The legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said: “The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own, we have no soul of our own civilization.”
Like so many notable architects, Wright famously called Chicagoland home for much of his career. Chicago and the surrounding suburbs are sometimes called the architecture capital of America, both for the number of legendary designers who have passed through, and the remarkable and historic structures that still proudly stand today — from the gleaming skyscrapers downtown, to the historical hidden gems tucked into neighborhoods all over Illinois.
So, what neighborhoods should passionate architecture lovers set out to explore in the year ahead? From the city to the suburbs, here are seven Chicagoland neighborhoods known for amazing and historic architecture:
Few places in America are as synonymous with architecture as Oak Park. Located just seven miles west of the Loop, Oak Park is a charming and picturesque community with lots of shopping, dining, and entertainment — as well as an undeniable architectural pedigree. Frank Lloyd Wright famously called Oak Park home for many years, and this neighborhood is home to more Wright-designed buildings than anywhere else in the world, including the legendary designer’s personal home and studio and his iconic Unity Temple. Outside of Wright’s legacy, Oak Park is home to countless other architectural gems, including the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace and Museum, Pleasant Home, Scoville Square, and the Cheney Mansion.
When you think of Chicago, there’s a good chance that you’re picturing some of the iconic architecture of Near North. Located just north of the Chicago River and encompassing neighborhoods such as River North, Streeterville, the Gold Coast, and Old Town, the Near North is a living museum to all things architecture. Step back in time by exploring the world-famous Driehaus Museum or visiting the Astor Street District, a historical area reflecting the wide variety of historical revival styles favored by some of Chicago’s most prominent residents throughout history. Gaze in awe at landmark buildings like the Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building, or Merchandise Mart; head to the top of 875 N. Michigan Avenue for a stunning aerial view of Chicagoland; or head to the river to join in on one of the city’s best architecture tours.
A charming and historic village located in Cook County, most of Riverside has been designated a National Historic Landmark — and, after visiting once, it will be easy to see why. Though it only spans about two square miles, Riverside is packed with history and architectural significance. Featuring unique curving landscapes designed by the legendary Frederick Law Olmstead and homes designed by luminaries such as Louis Sullivan, William Le Baron Jenney, and Frank Lloyd Wright, Riverside is a living tribute to the vision that helped expand Chicagoland into the wonderful area that we call home today.
Baird & Warner is closely tied to Uptown; it was the site of one of our first branch offices, and our company played a vital role in extending the L train to connect Uptown to the rest of Chicago in the late 19th century. Uptown’s history is rich, transforming over the decades from a beach community to a vibrant hub of art and commerce. For architecture lovers, the landmark Uptown Square District boasts an impressive array of significant buildings and design features, representing styles ranging from Art Deco to Spanish Baroque Revival. Some of the most noteworthy buildings scattered across Uptown include the Riviera Theater, the Aragon Ballroom, the historic Uptown Theatre, the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, the Sheridan Trust and Savings Bank Building, and the Mutual Insurance Building.
Encompassing the area south of Ida B. Wells Drive and extending as far as 26th Street, the South Loop community is located in the heart of downtown between Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. In addition to serving as a hub for business and entertainment, the South Loop is a historic area with some of the city’s most legendary architecture. Nestled within the South Loop is the Prairie Avenue District, a cluster of historic mansions sometimes called Millionaire’s Row. The South Loop is also home to a number of significant office buildings clustered along Printer’s Row. Throughout the area, you’ll find a variety of architectural styles, including contemporary and Romanesque. Need even more architectural bona fides? The South Loop is home to the Clarke House, the oldest home still standing within the city of Chicago.
Nestled in northern Illinois, about 35 miles west of Lake Michigan, Elgin is a city with its own independence, character, color, and flair while still offering easy access to Chicago and the Chicagoland area. This area is also notable for its historic and impressive architecture, including the Downtown Commercial District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015. Look out for the impressive gothic architecture of the Elgin Professional Building, and the Art Deco-inspired Elgin Tower Building. Elsewhere, Elgin boasts a wide variety of architectural styles; the area is home to the only known farmhouse designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as countless other historic homes. Plus, this area is bursting with local pride, with Open Elgin and the Historic Elgin House Tour making it easy to go exploring.
As home to the historic University of Chicago, Hyde Park is perhaps best known as a college neighborhood. Indeed, the University of Chicago is worth exploring on its own, boasting a wide variety of stunning buildings nestled among picture-perfect grounds and gardens. Beyond the campus, Hyde Park is an architectural gem, featuring numerous architectural attractions perfect for helping you connect to Chicagoland’s rich history. The area is home to the Robie House, considered by many to be one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces. The area is also home to architecture that can trace its roots back to the legendary World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, including the impressive building that now houses the Museum of Science and Industry. Turn down any street in Hyde Park and you’ll also find stirring and historic houses in the Queen Anne, Prairie, and Italianate styles, designed by leading figures including Daniel Burnham, Solon Beman, Robert Spencer, and Dwight Perkins.
Looking to Live In the Heart of It All?
Ready to find a home in one of Chicagoland’s most scenic and architecturally rich communities? We get you. At Baird & Warner, our agents are hyperlocal experts who can help you find the spot that’s just right, while making the buying process easier at every step of the way. And with mortgage and title services all under one roof, our One-Stop Shop takes the hassle out of sealing the deal on your new home — so you can get back to exploring your new neighborhood in no time.