Chicago Neighborhoods: Kenwood & Oakland

Kenwood is a history buff’s dream with its architecturally diverse mansions and famous residents, both past and present. Some of Chicago’s most successful businessmen lived here, like mapmaker William Rand and meatpacking magnate Gustavius Swift. Most people know it today as the Chicago home of U.S. President Barack Obama. Though primarily residential, neighboring Oakland also contains historic sites like the former Abraham Lincoln Center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Kenwood-Hyde Park is, to be fair, a geographic distinction, not an intellectual one. Kenwood’s southern border is Hyde Park Boulevard, but the boulevard is not so broad nor so busy as to cut itself off from that University of Chicago mystique.

orth, at 43rd Street, Kenwood ends and Oakland begins. Both, whether by design or by the flow of economics and time, today are overwhelmingly residential areas with pockets of unique retail worth visiting. On 47th Street, the Zaleski&Horvath MarketCafe is a popular deli (lots of sandwiches and artisanal cheeses) and a good spot for a spot of coffee; the Afro-centric Goree Shop is browse-worthy; the gallery at the Little Black Pearl Art & Design Center is interesting – but its programs, for adults as well as young people, are the focus of its mission of economic empowerment.

On Cottage Grove Avenue, the window sign at Ain’t She Sweet Cafe suggests its soups are sweet as she is.

South Kenwood, like Hyde Park, is a land of mostly quiet streets shaded by great trees, of century-old mansions built and preserved with love and serious dollars. President Obama’s home, at 5046 S. Greenwood Ave., is one of them, a Georgian built in 1910. Don’t expect to drive past; access is made challenging by concrete and steel barriers, and by men with no senses of humor in black vehicles.

Julius Rosenwald, philanthropist and an early part-owner of Sears, Roebuck & Co., lived nearby on 49th Street and Ellis Avenue in a house (1903) that still exists, handsomely. So did meatpacker Gustavus Swift, in a house (1898) standing just up the block on Ellis.

Muhammad Ali lived nearby for a time, in a handsome Tudor mansion at 4944 S. Woodlawn Ave. (The splendid Masjid Al-Faatir mosque, on 47th Street, is Ali’s Kenwood legacy.) Across from the Obama home – visible behind the Hyde Park Boulevard barricades – is KAM Isaiah Israel (1924), a Byzantine-style synagogue housing the midwest’s oldest reform congregation.

Two early (1892) Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes are in South Kenwood. The McArthur House and Blossom House are both near 49th Street and Kenwood Avenue, with exteriors that at best only hint at his later style; for stronger hints, check out the garage built later (1907) beside the Blossom House.

And don’t miss a pair of important structures on Drexel Boulevard: McGill Mansion (1893), 4938 S. Drexel Blvd., now a condo building with all the features of a castle but a drawbridge and moat; and Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Operation Push headquarters, in a former synagogue at 50th Street.

South Kenwood is a neighborhood for walking. The interesting parts of North Kenwood, a community undergoing an exciting but still-spotty revival, are more scattered, which makes car or bus touring a better option.

Architect John Root, onetime partner of Daniel Burnham, designed the William E. Hale home (1886) in North Kenwood at 4545 S. Drexel Blvd., an impressive pile that, like the close-by McGill, has found new life as condos. More conventionally-sized greystones survive nicely on the 4500 blocks of both Ellis and Greenwood Avenues; the 4400 block of Berkeley has fine examples of redstone and greystone structures.

And up in Oakland, new homes and condominiums – and new parks and playgrounds and hope. Still here: More Drexel Boulevard greystones; Northeastern Illinois University’s Center for Inner City Studies, 700 E. Oakwood Blvd., whose modern exterior hides (without a trace visible from the street) another Frank Lloyd Wright design; a knockout mural on Drexel and 41st Street; and some fine church buildings, including Monumental Baptist Church, 729 E. Oakwood Blvd.


48th St. & S. Kimbark Ave.

  • Art & Architecture

A cluster of Queen Anne style houses lines Kimbark near 48th. Queen Anne was a popular style during the 1880s and 1890s in Kenwood.

48th St. & Kimbark Ave.

Blackstone Branch Library

  • Museums & Zoos

Modeled after the Erechtheum at the Athenian Acropolis, the Blackstone Library (est. 1904) was Chicago’s first Branch Library. Today you’ll find adult and children’s sections, events like Poetry Café, children’s story time and adult programs.

Free Admission | 4904 S. Lake Park Ave. | 312.747.0511

Burnham Park

  • Parks & Gardens

At 47th Dr., this part of Burnham Park features a basketball court, a playground, two baseball diamonds, bike racks, benches, a butterfly and bird sanctuary, and Lake Michigan just a stone’s throw away.

Free Admission | 47th Dr. & Cornell Ave. | 312.742.7529

C.S. Bouton House

  • Art & Architecture

A private residence and Kenwood’s oldest house, built in 1873, this Italianate style home still has remarkable woodwork. Even the carriage step remains.

