Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park

  • HIstoricSlide11
    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


  1. cynthia winter
    January 7, 2014 @ 9:46 am

    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
      February 25, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

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


  2. Ellen
    February 21, 2014 @ 8:15 pm

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


  3. Ellen
    February 21, 2014 @ 9:35 pm

    Just ordered your book. Yea!


    • Susan Davis
      February 22, 2014 @ 8:25 am

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


  4. Walter Trent
    February 24, 2014 @ 11:02 am

    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
    February 25, 2014 @ 11:35 am


    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
    February 25, 2014 @ 12:59 pm

    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
    February 25, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

    Is that square area east of the CBH their beach?


    • Susan Davis
      February 26, 2014 @ 8:38 am

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


      • Susan Davis
        February 26, 2014 @ 8:41 am

        Here is an early image of the beach-


  8. Raytus
    February 25, 2014 @ 2:13 pm

    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
      February 26, 2014 @ 9:02 am

      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
    February 26, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

    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
    February 26, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

    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
    February 27, 2014 @ 9:42 am

    That’s the assessment, not the address. 🙂

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


  12. Susan Davis
    March 19, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

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


    • Linda Tucker
      April 9, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

      damn shame. Always like those greystone facades.


  13. jerald miller
    March 21, 2014 @ 4:51 pm

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


  14. Liz
    April 7, 2014 @ 10:31 am

    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!


    • Mark
      September 6, 2016 @ 9:51 pm

      Hi Susan, I’m in one of those houses…5129 S. Dorchester. When we moved in 11 or so years ago we were told that the same architect did most (if not all) of our side of the block in 1893, to show as sample homes for those visiting the WCO. All the façades are different, but the interiors are the same (they sort of mirror each other, actually), and the first floor rear dining room windows (cut leaded glass I think, on the east sides of the houses) were made by the Pullman Company. Any confirmation would be great to know (architect/builder name, photos/renderings, etc.)


  15. Susan Davis
    April 8, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

    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
    April 9, 2014 @ 5:23 pm



  17. Ellen
    May 16, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

    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 am

      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 @ 5:03 pm

    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 @ 8:47 am

    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
      June 12, 2014 @ 6:21 pm

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


    • Ellen
      July 25, 2014 @ 1:59 pm

      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
        July 29, 2014 @ 11:46 am

        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
          August 15, 2014 @ 6:58 pm

          Thanks Ms. Davis, will do.


          • Ellen
            August 26, 2014 @ 8:27 pm

            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
      September 7, 2014 @ 7:54 pm

      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.
    June 12, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

    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
      June 28, 2014 @ 9:36 am

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


      • FG
        June 30, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

        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
    June 28, 2014 @ 9:45 am

    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.
    July 23, 2014 @ 5:59 pm

    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
      July 29, 2014 @ 11:48 am

      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
        August 3, 2014 @ 9:38 pm

        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
          August 8, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

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


  23. Lachlan McIntosh
    October 28, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

    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
    November 18, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

    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
    November 11, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

    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
      November 18, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

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


  26. Diane B.
    January 11, 2016 @ 1:55 pm

    Hi Susan,

    I would like to get in touch with you via email or phone to discuss a historical project that we are working on at the SECC. I can be reached at or at 773-324-6926.

    Thank you!
    Diane B.


  27. lamont nettles
    June 6, 2016 @ 1:58 pm

    Ms. O’Conner Davis I spent the best part of my child hood (1950s) living in a building called the Hyde Park Towers 810-818 East 51st street and was wondering if you had any pictures of and or plans for an article about the building? I believe it was once called the Vermont hotel. Any of the same for the area (51st and Cottage Grove) would also be appreciated. I learned how to play baseball in the small park across the street and little did I know back then, as an African American kid that I was living 3 blocks from the home of a future president of the United States.


    • Susan Davis
      October 14, 2016 @ 3:48 pm

      Yes Lamont, I do believe there is a picture of this booing in the background of an image I have of Drexel Square. Will have a look and post here-and agree it is amazing to think our president lives just down the block….


      • Susan Davis
        October 14, 2016 @ 3:55 pm

        Does this look at all familiar?


        • Lamont Nettles
          November 13, 2016 @ 11:35 pm

          This is the first time I’ve seen the old building in almost 60 years. By the way the fountain in the foreground was the sight of many exciting naval battles. When we weren’t playing baseball in that park we made simple boats out of scrap wood and floated them in the fountain. Thanks for the memories Susan.


  28. Steven
    September 28, 2016 @ 1:31 pm

    I wanted to bring your attention to an unusual volume that is listed for sale on It purports to include recollections of life in Hyde Park, Illinois in the 1850s. The book is: Clara McClellan, Clara’s Journal, published in Galena in the 19th century. It is sadly $750.
    Thank you


    • Susan Davis
      October 14, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

      Thanks Steven, I will take a look and buy a lottery ticket…..


