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Living in Ravenswood, Chicago: A Family Neighborhood with Old World Charm

Ravenswood Chicago
Ashland & Wilson in Ravenswood. Image courtesy of Flickr user jbjas42

Ravenswood is located on Chicago’s North Side, mostly in the Lincoln Square community. An old German neighborhood, today it has become popular particularly with young couples who are looking for the urban experience to raise their families as well as the singles set who are attracted by the Lincoln Avenue entertainment strip. Despite recent rises in Ravenswood property values, homes and apartments can be found at more affordable rates here than in trendier Chicago neighborhoods like Lakeview or Lincoln Park.

At its eastern-most boundary, in the Uptown community, lies Ravenswood’s Historic District. Here one can find a plethora of 100-year old houses and Victorian mansions for the pricier set, including the home of the Mayor of Chicago’s family, Rahm Emanuel.

East Ravenswood Historic District
East Ravenswood Historic District. Image courtesy of Andrew Jameson via Wikimedia Commons.

Location

The neighborhood of Ravenswood forms the eastern-most boundary of the Lincoln Square community, and is a rather compact area defined by Clark Street to its east, Montrose Avenue to the south, Foster Avenue to its north, and the Chicago River to its west. In addition, the Metra line runs right through the middle of the neighborhood with a stop at Lawrence Avenue, giving residents easy access to Downtown Chicago.

Map of Ravenswood, Chicago, IL
Map of Ravenswood

Lincoln Avenue is considered the main artery, but there are pockets of retail and entertainment venues along some of the arterial streets on Wilson Avenue, Lawrence Avenue, and to some extent along Montrose Avenue. This gives residents numerous places to shop, dine, and be entertained – including at the city’s famous Old Town School of Folk Music – all a relatively short walk from wherever one resides.

History

Ravenswood had its inauspicious beginnings as a “planned community”, designed by a group of real estate speculators – The Ravenswood Land Company – to be Chicago’s first commuter suburb back in 1868. At the time the nascent Chicago and Northwestern Railroad ran through the area so the speculators cut a deal with the railroad to guarantee a certain number of passengers if they would build a station there. So to this day there is a major stop on the Metra line at Lawrence Avenue. Annexed to the city in 1889, the neighborhood really began to flourish when electric streetcar lines began to service the area in the 1890s, and later an extension of the ‘L’ was built here. Until recently it was known as the Ravenswood Line, but now it’s the Brown Line. The addition of transit services at the turn of the 20th century fueled the population growth and made the area more accessible to less affluent residents. Today, much of the history of the German immigrants – the primary settlers in Ravenswood and its neighbor to the south, Lakeview – has been erased. However, remnants are still visible in some of the shops and restaurants as well as an original section of the Berlin Wall which can be seen in the Brown Line station at Western Avenue.

Transportation

With only about 10 miles to Downtown, the commute to Chicago’s CBD is relatively quick and with numerous options. Public transportation is extensive, with easy access to both a number of bus lines (49 Western, 11 Lincoln, 22 Clark Street, and 81 Lawrence – which connects to the CTA Red Line – to name a few) and the Metra stop at Lawrence and Ravenswood. The CTA Brown Line stops at Western and at Montrose, connecting you to downtown. For those opting to cycle, there are numerous bike lanes along the major streets as well as many DIVVY bike rental stations.

Ashland & Wilson in Ravenswood. Image courtesy of Flickr user jbjas42
Ashland & Wilson in Ravenswood. Image courtesy of Flickr user jbjas42

Schools

A healthy mix of public, selective enrollment, and charter schools provide numerous options to families with kids. Active participants in the local school councils have been successfully improving public schools, and there are charter schools that provide an alternative to district-run schools. Finally, a handful of private schools in the area give parents yet another option; these include parochial schools St. Matthias and Queen of Angels, and the highly noted Lycée Français de Chicago (an International Baccalaureate school offering bi-lingual education).

Public Safety

Luckily, Ravenswood is dull for crime, though isolated incidents may happen as in any other urban neighborhood. If you’re moving in from another city, you should definitely check in at a CAP’s (Chicago Alternative Policing) beat meeting. Civic engagement counts a lot when it comes to public safety and Ravenswoood is a neighborhood where residents really care about keeping their streets safe.

Shopping and Dining

When it comes to dining and shopping, there’s no shortage of options in Ravenswood. If you like German cuisine, the old Chicago Brauhaus still remains and serves up traditional Bavarian fare and of course a great selection of beer; but if it’s just the beer you’re looking for then Huttenbar is the place to be to enjoy a truly old world German atmosphere.

