Ever wonder what is off the stop at the Western Brown line? Would you like to find out best bird watching spot in Chicago without the bunch of ornithologists lurking around? Pick a day and start your Chicago neighborhood journey in Lincoln Square. In this post, we’ll explore the rich culture of Lincoln Ave. (between Lawrence Ave. and Montrose) and continue on to Montrose Harbor!
A brief history of Lincoln Square:
Lincoln Square’s history includes a pickle factory, a former Greek Town, and a modern mural all where the Old World meets Chicago! Lincoln Square began as Conrad Sulzer’s hundred acre farm first has part of Lakeview and Jefferson Townships. Lincoln Square and the larger neighborhood Ravenswood became incorporated to Chicago in 1889.
Before the annexation, mostly settlers of English, German, and Luxembourger descendant lived in the Lincoln Square. The Budlong Pickle Factory established by the brothers, Lyman and Joseph Budlong in 1857, thrived in fertile soil near present day Berwyn and Foster Avenues. Lincoln Square and the Ravenswood areas did not see substantial growth until after the Civil War; when in 1868 the Ravenswood Land Company founded by Martin Van Allen, bought 40 acres of land from Conrad Sulzer and accumulated over 194 acres for purchase to ethnicities such as Germans, Swedes, and Poles. In 1877, the first sewage and waterways were created.
The true Lincoln Square of today did not begin until after the annexation. By 1930, the neighborhood resident ethnicity had changed to Poles, Italians, Russian Jews, and some Greeks. Lincoln Square is celebrated for its German background, but from 1970 to 1980, Lincoln Square was known as Greek Town. Many of the Greeks who lived near modern day UIC Campus were pushed out of their homes for the university and the 290 highway to be built. Many made their new homes in Lincoln Square. By 1982, talk of a pedestrian mall going in along Lincoln Avenue and then the addition of the mural in 1991 has given Lincoln Square its German heritage feel once more. Two of the most popular fests are of German origin, May Fest and October Fest where drinking German beer and eating a brat are among the best delicacies. Come join us for some German fun!
Distance and Time:
Total is 3.5 miles. Walking distance in Lincoln Square Corridor to Montrose Avenue bus stop is 1.8. Total time allotted to see all the sites three to four hours.
To arrive at the first stop exit at the Western Brown line stop. Go out to Western Avenue then walk one block north to Lawerence Avenue, go straight across Lawerence and turn left. In front of you should be Stop 1.
Stop 1: Statue of Abraham Lincoln
Begin your journey at Avard Fairbank’s 1956 statue of Abraham Lincoln at the intersection of Lincoln, Lawrence and Western Avenues. Here starts the Lincoln Square pedestrian mall too and your next stop!
Walk across Lawerence Avenue into the Lincoln Square pedestrian mall. Here you will continue down Lincoln Avenue until reaching Montrose Avenue. Stop 2 will be right side of the street.
Stop 2: The Book Cellar
4736 North Lincon Avenue #1 Chicago, Illinois 60625 Ph. (773) 293-2665
Open: MWThF-10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., Sat. 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., and T, Sun. 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.
It’s cozy, warm, inviting, welcoming, and best of all quiet, but not silent like the library. Go to the cafe for a glass of wine and curl up with a book recommended by the super friendly staff or attend a local author, first-time author, or improv night. There is something going on almost every week nigh! Stop 3 will be on the left side of the street.
Stop 3: Kempf Plaza
The bubbling foundation at the plaza and the ambiance of the Lombard Lamp, a gift from the city of Hamburg, Germany makes this spot a favorite among the locals for a little peace under the trees. Across the plaza is Paciugo gelato shop for a small treat if you need a snack on a hot day! Stop 4 will be on the right side of the street.
Stop 4: Lincoln Square Mural
In 1991, Luther Sanchez-Spear along with ten artists from two different high schools created the mural with influences from the Germanic heritage of the artist’s background and the neighborhood. Other inspirations for the style of painting emerges from Renaissance artists such as Albrecht Durer. The mural adorns the 96 foot by 28 foot wall of the old Northern Home Furnishings Store, now the Lincoln Square Athletic Club (LSAC) and features in the upper part the Rhine River Valley, Lorelei Rock and the Castle of Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. Below the scene is the depiction of a German village showcasing the Central Church of Munich along with houses typical of mid-European wood construction from Rottenburg. Lastly, the mural highlights the current diversity of the Lincoln Square neighborhood with people from Greek, Asian, and Hispanic origins.