4812 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Chicago Tribute Markers of Distinction

  • Other Attractions

Chicago Tribute Markers of Distinction commemorate notable Chicagoans by marking the places where they lived or worked. Since the program started in 1997, eighty markers have been placed across the city. This number will be increased to 100 markers placed by the end of 2009.

Free Admission | 78 E. Washington St. | 312.744.6630

Croatian Ethnic Institute

  • Cultural Centers

Research your family’s genealogy and learn about the Croatian culture at the Croatian Ethnic Institute, which boasts one of the largest archives of Croatian cultural heritage. Appointments requested; enter parking lot on 49th St.

Free Admission | 4851 S. Drexel Blvd. | 773.373.4670

Drexel Boulevard

  • Historical Landmarks

Drexel Blvd. features old Renaissance and Gothic Revival style town houses and turn-of-the-century (1890s) mansions with a mix of modern imitation buildings. The boulevard is a nice place to meander down to get a view of old Chicago architecture. Don’t miss the former William E. Hale home, designed by John Root (1886) at 4545 S. Drexel Blvd., or the mural at Drexel Blvd. and 41st St.

Free Admission | Drexel Blvd. & Oakwood Blvd.

Eliel House

  • Art & Architecture

Interested in 19th century Chicago architecture? Walk by one of the few surviving examples of Dankmar Adler and Louis H. Sullivan’s small residential projects on Ellis Avenue. This home was built for Adler’s cousin in 1886.

4122 S. Ellis Ave. | 312.744.3200

Elijah Muhammad–Louis Farrakhan’s House

  • Historical Landmarks

From 49th and Woodlawn, view the former home of Nation of Islam founder, Elijah Muhammad, now Minister Louis Farrakhan’s. Notice its sandstone facade, stained glass windows and beautiful gardens.

4855 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Ellis Park

  • Parks & Gardens

Named after Samuel Ellis who ran a tavern on 35th St. in the 1830s and donated the land for the park, Ellis Park is one of the older parks in Chicago. Located next to Madden Park, Ellis Park offers baseball, outdoor basketball, paths for jogging and walking, and a playground.

Free Admission | 3600 S. Cottage Grove Ave. | 312.747.6446

Former Home of Bill Veeck

  • Sports & Recreation

Baseball Hall of Fame legend and promotional genius, Bill Veeck planted the ivy in Wrigley Field, created the exploding scoreboard at Comiskey Park (now, U.S. Cellular Field), integrated the American League in 1947 and owned the Chicago White Sox (twice), as well as the Cleveland Indians, the St. Louis Browns and the Minor League’s Milwaukee Brewers. Selected as a Chicago Tribute Marker of Distinction.

Free Admission | 1380 E. Madison Pk.

Former Home of Hannah Greenebaum Solomon

  • Historical Landmarks

Hannah Greenebaum Solomon’s lifelong activism on behalf of women and children stemmed from her deep conviction for social justice and universal brotherhood. She founded the National Council of Jewish Women, which assisted Jewish immigrants, created the Bureau of Personal Service, worked on behalf of Jane Addams’ Hull-House, and accompanied Susan B. Anthony at the International Council of Women in Berlin. Selected as a Chicago Tribute Marker of Distinction.

Free Admission | 4060 S. Lake Park Ave.

Former Home of Louis Henry Sullivan

  • Art & Architecture

Louis Sullivan sought to create architecture that honestly reflected its time and place, combining beauty and function. His distinctive system of ornament combined natural and geometric forms. Selected as a Chicago Tribute Marker of Distinction.

Free Admission | 4575 S. Lake Park Ave.

Former Home of Muhammad Ali

  • Historical Landmarks

Famous boxer Muhammad Ali lived in this large brick mansion for many years, moving here to be close to his mentor Elijah Muhammad at the Nation of Islam.

Free Admission | 4944 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Francis M. Drexel Memorial Fountain

  • Art & Architecture

View the city’s oldest public fountain built in 1883. Francis M. Drexel Fountain commemorates the Philadelphia banker who donated the land for Drexel Boulevard, but never actually lived in Chicago.

Free Admission | 5100 S. Drexel Blvd. | 312.744.3090

Gustavus Swift Mansion

  • Art & Architecture

At 48th St. & Ellis Ave., find famous meatpacking giant Gustavus Swift’s three-story mansion built in 1898 by Flanders & Zimmerman. Now owned by the Franciscan Friars, you can walk or drive by this beautiful Kenwood mansion.

4848 S. Ellis Ave. | 773.203.1368

Hyde Park Art Center

  • Art & Architecture,
  • Museums & Zoos

Since 1939, the Hyde Park Art Center’s mission has been to stimulate and sustain the visual arts in Chicago via innovative exhibitions by primarily Chicago-area artists and art educational programs for people of diverse backgrounds. The Center strives to make contemporary art relevant to people’s lives and actively pursues arts mentorship within the community it serves.

Free Admission | 5020 S. Cornell Ave. | 773.324.5520

Hyde Park Hair Salon

  • Other Attractions

See the barber chair President Obama sat in for haircuts. Prominently displayed, it bears the president’s autograph. If the crowds aren’t too much, you can even chat with his Chicago barber.

