In Chicago, neighborhoods on the northside hold intricate and valuable stories about the city’s history. Since its inception, Chicago has grown to incorporate more areas, with newer communities becoming vibrant epicenters of culture, entertainment, and commerce. Though Lakeview was incorporated into the city 50 years after its establishment, its borders are rich with history and astounding midwestern architecture.
Chicago was officially formed in 1837 as a political move to capitalize on the United States expanding Western front. Surrounding the city’s center were primarily rural areas and truck farms, one known as Lakeview. In 1887, the town of Lakeview decided to incorporate with the city, worried that it couldn’t survive financially as an independent entity. Since then, Lakeview has become a thriving neighborhood on Chicago’s north side.
Lakeview quickly grew as a place for financial opportunity and commerce. Factories were erected on Diversey Avenue and lined the busy parkway up to the lake. Train tracks constructed for these past factories can still be seen in the neighborhood streets.
Over the years, Lakeview transformed from a homogenous Swedish and German immigrant area to a multicultural one. Americans moving from the South flocked to the neighborhood in the 1970s, as well as families from Southeast and East Asia.
It was during this time, too, that Lakeview and Wrigleyville grew popular with the LGBTQ+ community. Both Belmont Harbor and Boystown emerged as subcommunities in the neighborhood, known for their gay bars and cruising areas. Lakeview held the first pride in the city, only hosting 150 marchers in 1970. By 1980, thousands of allies, neighbors, and LGBTQ+ people had collected on Broadway Avenue to fight for gay rights. The pride parade still follows the same path in the Lakeview neighborhood, a tribute to the pride celebrations of the past.
As the neighborhood’s names changed, gentrification and upscale housing followed. Though prices have increased in the area, many of Lakeview’s revered restaurants, venues, and clubs still remain.
Some of the northside’s most famous buildings reside in these two neighborhoods. Wrigley Field is one of the most recognized structures on the northside, but other entertainment centers, venues, and federal structures have just as substantial of a history.
The Music Box on Southport Avenue has been showing independent and foreign films since 1929. With over 700 seats in the building, it’s still the largest-scale independent theater in the entire city. The architecture is undeniably noticeable for its vintage quality but also for its Italian and Spanish influence on its edifice. The loggia, or covered exterior on the upper level of the building, has a faux marble lining, purposefully reminiscent of an Italian courtyard. The Music Box stands out prominently from the neighboring brownstones that line Chicago’s city blocks.
Schubas, a popular venue off Belmont Avenue, was once a tied house for the Milwaukee beer company Schlitz. The Schlitz sign still hangs on the building’s exterior, showcasing its longstanding history in the Lakeview neighborhood. When the tied house was bought in 1988, most of its original interior was salvaged and maintained. The mahogany bar at the venue’s entrance and the green patterned tin ceiling are emblems of the Schlitz factory’s past.
Though many architectural styles can be found in Lakeview and Wrigleyville, a dominating construction approach from the late 1800s is undeniably ubiquitous. The Classical Revival style is noticeable in many of the neighborhood’s banks and police stations, including the 42nd Precinct Police Station and the Belmont-Sheffield Trust and Savings Bank Building. This architectural variety is categorized by its use of pillars, pedimented windows with curved and pointed structures, and column-supported porticos. Walking up Clark or Southport will allow easy spotting of this technique in Lakeview’s theaters, banks, and bars.