Old Town is a historic Chicago neighborhood that was originally settled by German Catholic immigrants. It went through a lot of ups and downs throughout the years, including a period of downturn where half of the neighborhood was a place to avoid, but it has since bounced back.
The landmark building of Old Town is St. Michael’s Church. It was built in 1866, with the 290 ft. high steeple added in 1888. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the roof and interior of the Catholic church, but the structure survived. It is said that you know you are in Old Town if you can hear the bells of St. Michael’s.
The heart of Old Town is Wells Street. With many boutique shops, restaurants, and bars, it’s always a lively place to be. The bohemian Wells Street has been home to a folk music and theatre scene and was where the world’s first Crate and Barrel store opened in 1962. Check the official website for what’s on in Old Town.
One of the most important institutions in Old Town is The Second City. This comedy factory has produced some of the most successful comedians since its founding in 1959. Schedules and tickets to shows are available on the website.
Not too far away is a beautiful building, the Moody Church. It’s a huge Protestant church built in 1924 and has seating for over 3,700 people. The Moody Church is across from the excellent Chicago History Museum.
Some interesting historic homes are in the north part of Old Town. The Olsen-Hansen Row Houses at Eugenie and Wells were originally 12 in number, but now only five remain. They were designed in 1886 by Norwegian architect Harald M. Hansen for Adolph Olsen.
On the other side of Wells, also along Eugenie, is Crilly Court. It was built in 1885 by Daniel F. Crilly. Stone row houses are on the west side and a four story apartment building is on the east side. The names of Crilly’s children are carved above the doors on the east side.
A couple blocks north is Menomonee Street, which contains some working class homes and cottages built by German immigrants in the mid-1800s.
Finally, just north of Menomonee Street on North Lincoln Park West are the Wacker homes. These cottage style homes were built by German immigrant Frederick Wacker in the early 1870s. 1836 N. Lincoln Park West was a coach house but served as a temporary home until No. 1838 was finished.