Free Admission | 5234 S. Blackstone Ave. | 773.493.6028

Julius Rosenwald Mansion

  • Art & Architecture

While checking out the outstanding residential architecture of historic Kenwood, make sure to view Julius Rosenwald’s mansion at 49th & Ellis. Rosenwald, famous as a Sears Roebuck executive and philanthropist, built this home in 1903. Selected as a Chicago Tribute Marker of Distinction.

Free Admission | 4901 S. Ellis Ave.

Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center

  • Art & Architecture

Little Black Pearl Workshop teaches, displays and sells visual art by children and adults from Kenwood and the surrounding areas, as a means of personal and economic empowerment and community transformation. They also have a café offering light refreshments.

Free Admission | 1060 E. 47th St. | 773.285.1211

Mandrake Park

  • Parks & Gardens

Located between Pershing Rd. and Oakwood Blvd., this public park offers baseball fields, picnic tables with umbrellas, a multipurpose athletic field with a track, outdoor basketball, tennis courts and a great picnic spot.

Free Admission | 901 E. Pershing Rd. | 312.746.5962

McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield

  • Music

With his electric guitar and the metal slide, Muddy Waters pioneered the Chicago Blues style. Songs such as “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Got My Mojo Working” remain blues standards today. Selected as a Chicago Tribute Marker of Distinction.

Free Admission | 4339 S. Lake Park Ave.

Monumental Baptist Church

  • Historical Landmarks

Built in 1899, this is one of the best surviving examples of a “central lantern church” in Chicago, a style modeled after the Trinity Church in Boston.

Free Admission | 729 E. Oakwood Blvd. | 773.924.5266

President Barack Obama’s Home

  • Popular Attractions

When not at the White House, America’s 44th President, Barack Obama lives here. Though a beautiful example of historic Kenwood homes, don’t plan on getting too close; the Secret Service will stop you!

5046 S. Greenwood Ave.

Rainbow PUSH Coalition

  • Cultural Centers

Formerly the KAM Synagogue, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s headquarters is the base of operations for Rev. Jesse Jackson. Though not open for public viewing, you can attend the public live TV broadcast every Saturday at 10 am (doors open at 9 am).

930 E. 50th St. | 773.373.3366

Soldier’s Home

  • Historical Landmarks

Chicago’s last surviving building with a direct association to the Civil War, Soldiers’ Home was constructed at the edge of the Camp Douglas prison camp through the efforts of a women’s group. During the war, it was a hospital for convalescent soldiers; following the war, it served as a home for disabled Union Army veterans.

Free Admission | 739 E. 35th St.

The Blossom and McArthur Houses

  • Art & Architecture

Now private residences, these early Frank Lloyd Wright designs from 1892 at 4858 and 4852 S. Kenwood, respectively, were two of his “bootleg” architectural projects that he built on the side while working for Adler & Sullivan.

4858 S. Kenwood Ave.

The McGill House

  • Art & Architecture

This grand Kenwood mansion built in 1891 for the McGill’s of Canada is now a condominium. Designed by Henry Ives Cobb, it draws architectural inspiration from Gothic and French Renaissance buildings.

4938 S. Drexel Ave. | 312.744.3200


Ain’t She Sweet Café

  • Dining

Ain’t She Sweet Café is a unique sandwich shop, serving its own signature food as well as desserts from other Southside establishments, including Jimmy Jamm, Leo’s and Angelica’s, and showcasing African and African American artwork.

4532 S. Cottage Grove Ave. | 773.373.3530

Italian Fiesta Pizzeria

  • Pizza

Don’t be fazed by the bulletproof glass at the window and small storefront. This family-run Italian Fiesta Pizzeria serves really good thin crust pizza. Featuring homemade dough and all fresh ingredients daily.

1400 E. 47th St. | 773.684.2222

Zaleski & Horvath Market Café

  • Food Retail: Specialty Food

This welcoming neighborhood deli serves up fresh and creatively delicious sandwiches that use only the finest ingredients. Its offers a selection of about 70 international cheeses, an affordable menu showcasing fine products and extremely friendly service.

1126 E. 47th St. | 773.538.7372


Fort Smith

  • Women’s Clothing

Fort Smith is an affordable women’s clothing, jewelry and accessory boutique that features bold and stylish jewelry designed by the owner, Fort Smith.

1007 E. 43rd St. | 773.268.8200

Goree Shop

  • Various

A small shop housing hundreds of vibrant original African style designs for men and women, as well as wholesale fabrics imported from Senegal and Guyana. There’s a great selection of imported unique handcrafted items too, like jewelry from Africa.

1122 E. 47th St. | 773.285.1895

Sensual Steps

  • Shoe Stores

Sensual Steps carries contemporary and quality women’s shoes and accessories by American and Italian designers.

4518 S. Cottage Grove Ave. | 773.548.3338


Hyde Park & Kenwood

  • Bus,
  • Walking

Experience the history and majesty of Hyde Park and neighboring Kenwood on this Chicago Neighborhood Tour. These communities are home to stately mansions, landmark Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, and many more surprises.

77 E. Randolph St. | 312.742.1190 (TTY: 312.744.2947)

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