Lincoln Park, a Chicago Neighborhood Guide

Lincoln Park is one of Chicago’s best-known neighborhoods. It lies only 2.5 miles from the central business district, and among Chicagoans is considered a coveted place to live.

Lincoln Park is a truly developed neighborhood; among the boutiques, theaters, cinemas, shops, restaurants and coffee shops, anyone and everyone can find something of interest. The area has changed drastically over the years; it no longer resembles the swampland of its origin, and is now a well-known, trendy area to shop, eat and hang out. Locals who have lived in the area for years, as well as tourists who are visiting the neighborhood for the first time, are all drawn to Lincoln Park and are not disappointed.

Pocket neighborhoods within Lincoln Park include Clybourn Corridor, DePaul, Old Town, Lincoln Park West, Ranch Triangle, Sheffield, West DePaul and Wrightwood. Just a quick drive or commute to Chicago’s downtown, Lincoln Park neighborhood residents enjoy a lively cultural scene, exceptional architecture, lovely gardens and of course, the 1,200-acre park.

Lincoln Park (The Park Itself)

Lincoln Park is named for an actual park of the same name; this park stretches from Ardmore Avenue to North Avenue and includes The Lincoln Park Zoo, an outdoor theater, a rowing canal, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, ponds, ballparks, running paths, boat docks, tennis courts, a golf course, a driving range, and a playground. The park sits along the lakefront on the neighborhood’s eastern border, and throughout the year people can be found running along the lakefront, picnicking on its beaches, or simply sitting and gazing at the water. It is a lovely vantage point from which an observer can take in much of the lake, as well as the Chicago skyline.

This immense park was built over land that was once a smallpox hospital and a cemetery. Plans to reclaim the 120-acre swamp were begun in 1864. The park was originally named Lake Park and was renamed Lincoln Park after President Lincoln was assassinated.

Lincoln Park Zoo is a particularly popular destination; it is part of the public park and therefore there is no admission fee. The zoo was officially opened in 1874 with the purchase of a bear cub for $10; more animals were added in the late 1880s from the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The zoo receives millions of visitors each year who delight in the fact that there are spacious wildlife enclosures amidst the skyscrapers of Chicago. One famed aspect of the zoo is that those in nearby apartment buildings can hear the resident lions roaring on occasion. There is a special African Exhibit, a Children’s Zoo, and a host of special-environment exhibits such as Tropical Rainforest and Savannah. Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the last zoos in the country to offer free admission.

Shopping

Shopping in Lincoln Park began to develop with the expansion of the El train into the neighborhood. Today, shopping in Lincoln Park is as extensive as in other parts of the city; the neighborhood boasts hundreds of shops of every size and specialty.

There are dozens of small boutiques in Lincoln Park; they are independently owned, intimate and offer clothing that is often unique to that shop. Some of these boutiques include Jolie Joli, Jane Hamill, Cynthia Rowley and Panache. There are popular chain stores that offer apparel as well, such as Banana Republic and Urban Outfitters.

Several shoe stores can be found in the area; popular ones include Nine West, Shoe Soul, and Alternatives. Other specialty stores are also numerous in Lincoln Park. Tower Records and Act I Bookstore are just a couple of the shops that offer books and music in the area. The ambiance and White Elephant Shop offer goods for house and home, and Ancient Echoes is a great source for designer jewelry, home goods and décor.

Restaurants

Restaurants are as varied and numerous in Lincoln Park as the tastes of the people who patronize them. There are fast food joints, cozy diners, eclectic coffee shops and restaurants of every cuisine. One-of-a-kind restaurants include Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!, a tapas restaurant, and Dunlay’s on Clark for upscale dining. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company is well known for its delicious Mediterranean bread and its “grinder,” a pizza that is served in a bowl.

Some well-known chains can also be found in the neighborhood. BW3’s Buffalo Wild Wings, henceforth found only in the suburbs, has made its way into the city. Pockets and several similar quick-dine options are scattered throughout Lincoln Park. For dessert, try Treats, Ethel’s Chocolate Bar or the sophisticated Vanille Patisserie.

Sushi restaurants are becoming increasingly popular; they are popping up all over the city. Lincoln Park has its share with Edo Sushi, Kabuki and Hey Sushi. Ethnic restaurants are also plentiful; there is Raj Darbar, which serves Indian food, Fattoush, serving Mediterranean cuisine, and Pars Cave, a Persian restaurant.

With the large number of students and young professionals living in the area, Lincoln Park has an active nightlife. There are bars and clubs such as Duffy’s Tavern and Grill, Galway Bay Pub and Corner Pocket, as well as the very popular Kingston Mines, a blues club with two stages for live shows and an ever-rambunctious crowd.

