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.
  • Part 6: Thinking across generations

    This image of Paul and Helen Cornell’s rambling Italianate house at 5100 Harper Avenue was taken 1909. The house, with its cupola and archangel weathervane, was demolished and replaced by single-story storefronts. To the left is the recently demolished trio of graystones.
  • Part 7: Springtime is for Lovers

    The neighborhood that surrounds each of us, according to eminent urban scholar Kenneth Jackson, is the emotional anchor of our lives. It is a compilation of the sights, smells and movements that constitute our very existence. It is here we create an individual record, yet are conjoined by the many emotions that flow through our sense of place.
  • Part 8: Genuinely civilized oddballs

    Nested just east of the Illinois Central tracks the buildings on either side of the 1500 block of East 57th Street were constructed in 1891, and used as concession stands during the Columbian Exposition two years later. Designed by architect George Beaumont, these one-story spaces became known as the Artists’ Colony and provided moderately priced spaces for painters, dancers, and writers for decades. They were demolished in 1962.
  • Part 9: Legends of the Fall

    The late Bart Giamatti once noted that baseball was a game designed to break your heart. The “game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone,” the Commissioner commented. “You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
  • Part Ten: “They were all Republicans,” Drexel Boulevard – 39th to 47th Streets

    We last met at the DuSable Hotel, located where Drexel, Cottage Grove and Oakwood all converged. In its heyday, the DuSable was a major landmark for Chicago’s Blacks – entertainers, musicians, gamblers and baseball players stayed in the eight-story building near the convergence of the boulevards.
  • Part Eleven: A villa becomes a village — Drexel Boulevard, 47th to 51st streets

    In 1969 the Chicago Housing Authority erected two midrise buildings on the east side of once aristocratic Drexel Boulevard. Each consisted of 135 units for residents of low and moderate income. It was thought at the time, given the sweeping changes on the South Side of the city, that these buildings would address the decaying conditions found on the boulevard.
  • Part Twelve: Remarkable Gifts: Fernwood Villa

    The spring of 1901 found the grounds of Fernwood Villa chilly and damp — warmth was slow to come after another of Chicago’s cold winters. Although daylight lengthens by May, the month is notorious as the winds often shift off the lake and temperatures suddenly fall.
  • Part Thirteen: Bailey’s Bulldog

    When Peggy Sheehan died in 1897, few of her aristocratic neighbors mourned her passing. Sheehan had for years occupied a slice of their prestigious neighborhood, living in a collection of small lean-to structures at the western edge of Kenwood.
  • Part Fourteen: Lincoln’s Hyde Park

    During the hot summer of 1865 the widow Lincoln did much of nothing. She chose the Hyde Park House as a place of refuge following her husband’s assassination, spending her days contemplating the waves of Lake Michigan and walking through the nearby park.
  • Part Fifteen: Taken for a Ride

    There are some who move from place to place without so much as a backward glance. But for many of us the thought of leaving the family home, packed memories and years of accumulated stuff is just too much to bear.
  • Part Sixteen: Pickles, profits and preservation

    The series has completed a look at the development of the major intersections along Lake Park Avenue, and turned to stories of interest within the Hyde Park and Kenwood communities. The articles are all of varying topics, but relate to the residences that once defined the urban fabric.

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

Caught in a Bad Rehab

At 1357-1359 East 48th Street is a double Italianate style house that dates back to the earliest days of Kenwood.  Although the section on the right is in need of restoration, details remain to indicate its original appearance, in contrast to the crude insertion of stock windows and siding on the left.

At 1357-1359 East 48th Street is a double Italianate style house that dates back to the earliest days of Kenwood. Although the section on the right is in need of restoration, details remain to indicate its original appearance, in contrast to the crude insertion of stock windows and siding on the left.

Residents of Kenwood cherish their homes, in spite of the fact that these century old structures are often times an endless pit into which one throws hard earned dollars. Nevertheless year after year clay tile roofs are repaired, windows installed, copper replaced, lengths of board repainted and brickwork tuckpointed. Owning these properties is not an easy endeavor, yet for the most part residents play their part and understand both the joy and the responsibilities of living within a Landmark neighborhood. But clearly and unfortunately, this is not always the case.

The Italianate style began in England with the picturesque movement of the 1840s and emerged in this country where it captured a large audience through widely distributed pattern books that were packed with plans and home building advice. Prominent designers including Calvert Vaux and Alexander Jackson Davis published many plans for Italianate style homes. With nearly flat roofs, wide eaves and massive brackets, these homes suggested the romantic villas of Renaissance Italy, and by the late 1860s the fashion swept through North America.

The inherent beauty of the symmetrical façade of an Italianate house relies on windows that are long and narrow, as seen in this image from a pattern book of the era.

