As one of Chicago's earliest settlements, Douglas has a rich and patriotic heritage. Conveniently located along the lakefront between the South Loop and Bronzeville, the neighborhood has the advantage of being a few short miles from downtown, while still sitting on Lake Michigan's beautiful shoreline. A number of public parks serve the community member's recreational needs. Beach access, baseball fields, bike paths, gardening clubs, softball leagues and summer day camps play a part in the daily Douglas lifestyle where neighbors assemble for old-fashioned fun and community bonding.
Douglas Park Facts
Location: About 4 miles west of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Lawndale, Little Village, Medical District, Pilsen, Tri-Taylor
Boundaries: Western Avenue to the east, Roosevelt Road to the north, 19th Street to the south and Albany Avenue to the west.
Then and Now
Around the periphery of one of Chicago’s largest parks rest quaint residential blocks with a rich architectural and cultural history that also boast two well-regarded hospitals and a smattering of restaurants and businesses. The near west side community of Douglas Park has gone through a nearly two-century-long cycle of growth, strife and renewal that has resulted in a lovely neighborhood setting, just minutes from downtown and immersed within an extensive expanse of green that is hard to come by in the big city.
During the late 1880s, the newly established West Park Commission set out to create three large parks on the west side with boulevards that linked the triad of recreational spaces. Humboldt, Garfield and Douglas parks emerged as a result, all designed by William Le Baron Jenney, who most notably served at the forefront of the development of the steel-framed skyscraper. Several of the city’s parks at this time had poor natural land conditions, including Douglas Park, which Jenney tackled by leveling the marshy terrain with a mixture of sand and manure from the Chicago Stock Yards. It may have been slightly stinky, but hey—it worked, didn’t it?
Full construction of the park took a while, though, as it was completed nearly 25 years later by renowned Prairie School architect Jens Jenson in an effort to reform and revitalize the network of west side recreation areas. As general superintendent and chief landscape architect of the entire West Park system, Jensen brought a new life to Douglas, Humboldt and Garfield parks. He added an ornate arcing entrance to Douglas Park, a formal garden known as Flower Hall and a reflecting pool. Later still, a fieldhouse was erected in 1928 by architects Michaelsen and Rognstad, who also added the Gold Dome Building to Garfield Park and a fieldhouse at Humboldt Park.
Although the park is a major draw to this west side Chicago neighborhood, the land not included in the park grounds is where folks started building homes and planting roots for a viable community. At first, there was a strong Jewish and Eastern European immigrant presence in the region. They owned all of the buildings and houses such as the two- and three-flat graystones and most of the surrounding businesses. The next wave of residents to settle down in Douglas Park were African American families emigrating to the northern industrial centers from southern states during the Great Migration in the decades following the Civil War. Most of the buildings remained in the hands of Jewish landlords, though some African Americans became homeowners in the area. A half-century of peace and quiet was disrupted in the post-Martin Luther King Jr. assassination riots and many retail shops and residential buildings in Douglas Park fell into disrepair. The subsequent closing of several major businesses in the area, including the relocation of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. headquarters building in neighboring Lawndale to Hoffman Estates, added to the strife that blanketed much of Chicago’s southwest side during this period. The park itself remained a refuge for local residents, who immersed themselves in activities and seemingly endless green space.
The establishment of two major medical facilities in Douglas Park neighborhood has added a growing interest in redeveloping the region. Mount Sinai Hospital is located next to the park on the community’s northern end and St. Anthony Hospital was built at the park’s southern periphery. The hum of the hospitals has brought an influx of people to Douglas Park which contributed to an increase in restaurants and renovated roads.
For the past decade, rehabilitation of historic graystones and the construction of brand new homes have created a turning point for Douglas Park and many of the surrounding Chicago communities. New daycare facilities to accommodate the growing number of families, and programs such as Ravinia’s free cultural events and classes in the Lawndale and Douglas Park areas are serving to boost neighborhood unity and augment community services.
In the case of this historically working-class neighborhood, the park really is the place. Even the community’s name points to the main attraction: Douglas Park.
