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Old Town is one of Chicago’s most historically rich and lively areas and is home to some of the city’s oldest buildings. We have the inside scoop on the history of Old Town, so read below to find out the details!
Old Town Chicago’s Beginnings
The Old Town neighborhood began receiving German-Catholic settlers in the 1850’s. The immigrants began farming cabbage, potatoes, and celery in the area, earning it the nickname “the cabbage patch,” which stuck until the early 1900’s.
Old Town is one of the only areas in Chicago to have a building that survived the Great Chicago Fire, St. Michael’s Church. One interesting fact about is that within the Old Town Triangle, the streets do not adhere to the Chicago street grid system as they predate the Chicago Fire.
In the 1920’s, artist’s Sol Kogen and Edgar Miller bought and updated a house in the area and turned it into the Carl Street Studios. During the 1930’s, this area became an artist’s colony as many artists began moving to the neighborhood.
The neighborhood also played a part in World War II. The triangle, which is formed by North Avenue, Clark Street, and Ogden Avenue, were a neighborhood defense unit during the war, designated by Chicago’s Civil Defense Agency. After the war, the area was known as “North Town” and began hosting art fairs called “Old Town Holiday.” Old Town was eventually picked up as the name for the neighborhood.
Old Town is now a lively and fun neighborhood in Chicago with some of the best restaurants, shops, and nightlife in the entire city. Home to the world-renowned The Second City comedy club, this area is now one of the top locations in the country to see comedy shows and many of their actors go on to star on Saturday Night Live.
Old Town Chicago Must-See Landmarks
Old Town Chicago is filled with many historical landmarks and buildings. Take an afternoon and walk around to get a taste of this rich historic area.
St Michael’s church was built in 1869 and is one of only seven buildings to survive the Chicago fire. It now stands as a functioning church but also welcomes everyone to see the beautiful and historic architecture.
Yondorf Block and Hall is a historical landmark and an architectural must-see. Built in 1887 on North Avenue in a Victorian-Gothic Style, this classic building was originally home to a grocery store. After the depression, ownership of the building was struggling and it bounced back and force between a liquor store and wine cellar to being discussed for demolition. Luckily the building still survives and the Steppenwolf Theatre now owns it and uses it as a rehearsal space.
Check out the former artist’s colonies at Carl Street Studios. The buildings have extremely interesting architecture and building design, with some art even built into the individual bricks. It’s definitely worth taking an up-close look at these interesting and historical buildings within the Old Town neighborhood.
The Schmidt Metzgerei building is a former German butchery which now functions as a law firm. This building is worth visiting because it is a likely example of what many of the buildings in Old Town looked like when the area was primarily German settlers.
Don’t forget to stop by the classic Old Town gate on Wells and North Avenue. It’s a must-see and is the perfect photo opportunity to end your tour.
Now that you’ve heard the history of Chicago’s Old Town, it’s time to write your own story. If you’re in the market for a new Chicago apartment or condo and want to explore the historic Old Town area more, click the link below!