The inherent beauty of the symmetrical façade of an Italianate house relies on windows that are long and narrow, as seen in this image from a pattern book of the era.

Essentially an embellished box, the simplicity and elegance of the Italianate house were tailored to structures for the wealthy and those less so. Regardless of the adaptation, the retrained design relied on a carefully crafted symmetrical façade. Brackets and other architecture details, made affordable by new methods of machine production, were easily then applied to the basic house.

Nestled behind an apartment building at 1357-1359 East 48th Street is a double house that dates back to the earliest days of Kenwood. In the spring of 1856 Dr. Jonathan Asa Kennicott, a graduate of Rush Medical College and practicing dentist, moved out of Chicago – as it was in his view becoming “too citified.” Kennicott and his wife Marie Antoinette Fiske, a well-known painter and educator, purchased eight acres south of the city. He christened the land “Kenwood” after his mother’s birthplace near Edinburgh, Scotland, and the family constructed a residence at 4802 Madison (Dorchester) Avenue. The new, solidly constructed house had one of the most magnificent gardens and vineyards in the area, set above the surrounding wooded pastures on a high ridge that is visible on Dorchester to this day.

Built on the Kennicott grounds is a double house that survived nearly intact for a century and a half. Until this month. The alteration of the façade is a disgrace to the community – to those who constructed the house, to those who fought for the Landmark designation, and for those who do maintain these houses for future generations. How did the owners receive a building permit, and approval from the Chicago Commission on Landmarks, to allow such a mess of a rehab to take place? Granted not all homeowners have the financial ability to complete a historically correct renovation, but are there not options that respect the importance of our collective history?

You can help and your opinion matters – a start is to call 311 and Alderman Will Burns to report the violation.

Caught in a Bad Rehab

Caught in a Bad Rehab

Residents of Kenwood cherish their homes, in spite of the fact that these century old structures are often times an endless pit into which one throws hard earned dollars. Nevertheless year after year clay tile roofs are repaired, windows installed, copper replaced, lengths of board repainted and brickwork tuckpointed. Owning these properties is not an(…)

The Land Beneath our Feet

The Land Beneath our Feet

The ground level of the house at the southwest corner of 48th and Greenwood just always seemed too high. Not in the sense of the ridges that once ran diagonally across the landscape of Hyde Park, but specifically and oddly too high just in one place. The driveway at the back of the lot was(…)

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.”(…)

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



  17. Ellen
    May 16, 2014 @ 14:22:10

    Ms. Davis, enjoying your book very much. Would you happen to have a picture of Eugene K. Butler
    home,built before 1890 and torn down in the 1940′s. The address was 4850 S. Greenwood, any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks


    • Susan Davis
      May 17, 2014 @ 10:23:26

      Hi Ellen,

      I do recall an image of that house from the Chicago History Museum, and I may have even purchased a negative that I found on-line. Let me dig around and I will post it on the website here. It was a two and a half story stone house…and the sidewalk leading from the street toward the front door is still there-

      What is your connection to the house?


  18. Ellen
    May 22, 2014 @ 17:03:22

    Hi Ms. Davis, I have no direct connection to this house, however I do have scrapbook of the early Hype
    Park and Kenwood homes. I would greatly appreciate your posting it on the website.
    Thank You for your help


  19. Susan Davis
    May 23, 2014 @ 08:47:19

    These four images of the house that stood on the northwest corner of Greenwood and 49th Street are available at the Chicago History Museum. Sorry these are just photocopies, but originals are in the street file under Greenwood.


    • Ellen
      Jun 12, 2014 @ 18:21:53

      Thanks Ms. Davis, will contact the Museum, thanks again.


    • Ellen
      Jul 25, 2014 @ 13:59:36

      Ms. Davis, I contacted the Chicago History Museum and they informed me that they had no photo
      of this home! Could you advise me is their another source to go too, I would like very much to
      purchase it.
      Thank you


      • Susan Davis
        Jul 29, 2014 @ 11:46:20

        It was definately from the History Museum- try this:

        Box 2 Folder 12

        You will really enjoy everything that is under the cityscapes file-


        • Ellen
          Aug 15, 2014 @ 18:58:24

          Thanks Ms. Davis, will do.


          • Ellen
            Aug 26, 2014 @ 20:27:01

            No luck once again! I can only surmise that I need to be in Chicago at my age I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to go home again!

    • Helen
      Sep 07, 2014 @ 19:54:33

      Thank you very much for posting these photos. I have been searching for images of this house for the past 5 years. Looking through your book at a friend’s home this past weekend reignited my interest once again, and I was handsomely rewarded! If you have any other leads on this house, I would appreciate hearing about those as well.