The mural is currently undergoing restoration with funding provided by the Lincoln Square Athletic Club with the original artist Luther Sanchez-Spear in charge. The mural’s bricks were crumbling and in desperate need of attention. Instead of removing the bricks and losing parts of the mural; LSAC decided to reinforce the existing wall allowing for the restoration work. The restoration is underway, but does not have a definite end date. Stop 5 will be on the left side of the street.
Stop 5: 4611 North Lincoln Avenue Chicago, Illinois 60625
Formerly known as the Krause Music Store, this building’s facade was the last commissioned work of Louis Sullivan in 1922. The architect’s organic forms of leaves, ivy, and interlace are seen throughout the ornamental gray terra cotta. For views of the whole building, stand across the street and for up close and personal, be directly in front. Either view is rather spectacular! Stop 6 will be on the right side of the street.
Stop 6: Old Town School of Folk Music
In 1998, The Old Town School of Folk Music moved into the old Hild Regional Library building in Lincoln Square. The Chicago firm of Wheeler Kearns architects designed the building and the firm, Morris Architects designed the concert hall for the school. The concert hall has 275 seats and 150 in the balcony. No seat is more than 45 feet away from the stage so that the audience is always able to view the changing facial expressions of the artists.
The Harris gallery, on the second floor has rotating exhibits with grass roots music themes every few months and across the hall of the gallery is one of the Works Project Administration (WPA) murals that once adorned the Children’s Reading Room in the old Library. The subjects on the second floor include transportation and fairy tales. The other mural resides in the concert hall and offers daily life, transportation, and history of the U.S. as the subject. This mural is better seen from the floor of the concert hall rather than the balcony. Other art to observe is the handmade furniture in the school, the murals that greet you as you first walk in, my favorite is the rose, and a few other works of art. I have one posted below try and it find!
Don’t forget to check out the new addition to the Old Town School of Music across the street, that building has artifacts and instruments in glass cases to be seen too! Stop 7 will be on the left side of the street.
Old Town School of Folk Music
4544 North Lincoln Avenue Chicago, Illinois 60625 Ph. (773) 728-6000
Everyday 9:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.
Stop 7: Sulzer Regional Library
Sulzer Regional Library 4455 North Lincoln Avenue Chicago, Illinois 60625 Ph. (312) 744-7616
M-TH 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M., F-Sat. 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and Sun. 1:00 P.M. to 5:00
Ravenswood and Lakeview Historical Assoication
Tues. 2:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. or by appointment only
The library is named after the first Caucasian settler to the area, Conrad Sulzer. Sulzer was a Swiss immigrant who first made a living as an apothecary owner and later as a gentleman farmer, here in Chicago. He bought land in Lincoln Square in the late 1830s with a total of 100 acres. His purchased included: modern day Clark Street to the east, Irving Park Road to the south, Argyle Avenue to the North and Ravenswood Avenue to the west. To help with moving livestock and agricultural products, he created modern day, Montrose Avenue through the center of his holdings. His farmhouse resided in Section R of today’s Graceland Cemetery.
As a well known landowner and farmer in the area, Conrad Sulzer also became a public servant in 1857 as the Ridgeville Township Collector. He first position did not last very long, as Ridgeville Township was soon incorporated into the city of Evanston. Later, Sulzer became the first assesor of Lakeview Township today’s Ravenswoood, Lakeview, and Lincoln Square neighborhoods. Sadly, he died on Christmas Eve, 1873 and was laid to rest in Graceland Cemetery Section A. His legacy of public servitude continued through his sons and grandsons. The new regional library was aptly named, given all that Conrad Sulzer contributed to this beloved neighborhood!
What to see:
This 5.1 million dollar library just doesn’t have books, but delightful whimsical chairs and tables as well! The 115 plank chairs, winged chairs, trestle tables, and bigger rectangular tables were commissioned by Tannys Langdon of Hammond, Beeby & Babka architects, built by the Woodworking Corporation of New Paris Indiana, and painted by artist, Lori Coy. The furniture was done in the Eastern European tradition using plywood with painted surface ornamentation instead of carving. The themes include stylized folk art of Mid-Western flora and fauna, mythological creatures of European folk tales, and the four seasons. Think German, Swiss, and Eastern European flavor from Lincoln Square’s ethnic backgrounds as the main inspirations!
Only 75 pieces remain within the library. Some of the best reside in the mezzanine level of the library. This area is only accessible during certain times of week or by appointment only. If you reach the mezzanine level, just ask for Julie Lynch, she is the Librarian of the Historical Room and is very enthusiastic and helpful! If you are not able to see the chairs do not despair there are many more on the main floor definitely worth checking out. If you can, don’t forget to check the children’s reading area; some chairs are there too! Can you find all 75 pieces?