    • Susan Davis
      October 14, 2016 @ 4:05 pm

      Item Description: (Galena, Illinois; 1890). Quarto. 185 typed pages typed on rectos only. After Clara’s mother passed away in 1870, Clara was given all the letters and notes her mother had saved. Clara wrote her mother often while away. Clara typed all the letters and bound them into a book which would later be given to her daughter Louise. It contains a frontispiece drawing of the house she grew up in, following a lovely poem to Louise with hand colored flowers, a four page letter laid in from Clara to her mother. All nicely bound in 3/4 green leather over white linen decorated with purple flowers. Clara’s Journal is stamped in gilt on upper board, spine fully gilt decorated, decorative endpapers, top edge gilt. In Clara’s foreword she talks about Hyde park, Illinois in 1858 and about growing up during that time, signing the book, Your devoted mother, Clara Denison McClellan. Clara of Royalton, Vermont was married to Robert H. McClellan who was an Illinois State Senator, Lawyer and the President of the Bank of Galena and later the National Bank of Galena. They purchased and lived at the famous Aldrich house for 40 years and entertained many famous people including Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain and President Lincoln.


      • Steven Tantillo
        October 26, 2016 @ 8:26 pm

        I wrote the seller about the extent to which the book is about Hyde Park. Here is his response. I’d be happy to talk to you about this.

        Dear Steven,

        The journal is about Hyde Park. It includes a number of references to events beginning in 1858. she moved there from Royalton ‘ when she was 12 and took a 4 month old baby to take care of along with her little sister, all takes place in Hyde Park, the Railway washed away, Reform School near her residence (building dedication) , Leonard Jamison (who later built a house at 53rd St and Cornell [apparent photograph card and possibly pen and ink picture of house)–there is a Leonard Jameson in Chicago in 1861 [] was he an attorney, was handling divorce case in Indiana, had to travel to Freeport, Illinois, later Hyde Park Train running again, Newkirk’s house caught on fire, mentions Stephen Douglas’s reelection, traveld by train on the Kankakee train, mentions Hyd Park Train off tracks, so Michigan Central RR could not pass, these pages came from letters found in 1870, written in child’s hand and here transcribed by typewritten pages,

        Frankly, there is a mystery about this little girl. Why has her mother sent her away with a small baby and a little sister about age four? Toward the end of the diary, she decides against weaning the baby which may indicate the baby is hers. Was she sent away because of an unwanted pregnancy? Certainly, a lot about people in Hyde Park (several dozen names which I have not researched). All this takes place 1858-1859.

        My view is that this is a vital part of the area’s history with the viewpoint of a young girl (age 12 who becomes 13). If she was, in fact, the mother, the Jamison’s did a remarkable job in taking her in and allowing her a decent education.

        I hope this gives you some of the flavor, it is certainly something that could be printed up in small edition by the Historical Society.

        Best regards,

        Richard Murian
        ALCUIN BOO


  29. Nadia Abbas
    October 3, 2016 @ 8:46 pm

    Hi Susan,
    Love your book and all the wealth of information it has about Hyde Park. We currently own 5544 S Woodlawn originally built for the Crilly family in 1898. Architect was Zimmerman. I saw it mentioned in your book but not a lot of detail. Upon my own research and conversations with the previous owners we found out it was rented to Edith and Grace Abbott in 1934. The Abbott sisters were prominent women with strong ties to the Hull House and the school of social work here at the U of C. Edith Abbott was actually the first dean of SSA. They both led amazing lives. Sophanisba Breckinridge also resided in the house. Shortly after the house was occupied by the Opus Dei (1949) until 1969. I thought the history was quite fascinating. We have loved restoring the house and have tried very very hard to keep as much of the original features as possible. We actually had the great great granddaughter of the Crilly family visit and share original photos of the house.


  30. Susan Davis
    October 14, 2016 @ 3:45 pm

    HI Nadia, and thank you for your comments. It is residents like you – with a love for the history of their homes – that add so much to the community. Could you post the original images of the house?? Would love to see them. The Hull house connection is also quite interesting. In 1908, Jane Addams started the Mary Crane Day Nursery at Hull House, after receiving a donation of a building from Richard Teller Crane in memory of his late wife. Crane’s daughter Frances Crane Lille was very involved there, and Frances lived at Kenwood and 58th. This would make for a good Herald story…..


    • Nadia
      August 3, 2017 @ 1:28 pm

      Susan I am so sorry I saw this so late! I will post some pictures when I get home. SO much great history and such a great vibe in the house!


  31. bill Torpy
    June 10, 2017 @ 2:48 pm

    Nadia — My Uncle was a member of Opus Dei and we used to visit there in the mid 1960s as kids. I remember the house being a great, big fantastic house with a butler staircase. Of course, we saw it as a hidden staircase.


  32. tom murphy
    August 19, 2019 @ 12:18 am

    hi, just finished rereading these comments. your book made many people feel pretty good about the past in the area. there is some interesting history connected with many of the properties. when the internet developed i started being interested in who built certain properties. this has led me to many stories of people and business firms which became part of the stories. who built what and what they did makes interesting stories. 1870’s to about 1920’s created wonderful homes and buildings. thank you. tom murphy


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