If you just want to bring the food home then Gene’s Sausage Shop (the former Meyer’s German Delicatessen) is not to be missed. Mexican food to your taste? Well, then Garcia’s is the place you want to be. Exquisite American fare? Then you’ll want to make a reservation at Gather on Lincoln Avenue, where among other delights you’ll find one of the best burgers in the city. If instead you want to curl up and cook at home, then you needn’t go any farther than Mariano’s, where you’ll find every food imaginable and even be entertained by an in-house piano player!

Gather Chicago in Ravenswood
Gather Chicago

Local Attractions

Ravenswood offers urban living at its finest. Whether it’s jazz, the blues, or good old folk music, The Old Town School of Folk Music has it all and not just to listen to but also to learn to play.

Love to cook? Then sign up for a class or two at the Chopping Block on Lincoln Avenue. Are you a film buff? No need to leave the neighborhood when you can drop in at The Davis Theater, a staple of the Ravenswood neighborhood for decades and now newly renovated and showing first run movies. And for all of you budding sommeliers there’s Ampersand’s, where you can sample your favorite wines and couple them with some outstanding food. Speaking of food, every year Ravenswood celebrates its local eateries and craft brewers with a gastronomical delight called Taste of Ravenswood. Other neighborhood festivals abound as well, such as the Ravenswood Art Walk held in September every year. These are just a few of the many attractions that this great neighborhood has to offer – it all awaits you in Ravenswood!

Housing Stock

Except for the East Ravenswood Historical District, Ravenswood is one of the city’s more affordable neighborhoods to live in, even while offering so much in terms of shopping and entertainment. Courtyard-style buildings are prevalent across the Ravenswood landscape, but there’s no shortage of stately single-family homes to be found along the tree-lined streets here as well.

What You Can Rent in Ravenswood

You have a wide choice of both affordable and high-end apartments in Ravenswood, especially if you appreciate vintage architecture. There’s no shortage of apartments, so you’ll have no problem finding one that suits your taste and budget. The average rent in Ravenswood today is $1,087 – far below the Chicago average ($1,686).

Wolcott Terrace

Located just steps from beautiful Winnemac Park, this architecturally striking early 20th century building offers studio and 1-bedroom apartments with rents starting at $925. These large units feature hardwood floors, separate kitchens with granite counters and dining nooks, as well as huge walk-in closets. Amenities include a lush inner courtyard as well as an on-site fitness center. Monthly parking is available, though there’s plenty of street parking on this quiet block. Yes, pets are allowed.

Wolcott Terrace Apartments in Chicago's Ravenswood Neighborhood
Wolcott Terrace Apartments at 5017 N. Wolcott

4601 N. Ravenswood Ave.

Located in the heart of Ravenswood, just steps from the Metra stop, close to the Brown Line stop and a few blocks from everything that Lincoln Avenue has to offer, this brand new complex offers 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom floor plans. Apartments come with hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, quartz counter tops, spa finishes featuring porcelain and stone bathrooms, and in-unit washer/dryers. Amenities at this pet-friendly community include a sun deck rooftop patio, private decks in most units, a fully equipped workout/fitness room, and a heated garage and indoor bike storage. What’s not to like?

4601 N. Ravenswood Ave. Apartments in Chicago
Apartment Building at 4601 N. Ravenswood Ave. Image via Google Maps.

4535-45 N. Hamilton Ave

Located only steps from the bustling Lincoln Avenue corridor, this historic mid-twentieth century courtyard building offers 1-bedroom apartments featuring beautiful hardwood floors and modern kitchens, central heat and A/C, and patio/balconies. Bright and airy, this is one of the best locations in Ravenswood!

Apartments at 4535-45 N. Hamilton Ave. in Ravenswood. Image via Google Maps.
Apartments at 4535-45 N. Hamilton Ave. in Ravenswood. Image via Google Maps.

What You Can Buy in Ravenswood

Single-family homes abound in every price point to satisfy both the bargain hunter and the most discerning architectural aficionado. Add to this the classic early-to mid-twentieth century profile of many of the buildings and you can’t help but to fall in love with the housing choices in this neighborhood.

1947 West Leland Avenue 1 – Condominium ($325,000)

Located at the south end of Ravenswood and just steps from all the lively shopping and entertainment along Lincoln Avenue, this beautiful vintage building is only a few blocks from the CTA Brown Line stop at Damen or the stop at Western. This updated, vintage 2-bedroom/2-bath unit offers plenty to like, including central air con, walk-in closets, hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and a balcony, crown molding, a Jacuzzi tub, and large storage spaces. Your modern kitchen includes granite counters, an under mount sink, and stainless steel appliances; oh, and there’s an in-unit laundry room and a tandem (2 car) parking space included as well!

Condo for sale at 1947 West Leland Avenue in Chicago
Condo for sale at 1947 West Leland Avenue 1

Make Ravenswood Your New Home

Great dining, entertainment, and classic architecture await you. Come find your home here by browsing great rentals on www.rentcafe.com and you too can enjoy all that Ravenswood has to offer!

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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