Living in Hyde Park, Chicago: A College Town on the Lake

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Living in the Hyde Park community in Chicago comes with many notable features, but it’s most prominent is its long-time resident, The University of Chicago. As one of the world’s great institutions of learning, it put Hyde Park on the map over a century ago, and gave it an international reputation long before the city itself achieved that stature. Its landmark characteristic is something known as the Midway Plaisance or simply “The Midway” – a one-mile park corridor running through the southern end of the neighborhood and through the middle of the campus. The university occupies a significant footprint in the community and thus gives Hyde Park its college town atmosphere, reflected in much of its unique culture.


Located about 4 miles south of downtown Chicago, Hyde Park sits along the Lake Michigan shoreline on its east, bordered by Washington Park on the west and Jackson Park on the southeast – both designed in the 19th century by the father of landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted. Given the extensive tree lined boulevards and streets coupled with all of this green space, Hyde Park takes on a very bucolic if not serene setting in the middle of a large urban city.

Hyde Park, Chicago


One of the original settlers in the area in the middle of the 19th century was a New York lawyer by the name of Paul Cornell, for which a major street would be named, and who purchased over 300 acres of land which would be the heart of the neighborhood’s boundaries. It is thought that Cornell gave the area its name from the famous location in London  – which was then used when the area was incorporated in 1861 as Hyde Park Township and later as the community of Hyde Park when it was annexed to the city.

During the late 19th century it benefited from the largesse of two wealthy individuals – John D. Rockefeller, who provided funding for the creation of the University of Chicago and Marshall Field, who donated a considerable amount of land for the university. In the early 20th century it became a haven for prominent architects, not the least of which was Frank Lloyd Wright who designed a number of homes in the community. Today, Hyde Park is flush with turn of the 20th century architecture either built then or built later and influenced by that architecture. It also holds a special significance for professional football fans. The Chicago Bears’ nickname, “Monsters of the Midway”, comes from the moniker given to the University of Chicago’s football team from the early 20th century, which was in reference to their prowess and the Midway Plaisance.

The Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park Chicago


Located only a few miles from downtown, the commute to Chicago’s CBD is quick with many options. Public transportation is extensive, given easy access to both a number of bus lines (2 Hyde Park Express, 6 Jackson Park Express, and 55 Garfield are just a few) and rail lines (Green Line and Metra), all of which connect to downtown. Lake Shore Drive is a mere few minutes away to the east; the Dan Ryan Expressway is to the west for those opting for travel by car; and the Lakefront Trail runs along the park at the lakefront if you’re an avid cyclist. Also, to be considered is that the South Shore Line, which runs on the same Metra tracks, provides access to numerous locations through Indiana and goes as far as the Michigan border.


A healthy mix of public, selective enrollment, charter and private schools provide numerous options to families with children. Active participants in the local school councils have been successfully improving public schools and there are charter schools that provide an option to district-run schools. Finally a handful of private schools in the area give parents yet another alternative, including the acclaimed University of Chicago Lab School.

The University of Chicago

Public Safety

In addition to the excellent protection afforded through Chicago’s own police department, The University of Chicago also deploys around 100 fully trained officers throughout the community. Though affected by crime, as any urban neighborhood will be, it’s the civic engagement of citizens through their CAP’s (Chicago Alternative Policing) beat meetings and numerous block club initiatives that insures that crime, when it occurs, is mitigated quickly and thoroughly.

Local Attractions

If all this weren’t enough to lure you, consider this. In addition to being home to one of world’s premier universities, it’s also home to one of the country’s best museums – The Museum of Science Industry. The art community is one of most vibrant anywhere, with art galleries, music venues, theater groups, and the annual 57th Street Art Fair – the Midwest’s oldest juried art fair – as well as the annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival. And coming soon, at either Washington Park on the community’s western edge or Jackson Park on its southeast edge, the community will be home to the new President Obama Library. Oh, did we mention the President and his family live “next door” in the Kenwood community?

Among a plethora of great eateries, Giordano’s is where you’ll find some of the best stuffed pizza in town. Some say it’s even better than Lou Malnati’s but you’ll never know for sure until you’ve had a taste of both treats.

Giordano's Pizza in Hyde Park

Renting in Hyde Park

Though situated along Chicago’s popular lakefront, Hyde Park retains a bucolic and serene profile due to the expansive parks and tree lined boulevards, not to mention the significant presence of the Midway Plaisance. In addition, it is one of the smaller communities with approximately 25,000 residents in a 1 ½ square mile area, which means it’s one of the least dense communities along Chicago’s lakefront. You will also find a considerable number of older, well-built single-family homes and two- and three-flat brown-stone and grey-stone apartment buildings.

Blackstone Avenue Greystones

Generally, the neighborhood offers a much cheaper alternative to the higher priced lakefront communities such as Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast. Apartments, both rental and condominiums, tend to be larger. It’s not unusual to find 3-bedroom apartments or condos that are over 2,000 square feet and compared to the rest of the city, and the average rent in Hyde Park, $1,447, is quite affordable.

So what are you waiting for?

With the convenience of great public transportation, shopping and entertainment, incredible architecture, amazing cultural amenities, and proximity to one of the world’s greatest universities, there’s little not to like about this historic South Side enclave. Find your ideal place at and you too can have it all!

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Amalia Otet is an online content developer and creative writer for RENTCafé. She loves all things real estate and strives to live beautifully, one green step at a time.

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