A concentration of residential blocks surrounding one of Chicago's largest parks, Douglas Park is a west side neighborhood tucked within the larger community of Lawndale. Named for the central focus of the area, this little region has its priorities straight: acres of parkland and open green expanses. More than just a slab of grass, Douglas Park's namesake park is home to a Cultural and Community Center that boasts all the intramural, recreational fun you can handle. The outdoor pool, volleyball and tennis courts, miniature golf course, sandboxes, and spray pools are always hot in the summer. But the wintertime is no exception to the community center's popularity as the lake freezes over and makes for a picture perfect ice skating rink. Packed with families from the neighborhood and surrounding areas, the center's outside features make this the ultimate Chicago playground. Inside, the center is also bustling with Douglas Park residents fond of arts and crafts, dance classes and music lessons.
Location: 3 miles south of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: South Loop, Near South Side, The Gap, Oakland, Bronzeville
Boundaries: Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to the west, the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) to the north, Lake Michigan to the east and 35th Street to the south
Then and Now
Stephen A. Douglas was a man full of spit and vinegar. He was a powerful lawyer and politician during the Civil War era and though he made a thunderous presence in the Senate, Douglas didn’t win the race for presidency. He had stiff competition—a man by the name of Abraham Lincoln—who happened to take the victory in the 1860 presidential election. Despite the loss, Douglas continued to be a straight-laced democrat working for the good of the people not only in the Chicago vicinity, but the whole of the United States. It is for Douglas’ staunch patriotism and devotion to the betterment of society that this south side neighborhood was named after him.
Before taking a stab at the presidency, Douglas also moonlighted as a land speculator. In 1852, he bought 70 acres of land, slightly south of what would become the Chicago Loop. Douglas built his home along 35th Street and liberally donated his property to what he considered worthwhile causes, such as schools and churches. Around 1861, the Union Army set up camp between 31st and 33rd streets. At first, the Union Army used the area as training grounds for soldiers from Illinois, but as the tide of war swept the country, the land became a Confederate prisoner of war camp, known as Camp Douglas. Throughout the Civil War, over 18,000 Confederate soldiers would pass between the gates of Camp Douglas before the Northern victory.
After the war ended and the POW camp was vacated, wealthy Chicagoans began speculating on property in the Douglas region. Several streetcar stops were soon opened, linking Douglas to the city’s center, and a commuter station in the neighborhood provided easy access to the Illinois Central Railroad. Citizens of all walks of life were drawn to Douglas by its modernity.
Over the years the Douglas community has maintained a level of pride and a work ethic that rivals most Chicago neighborhoods. From the Civil War onward, immigrant families of Irish and European descent working at nearby meatpacking plants began construction of small homes and sizable churches in the Douglas area. In addition, a large number of African American families wove their way down from the Chicago Loop to settle in this south side neighborhood and by the mid 1890s many of the businesses and homes in Douglas were owned by African American residents. In 1908, Jesse Binga opened Chicago’s first African American owned bank. And as time progressed, a new Afrocentric culture was born, continuing to gain strength over the decades. This culture is alive and healthy today and firmly grips the Douglas neighborhood, melding an artistic yet business-minded community together.
In an area smaller than two square miles, Douglas packs in three public parks and a beautiful Lake Michigan beach awaiting your lazy afternoons or early morning jogs.
Woodland Park (606 E Woodland Park Ave, 312-225-3900) is the perfect place to go when you want to get away from it all. This cozy, slightly wooded commons holds a secret. The tomb of Stephen A. Douglas stands at 35th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in the southeast corner of the park. Douglas died in 1861 of typhoid fever and was laid to rest in a brick vault at his 35th Street estate until his current tomb was finished in 1881. A monument made of white marble, topped by a 46-foot column and capped with a 10-foot tall statue of Douglas, proudly watches over all who enter into Woodland Park. Groveland Park (E 33rd Place and S Cottage Grove Ave) sits slightly north of Woodland Park and the two commons almost connect. In the beginnings of Douglas neighborhood, the square lot of Groveland Park was surrounded by the residences of Chicago’s elite, including Joy Morton, the founder of Morton Salt Company. Today, the tree-lined park is still a pleasant place to walk or have a picnic, but only a few of the grand estates remain.
