, 47th Street bore no likeness to the busy commercial thoroughfare it is today. Nor was it a dividing line between communities; rather it was social center of a quiet, well-to-do residential community.

  • Part 2: Hotels, resorts and entertainment: 51st Street and Lake Park Avenue

    The Hyde Park Hotel once commanded the intersection of Hyde Park Boulevard (51st Street) and Lake Avenue, an elegant landmark between two communities.

  • Part 3: The commercial core at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue

    It is no coincidence that the revival of Hyde Park’s commercial core is centered at 53rd and Lake Park Avenue, an intersection that over the years has witnessed growth and decline, tragedy and renewal.

  • Part 4: Leading to land clearance, 55th Street and Lake Avenue

    The dense urban streetscape in the heart of Hyde Park was apparent in this 1955 view looking across Lake Park and west on 55th Street, photographed from the Illinois Central railroad tracks.

  • Part 5: Land clearance: 55th to 57th streets

    The basic characteristics of Lake Park Avenue change dramatically when one heads south of the 55th Street intersection and toward 57th Street. The roadway narrows and there is but one building that remains along the Illinois Central embankment on the east, an old cable car building that is now the headquarters of the Hyde Park Historical Society.

susanFifteen years ago we purchased the last vacant parcel in Kenwood owned by the University of Chicago. At that time, the overgrown lot was frequented by dog lovers in the warm months, and city plows depositing mounds of snow in the winter.

Urban legend had it that the house that once graced Greenwood Avenue had been torn down in error. A professor renting the house came home one afternoon to find a wrecking crew on site, a neighbor told us. While that may seem improbable, every spring pieces of the house work their way through the warming soil. Bathroom tiles, cabinet hinges, shards of dinner plates - each find reminding us we are not the first to make a life here.

And so began a personal journey to understand the house we all build. Saul Bellow once remarked he could not walk a block here without remembering who had lived here and who had died here. “You have to live with all these extinguished lives,” he said, “and because you’ve encouraged your own sentimentality and nostalgia about a place, perhaps you feel it all the more.”

Susan's Neighborhood Blog

Lost Hyde Park: Preserving “creatively and constructively”

Lost Hyde Park: Preserving “creatively and constructively”

Respected Hyde Park Alderman Leon Despres had long argued for preservation, believing that while it is not possible to preserve every old building, it was necessary to do all one could to preserve “creatively and constructively.” Despres thought protecting historic urban areas required making some sacrifices, yet was a “sign of a society’s cultural maturity.” And the American Institute of Architects summed the issue up succinctly: “All we need is a sense of greatness and a willingness to elevate the common good above someone’s hopes to make a buck.”

The Marian and Leon Despres Preservation Award is typically presented to organizations or persons that have championed the preservation or restoration of old Hyde Park buildings. Ironically, the Hyde Park Historical Society presented this year’s award to MAC Property Management for the redevelopment of two historic properties, the Shoreland Hotel and Harper Theater. That same company purchased these graystones, and citing blight, decided not to renovate and are about to demolish them.

I just wonder what Mr. Despres would have thought……

Lost Hyde Park: A first family weighs in

Lost Hyde Park: A first family weighs in

One of the benefits of writing the series of articles for the Herald is the outreach of the paper. We received a call from the great-grandson of Paul Cornell, John Cornell, who currently resides in Florida. Mr. Cornell saw one of the articles and called to find where he could purchase the book, Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park.  In(…)


  1. cynthia winter
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 09:46:20

    reading your book brings back many family memories – all of the stories from my grandparents and assorted relatives. I will share this favorite image – a 1906 postcard from the Chicago Beach Hotel – one of my great aunts worked there as a social director


    • Susan Davis
      Feb 25, 2014 @ 13:06:34

      Cynthia, your postcard did not come through, but here are a few others your great aunt would have enjoyed–


  2. Ellen
    Feb 21, 2014 @ 20:15:44

    Misset series 3, just found it, Please a book at least I’ll the whole book not just chapters. Thanks


  3. Ellen
    Feb 21, 2014 @ 21:35:50

    Just ordered your book. Yea!


