Chicago Neighborhoods: Austin

Chicago Austin Historic District

One of Chicago’s largest community areas, both in terms of population and area, Austin was originally neighboring Cicero Township’s seat of government before it was annexed by Chicago in 1899. The former town hall was modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and survives today as one of Austin’s most well-known landmarks. The neighborhood is also home to the Jens Jensen-designed Columbus Park, which features a waterfall, lagoons, golf course and Prairie-style refectory.

Its signature park is a masterpiece by a master. Some its churches, if churches were ranked, would be among the city’s most impressive. Leading architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright (who worked in a studio a few blocks west of here), created homes for this neighborhood that a century later still amaze and inspire.

And its “town hall” — a nearly full-size replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall — has a swimming pool inside. More about this later. This is Austin, sometimes troubled but nonetheless one of the city’s more interesting community areas for visitors, particularly visitors interested in architecture.

Renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen’s designs can be appreciated in many of Chicago’s grandest parks — Jensen put the babble in the Garfield Park Conservatory’s brooks, and he tweaked existing designs in Humboldt and Douglas Parks, among others — but Columbus Park, in Austin, was his baby, and it shows.

This, a National Historic Landmark, is a park with berms and brooks and Prairie Style character throughout, along with a 9-hole links-style golf course (also Jensen’s design) and the requisite ball fields.

Midway Park is not a park but a parkway — a calm residential street (calm despite being just a block north of the CTA Green Line ‘L’ tracks) with a grassy median. It also happens to be the heart of the Austin Historic District, listed on the National Register, and with reason.

On this street, and on Race Avenue a block north, is a collection of homes that represent the vision of top architects of the late 1890s and early 1900s, including John Chubb, Robert Hyde, Holabird & Roche, John Krall and four houses by Frederick R. Schock.

One of the Schock homes (at the northwest corner of Midway Park and Menard Avenue) was the architect’s own residence and a must-see. He threw everything into it — rock, shingles, leaded glass and other elements — while somehow retaining the Queen Anne essentials.

Out of the district but just a few blocks away, on Central Avenue near Madison Street, is Walser House (1903), a Frank Lloyd Wright design that’s unmistakably a Frank Lloyd Wright design. That it’s on this busy street surrounded by apartments and across from a schoolyard makes it a wonder that it’s survived all these years, but here it is.


Assumption Greek Orthodox Church

  • Religious locations

Assumption Greet Orthodox Church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is a beautifully ornate church with many icons, stained glass windows, and a painted dome. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

Free Admission | 601 S. Central Ave. | 773.626.3114

Austin Town Hall and Park

  • Parks & Gardens

The field house, a large brick Georgian Revival-style building influenced by Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, was created by architects Michaelsen and Rognstad, who also built the Gold Dome in Garfield Park (among other notable buildings). The park offers a recording studio, swimming pool, basketball courts, and houses a dance company and theater. Austin Town Hall is a designated Chicago Landmark.

5610 W. Lake St. | 773.287.7658

Columbus Park Lagoon & Woodland

  • Parks & Gardens

Columbus Park is home to an eight acre lagoon and two acres of woodland habitat.

Free Admission | 500 S. Central Ave. | 312.742.PLAY (7529)

Fraternite Notre Dame

  • Religious locations

Fraternite Nortre Dame is a beautiful and ornate church with a shrine to Our Lady of Frechou. Mass is held every evening and the church is open to visitors by request.

Free Admission | 502 N. Central Ave. | 773.261.0101

J.J. Walser House

  • Art & Architecture

This house was designed and built in 1903 by Frank Lloyd Wright for printing executive, Jacob Walser, Jr. Today the home is a private residence that allows for street viewing only.

Free Admission | 42 N. Central Ave.

Marie Schock House

  • Art & Architecture

Built in 1888 by architect Fredrick Schock for his own mother, this rare example of a Shingle Style home is said to have influenced Frank Lloyd Wright’s nearby home and studio.

Free Admission | 5749 W. Race Ave.

Midway Park

  • Art & Architecture

Midway Park is the heart of Old Austin where three blocks of historic Victorian homes fill the streets. Midway Park ends in a cul-de-sac with a large fountain, and Greater Holy Temple of God in Christ and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church on both sides.

Free Admission | 5710 W. Midway Park

Seth P. Warner House and Thomas J Langford House

  • Art & Architecture

These Victorian houses, currently private residences and offereing only street views, are among the oldest in Austin; the Seth P. Warner house (631 N. Central Ave.) being the oldest in Austin, built in 1869. The Warner House’s projecting central pavilion and cupola typify this phase of the Italianate style, and the Thomas J. Langford House (621 N. Central Ave.) is a Queen Anne turret.

Free Admission | 631 N. Central Ave.

St. Martin de Porres

  • Religious locations

St. Martin de Porres is a huge, beautiful Tudor Gothic church built in 1923, and originally dedicated to St. Thomas Aquinas. The bell tower, designed by a parishioner, Karl Vitzthum, is the tallest structure in Austin standing 12 stories high.

Free Admission | 5112 W. Washington Blvd. | 773.287.0206

St. Martin’s Episcopal Church

  • Religious locations

Located at the end of Midway Park, the heart of Old Austin, this church is the site of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church since 1880. The current building was designed in 1901 by A.M. Barrows. Service is held every Sunday at 10 am.

Free Admission | 5710 W. Midway Park | 773.378.8111


Depot Diner

  • American (Traditional)

Depot Diner, featured on the television show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, is famous for their special pot roast sandwich that is loaded with fried onions.

5840 W. Roosevelt Rd. | 773.261.8422


  • Soul Food

MacArthur’s has a family atmosphere that is clean, safe, and friendly. Order at the counter, picking your main dish and sides, and watch them plate heaping portions of your favorite soul food dishes.

5412 W. Madison St. | 773.261.2316

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