History & Landmarks
"This is a delightful spot, and one to which our citizens have flocked in large numbers since its first opening," the Chicago Daily Tribune wrote in 1854.
The delightful spot was the Lake View House, the breezy resort that gave Lakeview its name. The resort is long gone, but the visitors stayed. Chicagoans in the 19th century poured north into Lakeview, an agricultural region known as America's celery capital. The newcomers turned truck farms into suburban subdivisions, incorporating as a city in 1887. Lakeview couldn't make it on its own, and voted to join Chicago after two years of independence. The voters were "fools," Lakeview's mayor said, but it was done.
Lakeview grew into a prosperous industrial neighborhood, with factories on Diversey Parkway and along the railroad that ran down Lakewood Avenue (you can still see traces of tracks). A few old businesses survive. Monastery Hill Bindery, founded by a German immigrant before the Fire, along with Dinkel's Bakery, are some of the reminders of Lakeview's German community. One of Lakeview's last manufacturers is Torstenson Glass, a 19th century business located near Belmont and Sheffield, in the heart of the old Swedish enclave where Ann Sather Restaurant stands.
By the 1970s, Lakeview boasted an unusual and shifting population. Old families of German and Swedish stock were joined by American Indians, Southerners, Hispanics, gays, hippies and Japanese Americans. Restaurants like Zum Deutschen Eck co-existed with hillbilly joints, folk bars, taquerias and drag queens. Somehow it all worked.
Lakeview started switching names regularly, a sure sign gentrification was coming. New Town, Wrigleyville, Boystown, Belmont Harbor, Graceland West: Some labels stuck and some didn't. Lakeview grew into the neighborhood it is today, a fashionable urban locale with a deep history and a future yet to be written.
This brief history of Lake View is based on the book "Lake View," by Matthew Nickerson. His new book, "East Lake View," was published in March 2017. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to buy an autographed copy. Books also are available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Get an inside look at select Lakeview landmarks at Chicago Architecture Foundation’s annual Open House Chicago in October.
The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport
Opened in 1911, The Athenaeum Theatre is the oldest continuously-operating off-Loop theater in Chicago. The German-American parishioners of St. Alphonsus built it to stage neighborhood theatrical productions and German folk operas. The building has long been a center for the arts. It provides offices, rehearsal space and several small studio theatres for numerous performing arts organizations. Several past tenants, like Lookingglass, have gone on to become very well-known. Though a fire damaged the building in 1939, the beautiful main auditorium survived unscathed. It seats nearly 1,000 and retains its Old World elegance. (Credit: Chicago Architecture Foundation)
Marshfield Trust and Savings Bank Building, 3301 N. Lincoln
This terra-cotta-clad flat-iron building makes the most of its triangular building lot. Like many neighborhood banks from the 1920s, the Marshfield Trust and Savings Bank employed the Classical Revival style of architecture to convey a sense of permanence and security. Arcaded two-story arched windows extend across both street facades. The building contractor was Avery Brundage, who went on to be president of the international Olympic Committee. The ground floor now houses Arthur Murray Lakeview Dance Center.
The Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport
Opened in 1929, The Music Box Theatre serves as Chicago’s premier venue for independent and foreign films. With 700 seats, it is the largest film theater space operating full-time in the city. The Music Box Theatre presents 300 films annually, ranging from provocative documentaries and avant-garde midnight shows to family friendly sing-a-longs.
Schubas, 3159 N. Southport
Historic Schubas Tavern, located at Southport and Belmont avenues, was once a “tied house,” as indicated by the Schlitz sign that remains above its second-floor windows. Brewing companies at the turn of the century built and controlled their own bars, which sold only their products. Other Schlitz tied houses include the building that now houses Southport Lanes, and a building at Belmont Avenue and Leavitt Street. (Excerpted from the book “Lake View,” by Matthew Nickerson, Arcadia Publishing.)
St. Alphonsus Church, 1429 W. Wellington
With its soaring central bell tower clad in weathered green copper, St. Alphonsus has been a prominent feature of the six-way intersection of Southport, Lincoln and Wellington since 1896. The parish was founded by the Redemptorist Fathers in 1882. It was a major center of Chicago's north-side German community. The Gothic-Revival interior features a royal blue ceiling with pointed arches and golden ribwork in starburst patterns. This ceiling was restored after a 1950 fire. Murals, statuary, stained glass and bas-reliefs round out the rich interior. The neighboring Athenaeum Theater—originally a German community center and folk opera theater—is still owned by the church. (Credit: Chicago Architecture Foundation)
Lakeview History Exhibit
The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce has launched a Lakeview history exhibit on its wayfinding kiosks located around the neighborhood. Each of the ten kiosks features a photo and short excerpt about a nearby piece of history from the book Lake View, by Matthew Nickerson, Arcadia Publishing. The history exhibit offers a glimpse into the past and is a great way to rediscover the neighborhood. Check them out while just passing by or take a self-guided walking tour. Discover a lost architectural treasure or learn about how familiar businesses are treasures of our neighborhood's heritage!
Self-Guided Lakeview History Tour
For a fun way to explore and rediscover the neighborhood, walk by each kiosk to learn a little history and see each historic site in person.