  20. Meri J.
    Jun 12, 2014 @ 13:08:31

    Do you know any of the history related to the property immediately adjacent (south) to the JCC, 5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd. ? I believe the address is 5248 S. Hyde Park. Blvd. Have searched every source with no success. Even the JCC since their parking lot is immediately behind it. It does not appear to have a PIN #


    • Susan Davis
      Jun 28, 2014 @ 09:36:44

      Is this the property? It is marked to be demolished……


      • FG
        Jun 30, 2014 @ 14:43:32

        Who owns it now? It’s quite a handsome building, though perhaps not right for a condo conversion due to lack of parking (and perhaps right of first refusal by surrounding property owners).


  21. Susan Davis
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 09:45:43

    The Sanborn map 1895 at the Chicago History Museum will let you know what was on the property initially. It appears the lot was just to the south of where the house on p 61 of the book appears, and is visible to the left in that image.


  22. Meri J.
    Jul 23, 2014 @ 17:59:08

    Yes. That is a picture of it. Drove around the back of the property. The JCC appears to have possession of what would have been the parking lot for this building. The actual address is 5232 S.Hyde Park Blvd. I don’t know if the big red X means that it is a dangerous building, signaling a warning for fire fighters, or that it will be demolished. There were some funds set aside after the fire fighters dying on 75th street when going into an unsafe building. Many buildings were marked with a big red X to warn firefighters.The funds ran out and the red X’s remain. Don’t know if this building is one of those. Called JCC. No one seems to know about ownership. May not have asked the right person.


    • Susan Davis
      Jul 29, 2014 @ 11:48:13

      The red X does signify that firefighters should be aware it is structurally unsound. Am told that it is owned by Diane Silverman’s (Urban Search) son, but that could be right or wrong.


      • Walter Trent
        Aug 03, 2014 @ 21:38:36

        The Boarded up Townhouse at 5232 South Hyde Park Blvd. North of East Park Towers at 53rd Street (PIN 20-12-108-033-0000) had been occupied for years up to l0/07 as a 6 family rental at which time Joshau Silverman, the younger son of Diana and Louis Silverman of Urban Search Real Estate, bought it from the owner’s estate for $l,l000,000 with the intention to renovate the interior from a $3 million bank mortgage. The building dates back to 1906 or 1911 or 1915. For decades it was owned and occupied by the Eisendraths. The property was foreclosed on 8/6/12. The rear parking (PIN 20-12-108-018-0000) lot was bought by Congregation Rodfei Zedex on 10/21/98, price unknown; there is no access to the building from South Cornell (#5235). In the latter years two of the
        renters were Andre Patner of WFMT and another Chicago Print Journalist
        Don Terry. The Eiendraths were members of an old Chicago German Jewish family. They did not put money into the property and many of the tenants were
        there for decades at a stretch with rents rarely being raised.

        the SouthCornell (#5235) side.


        • FG
          Aug 08, 2014 @ 14:28:51

          There was an Eisendrath living there until she died, as I understand it, sometime in the late 90′s iirc.


  23. Lachlan McIntosh
    Oct 28, 2014 @ 17:03:19

    Hello Susan. I haven’t had a chance to read your book but I am looking for images of 4010 S. Drexel Blvd. from the 19th century. The famous Arts and Crafts furniture maker Charles P. Limbert lived at that address from 1883 to at least 1889. I also wanted to know if it was an elite neighborhood during that time. I am finishing a ten-year biography project on Limbert and am looking for images for my book. I would appreciate any information you can offer.


  24. Susan Davis
    Nov 18, 2014 @ 13:43:55

    Hi Lachlan.-

    I look forward to reading your book! I do not have images for 4010 South Drexel. You may want to check the Chicago History Museum, they have an 1895 Sanborn that would at least give you the floor plan of the house. By 1890 C.F. Gardner is listed as living there. The Limberts must have moved from the address sometime that year as they are shown in a different Blue Book still at 4010.

    Know I have seen some things on Lovell Triggs and Blue Sky Press – but no house images, sorry.


  25. Taylor Holley
    Nov 11, 2015 @ 13:10:10

    Hi Susan!!

    my name is Taylor. Our team is working on a documentary on Chicago’s south side for WTTW Chicago Channel 11. We have a segment on Hyde Park and were looking for some older pictures of Harper Ave. Harper Court and Harper theater before they were developed. I came across the picture attached and traced it to your blog. I was wondering if it belonged to you (or if not where you found it) and if we could get permission to use it for the documentary. We are in a bit of a time crunch, so if you could shoot me an email as soon as possible it would be greatly appreciated!


    • FG
      Nov 18, 2015 @ 12:39:12

      Taylor, I hope you are aware that that is a photo of 47th Street, not 53rd Street….


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