The formation of Lake Meadows Park (3117 S Rhodes Ave, 312-747-6287) began in the 1950s. A ton of folks were moving into the Douglas neighborhood and the Chicago Land Clearance Commission wanted to ensure park areas before everything was taken over by home construction. They sure did a good job! This beautiful park is just minutes from Lake Michigan and it competes for people’s Saturday afternoons. Kids have plenty of playground space and can join special programs that run the gamut from cheerleading camp to day camp. The park also has shrub-lined, tree-shaded walking trails and a nice fitness center to get in shape or tone up before heading to the beach. Speaking of the beach, Burnham Park (425 E Mcfetridge Dr, 773-256-0949) covers the entire eastern stretch of Douglas neighborhood’s lakefront property with shady green areas and crashing waves. This large, lush park has several entrance points, since it extends from the South Loop all the way past the south edge of Douglas. We usually take the 35th Street Bridge over Lake Shore Drive—it seems to be the easiest access from the neighborhood’s residential area. Designed in 1909 by Daniel Burnham, the chief architect of the Chicago World’s Fair, Burnham Park has gone through continual renovation to create the friendly park it is today. Baseball fields, community meeting rooms, bicycle paths, and community programs from gardening clubs to softball leagues will suit everyone in the family’s needs.
Douglas Real Estate
In Douglas, the parks are full of color and the streets are filled with vintage brick buildings and graystones. A sense of intrigue floats through the neighborhood with famous, but slightly forgotten monuments, wind-swept beaches, and plenty of history-heavy residential estates.
Douglas is a mix of high-rise condominiums, two- to four-flat low-rise buildings, old brick and new construction townhomes, and vintage single-family residences. Generally speaking, condos in Douglas start in the low $100,000s for a one-bedroom and can reach up to the upper $200,000s for something with more space—and another bedroom. These include vintage brick flats and new-construction mid-rise units with luxury amenities and upgrades. Three-bedroom Douglas townhomes range between $400,000 and the upper $600,000s. A three-bedroom single-family detached home can cost less than a condo—for an older one-story house—although many of the new model or rehabbed places are going to be more expensive. Typically, for a three- to five-bedroom house in this neighborhood you should expect to spend around $540,000. Several sought-after Douglas streets like King Drive are lined with beautiful properties. Unfortunately, you’re not likely to see these neighborhood gems listed on the market.
What’s on the Menu?
Douglas is a small, friendly neighborhood with cozy little eateries. So once you’ve worked up an appetite—we’ve discovered a few restaurants you might like to try.
When you feel like grabbing a quick bite to take home, stop by Mississippi Rick’s (3351 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr, 312-791-0090) for some of the best soul food this side of the Mississippi. The turkey legs are huge and the jerk chicken is mouth-wateringly spicy. There is limited seating, but grabbing a to-go order is a swift, tasty way to make your evening meal. Down the street and owned by the same folks, Rick’s Munchies (3511 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr, 773-536-3500) is more of a sit-down coffeehouse joint with the added bonus of great food. The menu includes salads, sides, and sandwiches like the fresh salmon salad sandwich, served with a side of pasta salad—which happens to be our fave. If you’re in the mood to spend a Saturday evening listening to up-and-coming stars of the open mic scene, come into Rick’s and settle into a corner with a hazelnut cappuccino or an old-fashioned strawberry malt milkshake. Rick’s opens at 7 a.m. making it the perfect place to grab a java jolt on the way to work, or get your caffeine fix later on with a mid-afternoon break.
Okay, now you know where to get your daily coffee and some of Douglas’s traditional eats, but how about some tasty tacos by the lakefront? It’s easy to miss La Fuente (3100 S Lake Shore Dr), but we encourage you to seek it out. In front of you are the calming waves of Lake Michigan and behind you the towering Chicago skyline. Not to mention in your hands are absolutely fantastic steak tacos that are filled to the max with fresh ingredients. Even their veggie burritos are stuffed enough to satiate any carnivorous Chicagoan’s appetite.
Douglas is a quick shimmy from downtown and is connected by numerous transportation options to the rest of Chicago as well.
By car, it’s a quick 10 minute drive up Lake Shore Drive into the Loop making commuting or leisure visits for a shopping spree or a night out on the town a breeze. Just be warned, the parking situation downtown is not as nice as in hometown Douglas. While in the neighborhood, parking is metered, but plentiful—so you won’t have to circle the streets for a half-hour searching for a space big enough to parallel park your car. Knowing it may be difficult to park—not to mention expensive—in other parts of the city, getting a taxi may be a better option for ventures into the Loop. If this is the case, the best idea is to call for a cab in advance, rather than flagging one down on the street.
