The Gold Coast of Chicago is one of the richest areas in the city. It’s a historic district comprised of a posh residential area and one of the city’s best entertainment and restaurant zones.
Most people visit the Rush and Division section of the Gold Coast, colloquially known as the Viagra Triangle. This small triangle shaped area is home to some of the best and most well-known restaurants and bars in the city, including Gibson’s Steakhouse, Tavern on Rush, Carmine’s, and Hugo’s Frog Bar. It’s an amazing place to hang out in the summer, especially on weekend nights. Sitting outside at Tavern on Rush on a summer day, it’s not uncommon to spot celebrities or famous athletes walking by.
The other hot summer spot in the Gold Coast is Oak Street Beach. It’s great location underneath the towering skyscrapers of Michigan Avenue give beachgoers some great scenery to swim, bask in the sun, or enjoy the seasonal restaurant.
The Gold Coast is not short on historic homes and buildings. Walking up North State Parkway and Astor street, between Goethe Street and North Avenue, there are some amazing structures to be seen. Concentrating on leafy Astor Street will be the most rewarding.
One of the impressive homes include the massive Patterson-McCormick Mansion (1500 N. Astor). Built in 1893 as a wedding gift for the publisher of the Chicago Tribune. It’s now an apartment building.
The Edward P. Russell House is an Art Deco townhouse built in 1929 by Holabird and Root. It’s at 1444 N. Astor.
The most famous house on the street is the Charnley-Persky House. It was designed by Louis Sullivan and a young Frank Lloyd Wright. The home, built in 1892, is available for tours on limited days. As of June 2016, noon tours on Wednesdays are free while Saturday tours at 10am and noon are US$10 for adults. Click here to read about my tour.
Other homes to look out for on Astor Street include the John L. Fortune House (1451 N. Astor), the May House (1443 N. Astor), the William D. Kerfoot House (1425 N. Astor), Astor Court (1355 N. Astor), and the Edwin J. Gardiner House (1345 N. Astor).
Also on Astor Street is Wooden Alley. This is one of the last remaining stretches of Chicago’s wooden paved streets, which ultimately was the greatest cause of the spread of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. This section was paved with wood in 1909.
At opposite corners of North State Parkway and North Avenue are two more impressive buildings. 1500 North State Parkway was built in 1912 and was once the most luxurious building in the city. It originally had 1 apartment per floor, at 9,000 ft² each, with ten rooms for the owner and five rooms for servant’s quarters. It overlooks Lincoln Park.
Across the street is the residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago. This building with its 19 signature chimneys was built in 1880 on the former site of a Catholic cemetery.
At 1340 North State Parkway is the original Playboy Mansion. It’s a 70 room French brick and limestone residence built in 1899 for Dr. George Swift Isham. Hugh Hefner bought the mansion in 1959 and his original grotto was in the basement. A brass sign that used to hang on the front door said “Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare”…or “If you don’t swing, don’t ring” in Latin. Hef packed up and moved permanently to California in 1974, after being harassed by federal prosecutor Jim Thompson (later Illinois governor) about alleged cocaine use. Four very expensive condos are now located in the building.
Last update: June 1, 2016