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The relationship between Ravenswood and Lincoln Square is puzzling to locals. While officially, Ravenswood is the larger area, encompassing Lincoln Square as well as the smaller Bowmanville, Budlong Woods and Ravenswood Manor communities, the size and popularity of the Lincoln Square commercial district have contributed to the notion that Lincoln Square is actually the name for the entire Ravenswood area. In the 1920s, Ravenswood did in fact become officially part of the “Lincoln Square Community Area,” but as rings true throughout Chicago (where many still refer to U.S. Cellular Field as Comiskey and the Palmolive Building as the Playboy Tower), official titles mean far less than local lore.
Sources contradict one another, but the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce reports that the boundaries of Ravenswood are Montrose Avenue to the south, Foster Avenue to the north, Clark Street to the East, and Levitt Street to the West. Meanwhile the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce claims their neighborhood occupies the same north/south boundaries of Foster Avenue to Montrose Avenue, but is bounded by Damen Avenue to the east and the Chicago River to the west. While there may be a few blocks of overlap between Damen and Leavitt, the majority of residents don’t seem to mind being painted with either brush, as over the past century, these neighborhoods have evolved into highly desirable residential communities.
History: Commuter Suburb and the Celery Capital of the Nation
According to the Chicago History Museum, Ravenswood “was designed to be one of Chicago’s first and most exclusive commuter suburb,” according to real estate spectators with the Ravenswood land Company in 1868. While area residents today may bristle at the notion of their urban oasis as a commuter suburb, the accessibility to downtown is among the best on the North Side. Both El and Metra rains run through the neighborhood, with two Brown Line Stations (the newly renovated and recently reopened Damen station at 4643-47 N Damen and The Western station at the corner of Western and Leland). and the Ravenswood Metra station at Lawrence and Ravenswood. The nearby Montrose Brown ine station an technically be considered a North Center locale, but it’s short walking distance for many Ravenswood and Lincoln Square residents. While Ravesnwood painted itself an idyllic residential neighborhood, Lincoln Squre developed with the aim of being a commercial hub. Swiss, German, and English farmers took advantage of Little Fort Road (today known as Lincoln Ave.) . to transport goods and crops and as a result, stores and pubs opened along the road to cater to the flow of traffic. According to the Chicago History Museum, long before the are was known as Lincoln Square, it was known for something else entirely: “The celery crop gained such broad distribution that local growers proudly called the area the nation’s celery capital.” Another green local product popped up in 1857, when Lyman and Joseph Budlong opened the Budlong Brothers Pickle factory (the immediate vicinity is now known as Budlong Woods). A real estate scandal formed the area now known as Bowmanville, when in 1850, Jesse Bowman created a real estate subdivision and sold the properties which it turned out he never rightfully owned. Nonetheless, his plan for the area worked, and it has since blossomed into a well populated but quiet residential area.
Along the Chicago River on the western border of the community is Ravenswood Manor (notoriously home to recently impeached Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich). In the early 1900’s, the area residential population grew, and the settlers began building homes closer to the river (many historic bungalows remain in the area today). Now, many affluent homes line the tranquil stretch river, with boats docked out back for warmer weather use.
Rosehill Cemetery, which takes up a large portion of the area in the northeast of Lincoln square/Ravenswood, is the largest cemetery in Chicago and having been established in 1859, is also one of the oldest. According to the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association, the name ‘Rosehill’ was the result of an error on the mapmaker’s part. The area had been called “Roe’s Hill, ” named for local tavern keeper Hiram Roe.
An influx of Greek immigrants in the area and the completion of St. Demetrios church in the late 1920’s led some to call Lincoln Square “New Greektown” yet the neighborhood only further diversified as years passed: more and more European settlers were drawn to the community’s charm. In 1959, the statue of Abraham Lincoln (“for whom the area and its major steet were called,” says the Chicago History Museum) was erected. Since then, boutiques, restaurants, a movie theater, and much more have occupied the storefronts along Lincoln Ave. solidifying the neighborhood’s reputation as a bustling commercial hub.
What to Do in Ravenswood and Lincoln Square
They didn’t call it New Greektown for nothing for some of the best Greek food north of Greektown proper, Barba Yianni (4761 N Lincoln Ave.) is the place to go. For 20 years, Barba Yianni has been serving Saganaki (Opa!), Mousakas, Gyros and more in a gorgeous, airy building with alfresco dinning in the warmer months. Lunch specials make it possible to feast on a generously portioned platter of Greek favorites for less than $10.00 a person.
To honor Lincoln Square’s German heritage, visit the Chicago Brauhaus (4732 N Lincoln Ave.), where owners Harry and Guenter Kempf serve authentic Bavarian food with unbridled hospitality and hearty portions. Sausage is specialty, but if you’re expecting a Chicago dog on a poppy seed bun, keep moving: This is serious Wurst territory.
“Folk” may be in the name, but the Old Town School of Folk Music (4544 N Lincoln Ave.) offers hundreds of classes for every instrument and musical style imaginable, from Brazilian percussion to songwritting. For those who prefer dancing to playing music, from ballet to yoga to salsa, there’s something for everyone at the Old Town School.
In the spirit of the old watering hols that quenched the thirst of busy local farmers a full century ago, the Grafton Pub & Grill (4530 N Lincoln Ave.) is the perfect Irish pub, complete with traditional live music, pints, and a cozy fireplace in front of which to enjoy their homemade Beef and Guinness Stew.
A contrast to the taverns of yesteryear, the Fiddlehead Cafe (4600 N Lincoln Ave.) offers the attentive service, wine-savvy waitstaff, and stellar cheese selection you’d expect to find at a five-star West Loop eaterie. Not only do they offer exceptional dinner fare, like Lamb Shank Osso Bucco and Duck Club Sandwich with goat cheese and cherry red-wine jam, but allof the wines and cheese on their menu can be purchased at the store at jaw-droppingly reasonable prices.
If you find the cost and crowds at a chain cineplexes off-putting, the Davis Theater (4616 N Lincoln Ave.) has been the Lincoln Square’s neighborhood movie theater for more than 80 years and matinee tickets are only $5.50 per person (after 6p.m., adult prices are $8 per person, seniors and children tickets are only $5.50 for all showtimes). Unlike some of Chicago’s other older movie theaters, the Davis shows four brand new releases at a time, and with concession prices as cheap as the ticket price, two adults can enjoy the latest blockbuster, a popcorn, and pop for under $20.
Annual events and festivals abound in these neighborhoods, which play host to the popular Ravenswood 5kR in April and the quaint Christkindl Market in December. Offering yet another venue in which to indulge in vbeer and brats is the German-centric Maifest, which celebrates it’s it’s 20th anniversary May 28-31 and is among the city’s most popular festivals. Heading into summer, The Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce presents a concert series in Giddings Plaza (4731 N Lincoln) on Thursday nights from June 11th to August 27th. For free entertainment year-round, there are three large parks –Welles, Winnemac and Chase– all inclose proximity.
Article complement of www.ChicagoREALTOR.com
Who’s Buying in Ravenswood/Lincoln Square?
Realtors in the Lincoln Square/Ravenswood area agree that once buyers come to the area, they often stay for quite a while. “What is driving a number of young families in is the fabulous neighborhood, restaurants, parks and festivals. There is something for everyone in the family” says Dalila Arellano, Realtor with Century 21 Affiliated at Lincoln Square.