Community

Housing in Lincoln Park is coveted; most of the residential streets are tree-lined, quiet and charming. Homes include mansions, row houses with Victorian facades, frame homes, condominiums and two-flat buildings. Some homes are very old; others are brand new. In 1871 the Great Fire destroyed many of the houses in the area, and many local factory workers subsequently had wood-frame homes built; alongside these, other people built larger and more luxurious homes. At the same time, the Relief Association built homes and gave them away to needy families; post-fire reconstruction led to 10,000 people moving into Lincoln Park. In this neighborhood, one type of home sits right next to a different type; there is an eclectic mix regarding size, age and caliber of houses in Lincoln Park.

The 1920’s began a twenty-year period of tearing down older wood-frame homes and building more expensive construction. However, the neighborhood remained working class until the 1950’s and 60’s when teachers, artists, writers and other professionals began to move in. These new inhabitants sometimes bought and restored older homes. The rehabbing trend continued for the next decade but did not pick up speed until the 1970’s, when executives, lawyers and bankers working in the city found that Lincoln Park was a nice alternative to living in the suburbs. As more and more affluent people moved in, rehabbing became much more popular, causing a significant rise in property values.

Today Lincoln Park is home to professionals and families. Although there is diversity among its inhabitants, the majority of Lincoln Park dwellers are young. In fact, much of its population is college-aged; DePaul University’s Lincoln Park campus is found here. The campus, home to the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, spans 36 acres and serves more than 1700 students. There are eleven residence halls on campus, as well as a new student center built in 2002 which includes a dining hall and a cyber café.

One interesting facet of Lincoln Park is its array of theaters. There are several movie theaters, such as Piper’s Alley, Three Penny Cinema and Webster Place Theater. The Biograph Theater is famous for being the scene where John Dillinger was shot in 1934. Live theatre venues include the Steppenwolf, the Apollo Theater Center and the Royal George Theatre Center. Theater on the Lake is a well-known outdoor theater that runs throughout the summer, offering theatergoers a fresh-air venue for some of their favorite plays.

LINCOLN PARK NEIGHBORHOOD MAP

Lincoln Park is the heart of Chicago’s north side, sitting to the west of the vast park (Lincoln Park) along Lake Michigan. It is also home to the Lincoln Park Zoo. This area is very trendy with young professionals, with home prices to match that popularity.

Chicago's Lincoln Park Neighborhood Map

Location & Area

  • North Boundary: 2800 N Diversy
  • South Boundary: 1600 N North
  • East Boundary: ~200 W Lake Michigan
  • West Boundary: ~800-1600 W Clybourn
  • Primary Zip Code: 60614

Current Trends and Facts of Lincoln Park Chicago

Lincoln Park is known for its gorgeous park that runs along Lake Michigan. Lincoln Park is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Chicago. It has the most restaurants per capita in the city, where there are many traditional restaurants, with newer trendier restaurants adding to the mix. Lincoln Park offers just about anything from the Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, beaches, golf, tennis courts, theaters, and comedy clubs along with hundreds of restaurants and bars to choose from. Shopping includes a mixture of independent and one-of-a-kind businesses. It is also home to the acclaimed Old Town School of Folk Music, a popular entertainment venue and music school. Lincoln Park neighborhood is filled with Chicago history, which can be fully explored at the Chicago Historical Society on Clark Street at North Avenue.

The neighborhood population is primarily made up of young professionals, recent college graduates, and young families. It does continue to be home to Lincoln Park High School, Francis W. Parker School, and DePaul University, where most of the students live in Lincoln Park neighborhood.

History

Lincoln Park got its start as reclaimed swampland. In the early 1800s, the area was little more than a forest with scattered patches of swampy grassland and quicksand. In 1824, the US Army founded the area when it built a small post at the intersection of what is now Clybourn and Armitage Avenues. At that time, Indian settlements existed along what is now Halsted Street and Fullerton Avenue. Yet even with this post and these settlements, land in this area was still very cheap, as it was considered remote from the central business district. Thus the city erected a smallpox hospital and a cemetery on this cheap land.

In 1837, Chicago was incorporated as a city. The government offered land claims along what is now Clark Street, and as a result, settlements increased. Illinois and Michigan Canal Company sold the land to speculators and to farmers, which furthered the population. In 1855, the first horse-car line in the city was built. It led from the business district directly into this area, bringing even more people into the neighborhood.

In 1860, the Presbyterian Theological Seminary was built at Halsted Street and Fullerton Avenue, on 25 acres of land donated by community businessmen Michael Diversey, Joseph Sheffield, and William Ogden. As a result, 1000 new residents moved into the area. This seminary later became part of DePaul University’s campus.

Today’s Lincoln Park is bordered on the north by Diversey Parkway, on the South by Armitage Avenue and North Avenue, on the west by Clybourn Avenue and on the east by Lake Michigan. The El train offers convenient access from Lincoln Park directly into the Loop and downtown areas, making the 2.5 mile commute now seem insignificant.