Living In Old Town – Historic & Unique
When talking about making a life in Chicago’s urban center, you’d be unlikely to get very far before the topic of Old Town comes up.
A storied neighborhood and historic district, living in Old Town is a unique experience that practically encapsulates the entire city in a very small area.
The area itself traces its roots to Chicago’s earliest denizens, while today Old Town boasts trendy eateries that rub their big shoulders up against classic Victorian architecture.
Chicago Old Town real estate is mostly vintage. However, there is also a nice mix of cottages, row houses, condos, and two-flats.
Not to be missed is the historic Old Town Triangle. It’s a section of row houses on cobblestone streets that gives people a flavor of old Chicago.
Want to rent? Here are the current Old Town rentals.
Explore Chicago Old Town real estate listings below or read more about living in Old Town.
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More About Living In Old Town
Old Town is in 60610 and bordered by Armitage Avenue on the north, Division Street on the south, Clybourn Avenue on the southwest, Larrabee Street on the west and Clark Street on the east. Nearby neighborhoods include Chicago’s Gold Coast which sits just to the east.
A Little History
Long before Chicago was Chicago, or even before European immigrants stumbled onto the area, Old Town real estate was essentially made up of a loose collection of Native American tribes who used the area as a trade post and home.
A precursor to Chicago’s role as a hub of trade and commerce, multiple tribes were recorded to have been living in Old Town under a mutually beneficial arrangement. These included the Potawatomi, Miami, and Illinois. Shortly after the turn of the 19th century, these tribes would not be living in Old Town much longer. Because the Treaty of Chicago forcibly removed them and Old Town real estate was then settled by German immigrants.
Likely one of Old Town real estate’s most prolific landmarks, St. Michael’s church stands as a monument to early European colonizers. And is a testament to lauded German engineering. Originally built by Bavarian immigrants, St. Michael’s was one of only a handful of structures to survive the Great Chicago Fire.
Living in Old Town means walking streets that predate Chicago city planning
You’ll need to become accustomed to its unique pattern. Old Town’s streets are among the few in the city that do not adhere to Chicago’s famous grid pattern. Old Town residents often wonder why Clark Street follows a somewhat irregular line. It’s because it stands along one of the area’s earliest roads that followed a ridge running alongside Lake Michigan.
Old Town’s history continues unabated through the 20th Century
Today this history is most visible in its only El stop, servicing the Brown & Purple Lines, on North Sedgwick. Located in the heart of Old Town, this El stop is among the oldest in the city and one of the few original stops still standing. It was built in 1900.
Commerce and history are wonderful, but Old Town carries the flag for civil progress as well
Living in Old Town means being a neighbor to the Henry Gerber house. Named in honor of its owner, this piece of Old Town real estate was the home of the Society for Human Rights: the first gay rights organization in American history. This fabulous bit of trivia is all the more incredible when one understand it was founded in 1924. The Henry Gerber House was named a Chicago Landmark in June 2001, a National Historic Landmark 14 years later, and still stands today at 1701 N Crilly Ct.
The middle of the 20th century saw a dramatic change in those living in Old Town
Following the white flight of the 1950s, many of Old Town real estate’s gorgeous Victorian homes and storefronts were left vacant and available, often for cheap. Consequently the area became home to three unique groups searching for a place in the Second City. First, Old Town became the unofficial basecamp for hippie culture in the Midwest. Next, a sizable community of Puerto Ricans put down roots along the north and west corners of the neighborhood. Finally, Old Town’s real estate was the chosen home of the newly out homosexual culture.
You don’t get that kind of diversity without a resultant cultural explosion
So when such a variety of people who called Old Town real estate home came together, many of Chicago’s most famous institutions came into existence. Ubiquitous city names like The Second City, Old Town Ale House, and the Up Down Tobacco Shop all came to be living in Old Town during this period. Most of these icons still call Old Town home today, even if they’re not exactly in the same spot where they started. (But then again, who among us still is?)
Similarly, the Old Town School of Folk Music first opened its doors during Chicagos revival of the genre. It saw singer-songwriters such as Bonnie Koloc, Bob Gibson, John Prine, and more grace its halls and the surrounding venues.
From the Old Town School of Folk Music came other venues for artists to ply their trades. Notably, the now-famous Mother Blues club. It boasted greats ranging from Brazil ’66 and Jefferson Airplane, to legendary comedian George Carlin standing on their little slice of Old Town real estate.
An “always exciting place to live”
Perhaps the best way to conclude a write up of Old Town real estate is with a description of living in Old Town from 1967. Penned by Richard Atcheson for a write-up in Holiday Magazine, the colorful biography still rings true today:
“There is a little piece of Chicago Real Estate, west of Lincoln Park, that is the pride of urban conservationists and the despair of bulldozers. It is a community widely known as Old Town… full of conflict, full of life; a sometimes maddening but always exciting place to live.”
Just let us know if you’re interested in living in Old Town, or have questions about buying or renting Old Town real estate.