For times when you want to settle in with a book and enjoy the advantages of mass transit, there are express CTA buses on King Drive that will take you straight up to the Loop. In addition, the #35 bus, which runs along 35th Street, shuttles passengers to and from the CTA Green Line train just to the west, which will also get you to the city’s center—once there, your travel options are endless as the Loop is Chicago’s transportation hub, and you can transfer to other train and bus line for free.
School’s in Session
Douglas has a variety of schools in its less than two-square-mile area. Young families with children age elementary to high school won’t be disappointed at the varied academic options within this south side Chicago neighborhood.
Dunbar Vocational Career Academy (3000 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr, 773-534-9000) is named after the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, but is currently more famous for its recent celebrity graduate, American Idol runner-up and Dreamgirls Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Hudson. At Dunbar, students start to focus on career paths during their sophomore year of school. At this point, students choose from 22 vocational programs from liberal arts to sciences that will help direct and guide their studies to a career or further education in a college setting.
In addition to the following list, you can find out more information about Douglas neighborhood schools and other Chicago area educational facilities on our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Doolittle Middle School 535 E 35th St (773) 535-1040 Dootlittle West Primary 521 E 35th St (773) 535-1050
Drake Elementary 2722 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr (773) 534-9129
Dunbar Vocational Career Academy 3000 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr (773) 534-9000
J. J. Pershing School for Humanities 3113 S Rhodes Ave (773) 534-9272
New in the neighborhood? Here’s some help to get daily life in Douglas going. Compiled is a starter list of everything from where to do your fitness training to the nearest place to fill a prescription.
Chicago Transit Authority - (888) 968-7282
Jewel - 443 E 34th Street - (312) 842-0667
Curves - 439 E 31st St - (312) 326-3756
Mike Redmond’s Fit by Choice - 2851 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (312) 437-5655
Florsheim Medical Library - 2908 S Ellis Ave - (312) 791-3411
Martin Luther King Jr. Library - 3436 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (312) 747-7543
Chicago Police - 300 E 29th St (312) 747-8340
2345 S Wentworth Ave - (312) 326-6440
4601 S Cottage Grove Ave - (773) 924-6658
Columbia Pharmacy Inc. - 2816 S Ellis Ave - (312) 791-3334
Jewel - 443 East 34th Street - (312) 842-0667
Osco Pharmacy - 2545 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (312) 842-5700
Walgreens - 3405 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (312) 326-4064
After a long, hard day at work, everyone deserves a break. Here’s a list of some of the best spots in Douglas to chill out, eat and enjoy.
Stephen Douglas Monument - E 35th Street and S Cottage Grove Ave
Radio Shack - 3347 S King Dr - (312) 328-9251
Rainbow - 3345 S Martin Luther King Junior Dr - (312) 225-3374
Coffee and Sweets
Baskin Robbins - 3481 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (312) 949-1111
Dunkin’ Donuts - 3481 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (312) 949-1111
Java Coffee House - 3428 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (312) 791-1300
McDonald’s - 2525 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (312) 842-8643
Subway Sandwiches - 454 E 35th St - (312) 326-0530
White Castle - 3457 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (773) 268-0922
Rick’s Munchies - 3511 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (773) 536-3500
Mississippi Rick’s - 3351 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr - (312) 791-0090
La Fuente - 3100 S Lake Shore Dr at the 31st St Beach
The residential real estate in Douglas is fairly diverse, providing homeowners with a number of housing options from condos to lofts to townhomes. But there is more to your Douglas home than where you rest your head at night. The area surrounding a property can be just as much a factor in the decision to buy as the color of the carpet or the condition of the foundation. Each Chicago neighborhood has its own unique charm that sets it apart from the rest. Our comprehensive online guide is all you need to explore the many streets of Chicago—all from the comfort of your own computer. Shopping, dining, entertainment, schools, you name it, we’ll show you where it is. Find out whether that fabulous Douglas
condo is immersed in the throes of wild nightlife, or veiled by the tranquility of a quiet residential setting. Like Metromix and the MLS merged into one, this site is your one-stop shop for Chicago neighborhood information.