River North is home to a countless number of Chicago’s best restaurants and bars. They’re pretty much on every corner, every block, every building. I don’t have the time or energy to list them all here, so I won’t! What I will talk about are a few historical and cultural sites that grace the area.
First, Erie Street has a few historic mansions that used to be plentiful in the old days. The Samuel M. Nickerson House is one that can be visited. It was built in 1883 for banker and distillery owner Samuel M. Nickerson and is now the Driehaus Museum. It’s open from 10am to 5pm daily except Mondays. Admission is US$20 for adults, US$12.50 for seniors, and US$10 for students and children. There is a US$5 audioguide that can be rented as well.
The mansion was once the finest in Chicago and preserves many of the original features along with other authentic pieces of the period. The 23 room mansion underwent massive restoration after being purchased by Richard Driehaus in 2003. All it takes is to step into the main hall to be in awe. It’s well worth visiting and takes you back in time to the Gilded Age, one of the most prosperous times in American history.
Next door is a small auditorium, the John B. Murphy Memorial. It’s used for private events.
Holy Name Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, is a couple blocks away at State and Superior. It was built in 1875 after the original cathedral burned down in the Great Chicago Fire. It’s a beautiful cathedral that’s worth popping into.
Archbishop Quigley Center was a seminary for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. It closed its doors in 2007 and is now the headquarters for the Archdiocese. It’s also the home of St. James Chapel and its 28ft rose window.
Newberry Library was founded in 1887. The huge library building opened to the public in 1893. There’s an impressive collection of very rare books that wasn’t on display when I visited. I also didn’t feel very welcome when I walked in so I left after a few minutes. The building itself is gorgeous and worth taking a look at. It stands on the former site of the Mahlon D. Ogden Home, which was the only home in the path of the Great Chicago Fire that wasn’t burned to the ground. Anyway, free public tours are offered every Thursday at 3pm and Saturday at 10:30am.
Washington Square Park, founded in 1842, sits in front of the library. It’s historically the place where Chicagoans went to speak publicly on soap boxes, gaining it the nickname “Bughouse Square”. It was also the site of the city’s first Gay Pride March in 1970.
The River North Gallery District is the place to go for art lovers. It has the highest concentration of art galleries in the country outside of Manhattan. The corner of Superior and Franklin Streets is the heart of the district.
Also read my post about the Museum of Broadcast Communications. It’s located in the River North district.