    • Susan Davis
      Feb 22, 2014 @ 08:25:45

      Thank you Ellen for your enthusiasm about the articles and the neighborhood. I hope you enjoy the book!


  4. Walter Trent
    Feb 24, 2014 @ 11:02:06

    Apartment buildings before the 1929 crash could only be formed as cooperatives or rentals since Illinois didn’t enact the condominium form of ownership until 1962. But in order to pay the buildings’ ongoing costs even buildings like The Powhattan rented their apartments per Neil Harris; rentals are not permitted there nowadays. Many rental buildings converted to condos after 1962, and some limit the number that may be rented to preserve the nature of the building and because lenders restrict the number of apartments they want to be rented. One unusual building, the 1924 Jackson Towers, was originally a ‘partial’ cooperative with the duplex units being in the cooperative and other apartments being rented. In mid-1967 it became a condominium. Examples in the Indian Village/Chicago Beach Tract area of cooperative conversions to condominiums were the Narragansett in early 1967 and 5000 East End in late 2010. And conversion from rentals was The Barclay in 1973 and 5000 Cornell in 1979. But The Chippeawa (1972) was originally and remains a cooperative.


  5. Craig
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 11:35:48


    Love your articles in the Herald. I had hoped for years that someone would do something like this. Get all the cool history and serve it up in bite-sized chunks for easy digestion. Rich. The before-and-after photos are particularly fun. Thanks, and keep up the fantastic work.



  6. Susan Davis
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 12:59:11

    Thanks Walter, I did not know that about Jackson Towers, which is the only building you mentioned that is not located in the part of Hyde Park known as “Indian Village.” Here is an image of the area before landfill made that part of Hyde Park–


  7. Raytus
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 14:05:02

    Is that square area east of the CBH their beach?


    • Susan Davis
      Feb 26, 2014 @ 08:38:35

      The bathing beach was on the north side of the hotel. That “square” seems to hold tennis courts.


      • Susan Davis
        Feb 26, 2014 @ 08:41:09

        Here is an early image of the beach-


  8. Raytus
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 14:13:06

    Ms. Davis – do you have any pictures of the buildings which used to occupy 1700 East 56th Street, or any of that building going up?


    • Susan Davis
      Feb 26, 2014 @ 09:02:13

      I do not have one of the Windermere under construction, but do have one taken shortly after completion. Apologies for the quality, it it a photocopy, but the original and others are at he Chicago History Museum.


  9. Raytus
    Feb 26, 2014 @ 12:49:03

    1700 East 56th is a the high rise which occupies the walk-ups to the right of the Windemere in this photo.


  10. Susan Davis
    Feb 26, 2014 @ 15:16:35

    Aha! Thank you, for you have found a typo in the book. I had the address for the highrise listed as 1799 when it is in fact 1700 East 56th.


  11. Raytus
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 09:42:17

    That’s the assessment, not the address. :)

    The Herald should have a link to your blog under their blog menu.


  12. Susan Davis
    Mar 19, 2014 @ 12:37:15

    As soon as the ground thaws, the greystones are gone-


    • Linda Tucker
      Apr 09, 2014 @ 17:22:39

      damn shame. Always like those greystone facades.


  13. jerald miller
    Mar 21, 2014 @ 16:51:08

    MAC Properties demolishes three historic greystones on Harper Avenue to make way for a parking lot.


  14. Liz
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 10:31:32

    Hi Susan! I’m on Dorchester at 51st and am curious about the history of the townhomes and coach houses along the east side of the street. Can you help guide my search? Thank you!


  15. Susan Davis
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 14:23:25

    Hi Liz-

    That is a wonderful block! Send along a few addresses and I will look to see what I have, and give you a few places to look on your own–


  16. Linda Tucker
    Apr 09, 2014 @ 17:23:30



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