Wicker Park is one of the most visited Chicago neighborhoods outside of downtown and the Mag Mile. People visit this hip neighborhood for its boutiques, great restaurants, and to some, its "funky" vibe. When I wander through Wicker Park, I love to check out its architecture.
The "Six Corners" Buildings (Current Day: Walgreens)
When you visit Wicker Park, you have to step into the Walgreens that's right at the six corners. For any visitors reading this blog post, the "six corners," refers to the intersection of Damen, North and Milwaukee avenues. The tall two-story neo-classical building has a spectacular façade with a cornice that wraps right around its curved, triangular shape. This structure has gone through a host of bank changes over the decades since it was originally built in 1921, and now it is a Walgreens Pharmacy. The original cast iron safe is still intact with visible locking gears, and is now used as Walgreens' "vitamin vault." When you go inside, look up to see the ornate plaster coffered ceiling and its griffin creatures. Apparently the six-pointed star shapes in the ceiling and the stained glass window may hint at a connection to a Jewish past. In fact, if you wander around Wicker Park you will indeed encounter synagogues converted into condos.
Hermann Weinhardt House (2135 W. Pierce Ave)
First of all, the neighborhood name comes from its namesake park. And like all historic parks in Chicago, beautiful mansions surround it and the nearby area. For a fairy tale dream home, go to the three-story Hermann Weinhardt house at 2135 W. Pierce Ave., just a block and a half west of the park. A German-born furniture company executive could afford this over-the-top gingerbread ornamentation for his hybrid Victorian and Bavarian style digs. The colors are fun, too, with a unique combination of green limestone and red-brick. The architecture of this house is testament to the success of the area's European immigrants, which moved out here with the building of the elevated tracks just a few years before.
This next cool example of Wicker Park architecture can be seen without even stopping in the neighborhood - you could get a look at it from the blue line train. The North Avenue Baths building is just south of the tracks on North Ave. The neighborhood has two bathhouses left, and this one is certainly pretty, with its colorful terra cotta facade of green and blue fish and other aquatic ornamentation. Also known as the Luxor Russian Baths, this 1920s building, like many others around Chicago, served as a social center for Ukranian and Russian immigrants. Rumor is that politicians would have special meetings so as not to be wire-tapped in the steam baths (where do you think Rahm goes now?). The building has gone through an interesting history, having gone from a bathhouse, to a transient hotel, to a brothel. In the Wicker Park of today, it houses apartments and a four-star restaurant called "Trenchermen."
So yes, please do take advantage of the great shopping and dining out in Wicker Park, and while you're at it have a look at the architecture, too!