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

Hyde Park in Chicago

The Hyde Park community in Chicago has 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.

Location

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
Map of Hyde Park

History

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
The Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park. Image courtesy of Don Gordon

Transportation

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.

Schools

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
The University of Chicago is located in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood

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
Thin Crust vs. Deep Dish: no matter how you slice it, you’re in for a treat at Giordano’s

Housing Stock

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
Blackstone Avenue grey-stones. Image courtesy of Don Gordon.

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 the average rent in Hyde Park  – $1,188, according to Yardi Matrix – is quite affordable.

What you can rent in Hyde Park

There are numerous apartment buildings in Hyde Park, distinctively characteristic of the early to mid-20th century at which time many of them were built.

The Blackwood

Located at 5200 S. Blackstone, The Blackwood apartment community is only steps from Hyde Park’s oldest shopping and entertainment district – 53rd Street – including the Harper Theater multiplex with 7 movie screens and full service bar. This early 20th century architectural gem was originally built as an elegant 1920’s hotel and has both one- and two-bedroom units. Recently this building was historically renovated, including granite counters and beautiful maple cabinetry in each unit. In addition, the 20th century lobby area has been completely restored, a 24-hour fitness facility was added to the building, and an at-your-service concierge is available.

The Blackwood Apartments in Chicago's Hyde Park
The Blackwood Apartments in Hyde Park

5535 S. Kimbark

Located just a couple blocks from the 53rd street shopping district, this 3-story walk-up is also just around the corner from Hyde Park’s popular Court Theater and the Smart Museum of Art. The building has one- and two-bedroom apartments, all with hardwood floors and air conditioning.

5535 S. Kimbark Avenue Apartments in Chicago
5535 S. Kimbark Avenue Apartments in Hyde Park

Algonquin Apartments

Located at 1606 E. Hyde Park Blvd, The Algonquin was designed by famed architect Mies van der Rohe. Recently renovated, the apartment homes feature open floor plans and contemporary designs. On-site amenities include a fitness center, laundry rooms, storage lockers, and indoor bike storage.

Algonquin Apartments in Hyde Park Chicago
Algonquin Apartments in Hyde Park

What you can buy in Hyde Park

5542 S. Blackstone Avenue Unit 1 – Condominium ($249,500)

Located only a couple blocks from the 57th street Metra stop, this vintage 1904 building is a short walk to the famous Treasure Island Foods grocery store and only a few blocks from 57th Street Beach and the Lakefront Bike trail.

Condo for sale at 5542 South Blackstone Avenue in Chicago
Condos for sale at 5542 South Blackstone Avenue in Hyde Park

This unit has been fully updated with high definition countertops, a remodeled bathroom with new ceramic floors and a laundry facility in the unit. Lake Shore Drive is at your doorstep, as is the Museum of Science and Industry and you’re just a couple blocks from the 53rd Street shopping and entertainment district!

Condo for sale at 5542 South Blackstone Avenue in Chicago
Condo for sale at 5542 South Blackstone Avenue in Hyde Park

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 www.rentcafe.com and you too can have it all!

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About the author

Ama Otet

Ama 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. You can connect with Ama on Twitter or via email.

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