In this series of blog posts, we provide a summary of the neighborhoods where we’re currently listing and developing homes. In this post, I’ll be focusing on living in South Shore Chicago.
Historic mansions with beautiful architecture, lush green spaces, proximity to the lakefront, and beautiful views of the city skyline define the South Shore community. And it is truly that — a community.
South Shore is a large neighborhood on the city’s South Side. It’s bounded by Jackson Park on the north, the lakeshore on the east, 79th Street on the south, and Stony Island Ave on the west. Its proximity to parks and the University of Chicago are major benefits to living in the South Shore. Quick note: I’m including Jackson Park Highlands in this guide, though some consider it a separate neighborhood.
Full of tree-lined streets and gorgeous homes, the Jackson Park Highlands historic district offers stunning architecture in a mélange of styles, with dignified mansions on well-manicured, oversized lots. This man-made beauty paired with the district’s proximity to the Lake and surrounding parks make for one of the most charming neighborhood strolls in Chicago. In addition to the beautiful surroundings, the Jackson Park Highlands district boasts a vibrant community filled with engaged residents. Block parties happen regularly, and neighbors take turns hosting Friday evening meals. It’s a great community to call home.
Read on to see why it’s always a beautiful day to be living in South Shore Chicago.
Entertainment and Eating
South Shore is bounded by Jackson Park — over 500 acres of public parkland — on the north and Lake Michigan and lakeshore parks Hasan Park and Rainbow Beach Park on the east.
Jackson Park is massive, and the list of its amenities is beyond impressive: an 18-hole golf course, a driving range, a Japanese-styled garden, three harbors, a beach, a yacht club, the Museum of Science and Industry (pictured above), a dog park, indoor and outdoor fitness facilities and sports fields, and even a children’s hospital. The Obama Presidential Center is set to be the newest addition to the park when it opens in 2021. Plans include a museum, forum, library, plaza, and athletic center.
Nestled between South Shore Drive and Yacht Harbor sits the neighborhood’s crown jewel — the South Shore Cultural Center. A Chicago landmark, the cultural center started as a private country club in 1905 and was bought by the Chicago Park District in 1975. The cultural center was built in 1916 and rehabilitated in the 1970s. It was designed by architects Marshall and Fox, also known for their work on the Drake Hotel, in a Mediterranean-Revival style, with plenty of ornate details.
The South Shore Cultural Center features a solarium, dining hall, theater, culinary institute, and restaurant. Cultural programs and classes for all ages are offered, and the space hosts numerous special events throughout the year. It was also the site of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle’s wedding reception in 1992.
The grounds at South Shore Cultural Center total over 70 acres. The outdoor space includes a nature sanctuary, butterfly garden, nine-hole golf course, and beach in addition to the beautiful structure (pictured above) that overlooks the lake.
The nearby South Shore branch of the Chicago Public Library is closed for renovations, with an expected reopening in early 2020. This newly updated resource should be a great boon to the community.
As far as the South Shore culinary scene goes, House of Bing is a neighborhood standby Chinese restaurant and Give Me Some Sugah Bakery has been a South Shore favorite since 2008. Relative newcomers to the neighborhood include South Shore Brew… Healthy options can be found at Majani Soulful Vegan Cuisine (which recently opened a second location in One Eleven Hall in Pullman), Chef Sara’s Cafe, and Good Foods Vegan/Vegetarian Deli at 73rd and Jeffery.
A typical commute to the Loop from the South Shore using public transportation takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes, door to door, depending on when you get out the door. To get to O’Hare Airport via public transportation takes about an hour and 20 minutes — Midway takes about an hour, as there’s no direct route. By car, a typical drive to the Loop without traffic takes about 20 minutes, and a trip to Midway is around 20 to 35 minutes, sans traffic. O’Hare is a 30 to 40 minute drive, again without traffic.
Walkscore.com considers South Shore very walkable, meaning most errands can be accomplished on foot. The neighborhood has good transit and there is some bike infrastructure.
Zillow does not have data on home values in South Shore.
A Bit of History
The area that is now called South Shore was originally swampland, with trails used to transport goods to and from the city. It was initially a collection of settlements inhabited by British Illinois Central Railroad and steel mill workers.
The two events that sparked commercial and residential development of the South Shore were annexation to Chicago in 1889 and the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 — particularly the latter, as the event was held in nearby Jackson Park.
Jackson Park Highlands, a historic district in the South Shore community, was laid out in 1905. It was built on a ridge that overlooked Jackson Park to the north. The development was innovative for the times, with concepts including large front yard set backs, 50’ wide lots, underground utilities, and no alleys. The neighborhood flourished in the early part of the century. However, residential and commercial decline hit Jackson Park Highlands around the time of World War II, to the point where a destruction of the area was considered. Fortunately, in the 1970s rehabilitation programs were established, and a reinvestment in the community led to substantial revitalization. Jackson Park Highlands was designated a Chicago Landmark District in October of 1989, and the neighborhood was once more solidly middle class by the late 1990s. Much of the area’s beautiful original architecture stands.
The whole of South Shore experienced a housing and population boom in the 1920s — the neighborhood’s population was 2.5 times larger in 1930 than in 1920.
The neighborhood was home to mostly white Protestants prior to this boom, which brought Irish, Swedish, German, and Jewish immigrants to the neighborhood. African American families moved to South Shore in the 1950s — it was at this point that many wealthy and middle-class whites left, resulting in “white flight.” The area as a whole experienced some residential and commercial decline in the 1970s and 80s, as mentioned above, but by the late 1990s South Shore had reemerged as a solidly middle-class African American community.
Things took a negative turn again with the housing market collapse during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009. Today, with plans for the new presidential center in the works, public and private investors are looking to the South Shore as a neighborhood with great potential once again.
If you’d like to learn more about living in South Shore Chicago, I recommend exploring the following resources:
- The Encyclopedia of Chicago’s South Shore entry
- Chicago Sun-Times’ “The Grid: Exploring the South Shore neighborhood”
- WTTW’s South Shore Guide
- The Culture Trip’s “Top 10 Things To See And Do In South Shore, Chicago”
- Chicago Mag’s “A Field Guide to South Shore”
- An interview with the author of a book on the South Shore — about growing up there and how the neighborhood has changed and continues to change — in Chicago Mag
- Another interview with the same author in Crain’s
Interested in living in South Shore Chicago? Check out this historic Jackson Park Highlands gem I recently listed: 6926 S Bennett (also pictured at the beginning of this blog post). Please feel free to contact me for more information on buying — or selling — a home in the South Shore.