Gold Coast, a Chicago Neighborhood Guide

Gold Coast Historic District

The neighborhood is listed as the “Gold Coast Historic District” on the National Register of Historic Places. Certainly, the homes evoke a sense of history; each stone mansion gives the impression of permanence and wealth. A walk through the neighborhood provides an up-close glimpse of some of the city’s oldest and most unique architecture.

An example of this uniqueness is the Charnley Persky House at 1365 N. Astor Street. Known as the “first modern house in America”, it was designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a National Historic Landmark and its upkeep is funded by the Gold Coast Neighbors.

There are condominiums on Lake Shore Drive that are also unique in terms of architecture. They have traditionally large lobbies and huge bay windows that face east and provide magnificent views of Lake Michigan.

Yet another architectural gem in the neighborhood is the John Hancock Building. This iconic building stands 100 stories tall and is best known for its external X-bracing. A historic part of the Chicago skyline, it is instantly recognizable by locals and non-locals alike. The building contains offices, condominiums, and restaurants; the 95th-floor houses The Signature Room, an upscale restaurant that affords views of the city as well as Lake Michigan. There is an observation deck on the 94th floor as well.

Those who are lucky enough to live in the Gold Coast are focused on preserving its beauty and heritage. Gold Coast Neighbors is the organization dedicated to this cause. The organization, founded in 1957, has a detailed website, outlining their efforts to engage the members of the neighborhood in their mission. Neighborhood beautification is one of its top priorities. The association holds an annual spring benefit called Echoes, which raises funds. Evening on Astor is another annual event; it is a block party that is free of charge to neighbors and provides entertainment, games, music, food, and beverages.

Oak Street Beach, located on North Lake Shore Drive, is popular among locals for its location and its view. Relaxing on the sand or jogging along the winding paths is picturesque indeed when it is done in the shadow of some of the world’s most original skyscrapers.

Indeed, the entire neighborhood lives in the shadow of these giants; the combination of daily life with deep-rooted historical and architectural genius is a compelling one. These are just a few aspects of this charming neighborhood that draw visitors and gives each inhabitant of the area a special pride.

Shopping

The Gold Coast is Chicago’s wealthiest neighborhood, and Michigan Avenue’s “Magnificent Mile” is among the most elite retail districts in the nation. The “Mile” features such exclusive shops as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman-Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Marshall Field’s. Gold Coast residents can walk to designer stores — such as Henri Bendel and Barney’s New York — as well as dozens of charming boutiques. Water Tower Place is an elaborate eight-floor indoor mall featuring more than 120 specialty shops, several restaurants and seven cinemas.

Shopping in the Gold Coast is of an upscale nature; shoppers throng the streets carrying shopping bags with internationally recognized names.

Apart from smaller, one-of-a-kind boutiques, there are popular stores such as Diesel, Urban Outfitters, Adidas, Puma and Anthropologie. More elite shops can also be found, such as Barney’s New York, Bang and Olufsen, Prada and Kate Spade.

Restaurants

The Gold Coast is one of the most famous districts in Chicago for dining, with a very high concentration of restaurants and bars. Many of them are located on famed Rush Street. A densely packed area known for its energy and its lights, Rush is awake long after the Loop has gone to sleep. Even in cold weather, throngs of people can be found mingling outside each of the restaurants and bars in this area. It is, to many, the place to be. Many establishments, aware of the draw of Rush Street, use the moniker when naming their business. There is the Rush Street Restaurant, Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush and Tavern on Rush, to name a few.

Restaurants that are unique to Chicago include Tavern on Rush, Carmine’s, Gibson’s, Bistrot Zinc, Morton’s Steakhouse and PJ Clarke’s. Well-known chains also abound here. There are Dave and Buster’s, Johnny Rockets, Big Bowl and the world-famous Cheesecake Factory. For faster food, visitors can try Corner Bakery or Gold Coast Dogs.

After hours, check out Hugo’s Frog Bar, The Back Room and Luxbar. These bars draw a more mature crowd than most clubs and exude an elite, wealthy air.

Culture

Several art galleries can be found in the Gold Coast. Each year, in fact, the neighborhood co-sponsors the Gold Coast River North Art Fair, a huge fair with fine art, music and food. The fair is commonly known as the “Grand Daddy” of art fairs. Some art galleries in the area include the Aaron Galleries, the Colletti Gallery and Rosenthal Fine Art, among others.

Theater is also emphasized in this neighborhood. A Red Orchid Theater is an eclectic, edgy theater that produces shows of great scope and insight. The 2006 – 2007 season will include “Hothouse” by Harold Pinter and “The Meek” by Brett Neveu. The Esquire Theater, a cinema, is also found in the Gold Coast, but was closed in September 2006 and will probably be demolished soon..

