The Vault: Uptown’s Former Life as a Beach Resort Community

Anyone who’s ever attended a live show or enjoyed one of the many restaurants in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood might be surprised to know it was once a beach resort community.

In fact, Uptown was originally known as the Uptown Sand Dunes, and city dwellers frequently made the trek from downtown for a cool dip in Lake Michigan. In 1889, the neighborhood became part of the city when Lake View Township was annexed, and Baird & Warner’s role in Uptown’s growth began soon after.

Wyllys W. Baird, the second Baird to lead the firm, personally acted as an agent for the Northwestern Elevated Railroad in 1894 to secure the rights to what we now know as the CTA Brown Line. The tracks ran between the Loop and Wilson Avenue — the initial end of the line at the time.

Baird & Warner built its first branch office under the Wilson Avenue stop, becoming the first real estate company in Uptown. Between 1900 and 1915, Uptown saw a 60 percent surge in population, and land values grew from $50 a front foot in 1897 to $3,000 a front foot in 1921 as a result of the new transportation opportunities.

Uptown soon became one of the most vibrant cultural centers in the city — home to jazz clubs, dance halls, movie theatres, and cabarets. Today, Baird & Warner continues to have an office nearby, at 4037 N. Damen Ave.