The sixth senate district is an embarrassment of riches, so choosing just one neighborhood to write about is a tough assignment. However, Uptown’s southern gateway, Buena Park, dotted by the lake at the east, with East Lakeview at its hem, always seems to beckon me. Any visitor can take a walking tour or a drive-through in this historic community within less than a square mile.
On a summer day, walking or driving east on Buena Street, one can’t help but notice an elegant canopy of trees framing the prairie-style homes of George Maher. Other renowned architects such as Bertrand Goldberg and Frank Lloyd Wright have contributed to the neighborhood’s architecture. As a result, they have rightfully earned their place on the National Register of Historic Places. Even the iconic architect, Stanley Tigerman, designed his first high-rise in Buena Park.
Nestled at the corner of Buena and Broadway, visitors can imbibe at the Bar on Buena, which has outdoor seating during summer months, or Klein’s Bakery and Cafe before trekking eastward to the lakefront, to a bird watcher’s paradise.
The Magic Hedge is a migratory stop located at the most easterly part of Montrose and is home to some of the rarest birds ever recorded in the state. In addition, the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary on the lakefront at Addison is an eight-acre woodland and wetland which houses over 150 species of birds, where visitors can observe the migratory swallows who make their home there in the summer. The striking Kwa-Ma-Rolas totem pole topped with the symbolic thunderbird representing power, protection, and strength is nearby.
Uptown’s rich history included entry points for immigrant families, where newcomers to Chicago settled and remained for generations.
A stroll up Broadway takes visitors back in time when speakeasies were tucked away in the shadows of North Broadway. Still standing are the opulent Uptown and Riviera movie palaces built by Balaban and Katz in the 1920s. The jewel of Uptown — the Green Mill Lounge that was once a destination for Billie Holiday and Al Jolson —boasts a full roster of jazz greats every night of the week.
It feels like yesterday when I danced at the Aragon Ballroom when the Talking Heads and Elvis Costello toured. One block east on Lawrence stands this iconic Ballroom, where legendary performers like David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Ike and Tina Turner, and the Grateful Dead played to alt music enthusiasts from the sixties to the present.
Amidst the architectural jewels lies the memories of Uptown’s rough-and-tumble past. Above the Green Mill Lounge was the office of one Dr. Wilhelm Loeser, who performed plastic surgery on infamous gangster John Dillinger and removed his fingerprints so he could move around Chicago unrecognized. Abundant are stories, such as Dillinger’s, if one ventures to unearth them. I would love to hear the tales these streets would tell if they only could.
For visitors desiring a taste of history, Chicago Uptown’s Buena Park is the ticket to punch for its significance to the diverse fabric of Uptown’s residents. There is no place I would rather live, and I am excited to have the chance to share it with people visiting our fine city.
Photos provided by the Buena Park Neighbors Association.