For another dose of culture, visitors can check out a museum or two in the area as well. The Museum of Contemporary Art at 220 E. Chicago Avenue is a famous attraction in Chicago; known as the MCA, the museum holds over 6,000 objects of art in all media and genres. The International Museum of Surgical Science is an intriguing museum that often gets overlooked in the midst of larger, better-known museums around the city. This shrine to surgical and medical history includes ancient tools such as amputation kits and x-ray tubes. There are historical paintings in the museum’s Hall of Murals and statues of medical heroes in the Hall of Immortals. Free tours of the museum are available on Saturday afternoons.

The Newberry Library is a historic part of Chicago; it was opened to the public in 1887 and has since become one of the world’s leading research libraries. With a focus on the humanities, the Newberry offers a highly renowned collection, as well as lectures, exhibits, classes, and even an immense book sale each year.

GOLD COAST NEIGHBORHOOD MAP

The Gold Coast is located along Lake Michigan, north of Streeterville. The Magnificent Mile runs into the southern end of the Gold Coast and Oak Street Beach lies to the east. The Gold Coast is the most prestigious of Chicago neighborhoods.

Chicago's Gold Coast Neighborhood Map

History

The Gold Coast got its start in the late 1800s as the Astor Street District. Today’s Gold Coast incorporates this original district and extends beyond it. Its boundaries are now defined as North Avenue and Division Street on the north, Lake Michigan on the east, Chicago Avenue on the south, and Clark and Franklin Streets on the west.

The original Astor Street District was named after John Jacob Astor, one of the richest people in the country. He did not live in Chicago but was a respected citizen with several achievements and his name gave the neighborhood a status of wealth which remains even today.

In 1875, Lake Shore Drive became a popular spot for leisurely lakefront rides. As a result, the Gold Coast area became more frequently visited. In the ensuing two decades, Potter Palmer, the Chicago Archdiocese, and James Charnley built mansions in the area. They were soon followed by other wealthy families, bringing up the status of the area and giving it a reputation as a neighborhood of influential citizens. As the neighborhood became more densely populated, there wasn’t as much space for mansions, and high-rise apartment buildings were built.

Today’s Gold Coast retains all of the prestige and reputation that it has enjoyed over the last century. Its name continues to signal wealth, and its inhabitants are intensely proud of the neighborhood in which they live.

Generally considered to be part of downtown Chicago, the Gold Coast is moments away from Lake Michigan and the Loop, making it one of the most expensive and exclusive areas in Chicago. Streeterville (the area east of the Magnificent Mile) is a smaller neighborhood in the Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast is one of the most glamorous neighborhoods in Chicago. Along with River North, the Magnificent Mile, Streeterville, and Old Town, this Near North Side community is located in the heart of the city along the shores of Lake Michigan. The Gold Coast is a unique blend of contemporary nightspots, shopping, and historic landmarks. Real estate includes vintage walkups, high-tech condos, and historic mansions on Lake Shore Drive.

The Gold Coast and the Near North Side offer premium housing alongside art galleries, fine restaurants, luxury hotels, historic sites, and upscale shopping centers. Expressways and public transportation provide travel within the city and to and from surrounding suburbs.

Education

Students in the Gold Coast area and Near North Side attend Chicago public schools. Renowned private and parochial schools offer an alternative to public education. Private elementary schools include Montessori School Near-North, and private high schools include the Latin School of Chicago, Francis Parker School, Quigley Seminary North and St. Ignatius College Prep. Colleges and universities located in the Near North Side include Rush University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and DePaul University.

Pricing

The real estate market along Chicago’s Gold Coast comprises high-rise condominiums and townhouses, with a few single-family detached homes. Condos and townhouses range in price from the mid-$100,000s to $2 million and more for larger units with additional amenities. Single-family homes start in the mid-$500,000s, and prices can exceed $4 million for multistory estates in traditional, English and Victorian styles. Luxury high-rises offer beautiful views of Lake Michigan, and inland graystone and brownstone houses hearken back to the area’s turn-of-the-century neighborhoods.

Recreation

The lakefront offers an array of activities, from boating and swimming to bike trails and jogging paths. Nearby, the Art Institute, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium promote fun and learning for all ages.

Location & Area

  • North Boundary: 1600 N North Ave
  • South Boundary: 800 N Chicago
  • East Boundary: ~200 E Lake Michigan
  • West Boundary: 150 W LaSalle
  • Primary Zip Code: 60611

Current Trends and Facts of Gold Coast Chicago

For Chicago visitors and residents, shopping is abundant. The Magnificent Mile runs through its southern tip, with designer boutiques, hotels, and fine cuisine. The John Hancock Center and Water Tower Place claim residence in the Gold Coast. Residents also enjoy beautiful Oak Street Beach and the beachfront parks and pleasures it provides. Navy Pier, Chicago’s number one tourist attraction, is a favorite destination for locals and tourists alike, providing a day’s worth of diversions with an amazing Ferris wheel, carousel, IMAX theater, dozens of shops and restaurants.

Navy Pier also has a wonderful Children’s Museum as well as concerts, performances, and events.on Lake Shore Drive. Over the next few decades, Chicago’s elite gradually migrated from Prairie Avenue to their new home north of the Loop.