Exploring Residential Architecture in Chicago’s Lincoln Park

By Jenn Harrman on July 16, 2014


From greystones and H.H. Richardson to bungalows and Frank Lloyd Wright, residential architecture in Chicago really runs the gamut. One Chicago neighborhood with a great variety of kinds of homes is Lincoln Park.

A long Georgian-revival style building stretches down the little neighborhood street of Arlington Place. It was originally designed as an “Eleanor Club,” which were female-only boarding houses in Chicago. A progressive philanthropist named Ina Robertson founded the Eleanor Women’s Foundation to aid working women in the city, and part of their program was to provide housing for Chicago women. This historic organization had residences in Chicago all the way until 2001, when the last Eleanor residence quietly closed its doors. Edwin H. Clark designed the boarding house and he is also known for other examples of residential architecture in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, such as the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Reptile House and the Lincoln Park Cultural Center. Today, that building houses the Chicago Getaway Hostel, which gives a great chance to stay in a historic building in a happening neighborhood.

chicago getaway hostel
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chicago Getaway Hostel

The hostel building is today part of the Arlington-Deming Historic District. Another interesting building in the neighborhood is at 546 W. Deming Place. It is another style of residential architecture in Chicago: apartment building but from a more modern era. This piece of residential architecture is known as the infamous “four-plus-one.” Jerome Soltan invented this economic style of apartment building in the 1960s and 70s. It consists of a five-story building with the bottom floor as a parking lot and lobby and the other four floors above as apartments. While the four-plus-one sounds basic and familiar in many American cities, this style is uniquely Chicago as it is designed around the unique city zoning codes and lot regulations to essentially be the most bang for your buck. The parking lot and lobby level is designed to sit below grade and is only 7′ in height. This makes the level classifiable as a basement and allows the five-story building to be considered four-stories, useful for sneaking around city zoning areas. These buildings exist primarily along the lakeshore, a.k.a. prime sections of real estate. This particular four-plus-one in Lincoln Park has 24 apartments upon the site of what used to be just one single-family home.

Another unique piece of residential architecture and part of this Lincoln Park historic district are the Newman Brothers Houses at 2424, 2430 and 2434 N. Orchard St. Designed by the nephew of Chicago’s first architect, John Van Osdel II, these Châteauesque homes are an interpretation of a style popularized in the 1890s with S.S. Beman’s Kimball House on Chicago’s historic Prairie Avenue. The Newman Brothers Houses were completed in 1895 and include one of my favorite architectural features, a curved glass pane window, something which simply isn’t manufactured these days. The three homes are almost identical with the same exterior design and details. You will see, however, nuances with the different-colored stone of the facade.

From chateau-inspired mansions to efficient profit-making design, the Lincoln Park neighborhood has more than a handful of interesting examples of Chicago’s distinct residential buildings worth a jaunt down the pretty, tree-covered side streets.

–Jenn Harrman, Tour Guide

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