Near downtown Chicago and a couple of blocks from North Beach on Lake Michigan is a neighborhood full of modern design and hints of the past. Known for being the home of the Second City’s improv troupe and quaint local stores of food and handmade accessories and clothing, Old Town has intrigued me beyond its comedy clubs and local bars. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the buildings in Old Town won’t be able to stop you from enjoying its outer beauty. Originally settled by 19th Century German-Catholic immigrants, the ethnic roots in Old Town run deep from Saint Michael’s Church to the edges of Wells Street. To see what I mean, take a look at a few photos and history of this neighborhood’s unique architecture.
Beginning at the Triangle Historic District on Wells Street and Menomonee Street, the brick and stone buildings are a reminder of how The Fire of 1871 caused most of this area to be rebuilt. In the 1940s this area went through another revitalization as residents saw the importance of preserving the homes and buildings’ authenticity. This tree-lined area is only the beginning of this neighborhoods’ mix of Victorian and modern styles as I head to my next destination on Cleveland Avenue.
A few blocks away sits Saint Michael’s Church built by German architects and builders. Although most of the church suffered the same fate of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, some of the exterior was able to be saved and the interior was rebuilt. One of my favorite features is the stained glass windows that were designed and made by the Mayer Window Art Institute of Munich, Germany.
My next path takes me back along the steps of Wells Street where local stores of stationery, jewelry, accessories, bakeries, and restaurants reside. I continue to find my way through the mix of Victorian, vintage, and modern apartments and buildings until I reach the corner of North and Wells where a recent fire at Adobo Grill unfortunately burned parts of the Second City and nearby businesses. Luckily, this fire was nothing like the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that ravaged the city from October 8th-11th, killing 300 people, leaving 100,000 people homeless, and causing $200 million in damages. As the Second City, Adobo, and other businesses work on rebuilding their offices, I can only think of how Old Town is in a constant state of rebirth. Passing by construction workers on the way to my internship every morning, I’m reminded of how much anything can be lost in an accident but it can be rebuilt with dedication.