Bordering Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast, Old Town’s vintage feel is reflected in the black wrought-iron structures, the alluring row houses, and the brick sidewalks that line its narrow streets. Well-known Burton Place, a tiny street on a cul-de-sac consisting of just under fifteen properties, is home to an artist colony, as first envisioned by sculptors Edgar Miller and Sol Kogen in 1927, when they transformed the first home on the street into the Carl Street Studios. It remains a must-see on Chicago destination guides.
With its inhabitants constantly evolving since the mid-1800’s, Old Town registers today as an affluent and historic neighborhood, rich in architecture, culture, and art. Its famous Victorian-era buildings, such as the Bavarian-built St. Michael’s Church, which was one of only 7 to survive the Great Chicago Fire, are nestled comfortably amidst the lush greenery and diverse businesses of the area.
The land on which Old Town currently sits was initially home to various Native American tribes and nations, such as the Potawatomi, Miami, and Illinois. German Catholic immigrants settled in the area next. Many of the first Puerto Ricans to immigrate to Chicago in the 1950’s took residence in Old Town, and hippie culture took over in the 1960’s. Much of Chicago’s gay and lesbian population subsequently called Old Town their home from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.
Old Town got its name and its reputation for being cohesive during World War II, when the city defined a neighborhood defense unit, made up of triangular area enclosed by Clark Street, Ogden Avenue and North Avenue called North Town. North Town residents bonded through the war and even after, fostered their continued association. One of their offshoots was an annual “Old Town Holiday” fair. The Old Town Triangle Association, created by residents interested in improving the conditions of the deteriorating buildings in the area, was formed in 1948, and even though there is no legal entity called Old Town in Chicago, the name stuck.
Today residents are drawn to the area for the eclectic restaurants and pubs, famous comedy clubs and theatres, and its close proximity to the lakefront and downtown. Visitors flock to Old Town for its festivals, such as The Old Town Art Festival, one of the oldest art fairs in the nation, which displays over 250 vendors each year.
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