Lastly, Abraham Lincoln makes an appearance at the library too! Honest Abe is from a neighborhood facade from 1922 and is featured in an oval bas-relief. Mr. Lincoln is on the stair case heading up to the second floor. Say hello next time you visit!
Stop 8: Julius Mienl or the Bad Apple
The next stop is all in your personal preference for a quiet cup of tea or a refreshing cold beer. Julius Mienl is on the left side of the street at the corner of Lincoln and Montrose Avenues. If you prefer a cold beer, the Bad Apple is just one block south on the right side of the street on Lincoln Avenue.
For tea and a sweet snack go to Julius Mienl
4363 North Lincoln Avenue Chicago, Illinois 60625 Ph. (773) 868-1876
M-Th 6:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., Fr. 6:00 A.M. to 12:00 A.M., Sat. 7:00 A.M. to 12:00 A.M., Sun. 7:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.
Beer and burgers go to the Bad Apple
4300 North Lincoln Avenue Chicago, Illinois 60618 Ph. (773) 360-8406
M-W 4:30 P.M. to 2:00 A.M., Th-F 11:30 A.M. to 2:00 A.M., Sat. 11:30 A.M. to 3:00 A.M., and Sun. 11:30 A.M. to 2:00 A.M.
S-W 11:00 P.M., Th. 11:00 P.M., and F-Sat. 1:00 A.M.
Now that you are refreshed it is time to do some walking down Montrose Avenue for four blocks very close to the Montrose Brown line is Stop 9 and will be on the right side of the street. Here you will find:
Stop 9: 1819 West Montrose – Community Garden
Head into this green space for a peek at this year’s fresh veggies and herbs! A new residential building may be here soon so be sure to check it out before a new community garden pops up at another location! Stop 10 will be on the right side of the street.
Stop 10: Margie’s Candies
Everyday 9:00 A.M. to 9:30 P.M.
On the other side of tracks is one of the locals’s favorites ice cream and chocolate stores around, Margie’s. The turtle sundae and the sea salt caramels will make your taste buds scream for more!
After leaving Margie’s go straight underneath the metra tracks, at the intersection of Montrose Avenue and Ravenswood Avenue go through the light, and make an immediate right unto Ravenswood Avenue. Your next stop is on your left.
Stop 10: Architectural Artifacts
Open everyday 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
This store has old spritz bottles, molding hands for gloves, chandeliers, fireplace facades, and bird cages. It features the exotic, intriguing, and a Museum of Historic Chicago Architecture coming soon. You will wonder if it is a museum, a gift shop, or antique store, but the treasures are never ending here!
After exiting Architectural Artifacts, turn right and head down back across Montrose Avenue to your next stop. It is on the right side of the street.
Stop 11: Lillistreet Art Center
4401 North Ravenswood Avenue 60640 Ph. (773) 769-4226
M-Th 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M., F-Sat. 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., and Sun. 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Check out the artisan shop selling jewelry, pots, and works of artists from Lillistreet, Chicago, and around the United States. Also check out the gallery space and see what is inspiring the emerging and seasoned artists who conduct workshops and teach at Lillistreet! Still a little bit hungry go to the First Slice Pie Cafe for another pick me up!
What’s new at the gallery? Check it out here!
Lastly, the Before I die….. art installation is outside. To participate pick up some chalk and start writing. What started in the backyard of Candy Chang’s home in New Orleans, to remember not to sweat the small stuff; has grown into a nation wide idea of living and passing on hope! Join in that hope!
Finally go back across Montrose to catch the bus down to Montrose Harbor. Remember to have exact change or a fare card. Don’t have either; easy go to the Montrose Brown line stop and add fare or purchase a card at the vending machine! Remember the Montrose bus number is 78. Pick up the Montrose bus at the Southwest corner of Hermitage to make it to the beach.
During summer months the Montrose Bus goes all the way to the beach, otherwise you will have to exit at Montrose and Marine Drive.
Stop 12: Montrose Harbor
After exiting the bus at the beach, head over the small knoll of grass and sand towards the beach cafe. Walk past the cafe and head directly to the bird and butterfly sanctuary. Follow the trail around to the other side of the sidewalk and finish at Lake Michigan. To your left is the pier and to the right the outline of the city. Take it all in slowly, walk to the pier or sit on the steps and just breathe. Your journey has come to end. Here’s a few pictures to get you started!