Carolyn Armenta Davis / Photo © Melissa Morley|Steve Weiss
Ann Halstead Row Houses designed by Adler & Sullivan 1884-85 / Courtesy ChicagoGeek via Wikipedia
St. Michael's / Courtesy Wikipedia
The Listening House / Photo from Sara Pooley and Courtesy Theaster Gates
South Shore Cultural Center / Courtesy Mark Litwa via Wikipedia
Carolyn Armenta Davis is an international architectural lecturer, historian, curator, and writer focusing in contemporary architects from the African Diaspora and the diverse cultures, socio-economics, and politics informing their work. Davis is also a global business consultant, a philanthropy adviser, and an award-winning broadcast writer-producer.
“Chicago has 77 great neighborhoods, a veritable a mini global village,” she writes, “so here are my recommendations…”
Best Mix of Old and New Architecture
My neighborhood, the Old Town Triangle Historic District, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the best place to see a wonderful mix of old and new architecture, including works from well-known architects. My own condo complex is a Harry Weese mid-century structure, and located nearby are Weese’s and Walter Netsch’s own homes. There are also residences designed by Stanley Tigerman, Larry Booth, and Louis Sullivan in the neighborhood. You can read Chicago’s history just by walking around: Victorian Mansions, the city’s smallest wood cottages, classic Chicago balloon-framed houses, early brick apartments, and the historic townhouses of private Crilly Court. There is also a deep diversity of religious architecture: 1860s Moody Bible Church, Victorian-era St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 1902 African-American Hermon Baptist Church, and 1970s Midwest Buddhist Temple. Lastly, if that weren’t enough, there’s also the famed Second City Theatre and the Chicago History Museum.
Best Site for Both Best Coffee & Magnificent Views
The Hotel Lincoln, also in Old Town Triangle, has both the best coffee and tea as well as the best views. Its ground floor has Elaine’s Coffee Call, a cozy coffeehouse. The top floor, The J. Parker, is a terrace restaurant with an awesome 360-degree view of the city that includes Lake Michigan, Lincoln Park, the Zoo, and the downtown skyline. It’s my favorite neighborhood spot for a summer evening drink.
The Waterfront Café is a cozy lakefront eatery in the Edgewater community nestled in the Chicago Park district’s Berger Park Cultural Center at 6205 North Sheridan Road. It’s popular with locals and features good food and nice music on a patio literally on the edge of Lake Michigan.
Milt’s BBQ is a kosher neighborhood joint in Lakeview. There is of course no pork but you’ll find delicious beef ribs, Milt’s great char-burgers, Peking duck, and more. Moreover, Milt’s is a nonprofit that supports local community organizations.
South Shore Cultural Center, a national and Chicago landmark, is a Chicago Park District jewel at 7059 South Shore Drive. The former country club boasts a beautiful facility housing a solarium, gallery spaces, a conference space, a theatre, a lakefront terrace, and the Parrot Cage Restaurant, operated by Washburn Culinary School students. The 65-acre complex has a large park, a beach, picnic areas, and a 9-hole lakefront golf course where I often golf on Sunday mornings. It also stables the Chicago Police Department horses.
Rebuild Foundation is a real-time urban-revitalization experience located in the Grand Crossing community and is spearheaded by Theaster Gates’s Dorchester Projects on the 6900 South Dorchester Avenue block. These projects are multi-generational and include backyard urban gardening, art projects, community service, neighborhood dinners, special libraries from famed Johnson Publishing Company, the Prairie Avenue bookstore, the Listening House, the Archive House, and the Black Cinema House, where classes and workshops help area kids learn to make films.
DuSable Museum of African American History, located in West Hyde Park area at 56th Place and Cottage Grove, is the nation’s oldest African-American museum and only one of its kind with a campus. The DuSable Museum of African American History connects our shared culture, history, art, and architecture. The museum is named for Chicago’s founder, the Haitian-born Jean Baptise DuSable. It is located in Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Washington Park. Its expanded campus includes the Daniel Burnham’s Roundhouse, which was a horse stable during the 1893 World's Fair. In 1993, the Harold Washington expansion, designed by the late African-American architect Wendell Campbell, opened. The DuSable’s large collections of African-American artifacts and diverse historic and education programs honor many African American milestones in Chicago, national, and world history.
Best “Western” Shopping
Alcala’s Western Wear at 1733 West Chicago Ave is a great place for those urbanites seeking true western cowboy and cowgirl apparel—booths, jeans, hats, belts, shirts, etc. Alcala has a national following of western-wear enthusiasts. I like the custom ‘cowgirl’ boots thanks to their personally selected skins. You’re only limited by one’s imagination and personality.