For over a century, residents and Chicagoans from around the west side have flocked to this wide open stretch of greenery to enjoy the outdoors and retreat from the congested, busy lifestyle of the city. Douglas Park Cultural and Community Center (1401 S Sacramento Dr, 773-762-2842), named for the pre-Civil War senator Stephen A. Douglas, is a 174-acre expanse of activity-rich green space set in the middle of the community and spanning the length of the entire neighborhood. One of the few parks in Chicago to boast an outdoor pool, it is rampant with summertime entertainment as residents race to the cooling refreshment of the water for some relief from the hot Chicago sun. Add to the list of good times a miniature golf course, 12 tennis courts, volleyball courts, sandboxes and a spray pool for the kiddies and you have a fun-filled outing any day of the week just waiting to happen. Around the perimeter of the grounds is a bike/jogging path where city youths can learn to pedal a bicycle and the whole family can get some exercise.
The organized sports offered through the community center at Douglas Park in the warm weather months include track and field, baseball leagues and tennis. So even when the kids are out of school, they’ll still have plenty to keep them busy—then maybe the television and video games won’t overheat from overuse—although, we can’t promise anything. In the winter, the fun continues, with the lake—that’s right, there’s a bona fide lake smack in the center of the park, just ripe for ice skating once the mercury starts to drop and the water freezes over. As soon as the snow starts to fall, many Chicago neighborhood parks become deserted, save a dog-walker here and there. But Douglas Park locals are lucky enough to have an indoor facility at their park that offers classes ranging from arts and crafts for all ages to hip hop dance and jazzercise. After school programs are also quite popular here for the younger Douglas Parkers, and the fees are minimal. Speaking of classes outside of school, the Ravinia Festival Lawndale Partnership (773-522-5303) also brings a host of free music lessons to the center including piano, guitar, music theory, and voice instruction. With all Douglas Park has going on for residents of every generation and interest, it’s hard to imagine the folks here head anywhere else to spend their precious leisure time.
Douglas Park Real Estate
The urban feel of this Chicago neighborhood is part of its charm. Long blocks are dotted with trees and edged by wide sidewalks where local children play alongside the community’s shared backyard—the namesake public park.
The majority of homes in Douglas Park neighborhood occupy multi-unit residential buildings, which include a large concentration of graystone row houses—remnants of the area’s first batch of inhabitants. Many of these stately residences have been divided up into two- and three-bedroom flats to create affordable properties with plenty of space to raise a family, starting around $70,000 per unit.
There’s a section of newer development along Fairfield Avenue, just north of one of the neighborhood’s hospitals. Recently constructed brick walkups line the adjacent residential streets. These single-family homes, starting closer to $200,000, typically offer three bedrooms and a contemporary layout with modern amenities. Additional projects are in the works along California Avenue and other parts of Douglas Park, bringing renewed interest to the neighborhood both from young families and first-time owners.
There are also a number of existing, yet recently built flats and half-duplexes that sell for between $300,000 and $400,000 in Douglas Park, in addition to rows of new townhouses on Albany Avenue (situated right on the edge of the park). Like other contemporary housing in Douglas Park neighborhood, these homes have beautiful finishes such as hardwood floors, granite kitchen countertops and rooftop decks—some with a magnificent view of the park, which is probably the biggest backyard you can get in the city of Chicago. Many of these properties start in the low $400,000s and go as high as $460,000.
Homebuyers will also discover detached single-family homes starting in the low $100,000s in Douglas Park. These include many older one- and two-story, simple frame houses and traditional brick structures with quaint front porches. But there’s versatility in the area’s real estate with some newer constructions designed in the traditional urban townhouse-style that start in the low to mid $200,000s. So families are sure to find plenty of affordable properties that provide sufficient room and privacy.
What’s on the Menu?
From street-cart dining to a corner pizza joint that offers beef tripe soup, the food scene in this near west side Chicago neighborhood caters to a range of tastebuds from traditional American grub to south-of-the-border fare.
Need a little spice in your life? Look no further than Spicy (2147 S California Ave, 773-523-5516), a little Douglas Park neighborhood taqueria that will put a smile on your jalapeno-loving face. Even their huevo con jamon (ham and egg) burrito has a kick to it—a breakfast remedy for the morning after a long night out, or perhaps just the perfect start to get your day going on the fast track. We know not everyone can stomach a spicy egg combo—not to worry, Spicy has other A-list menu items that are sure to appease the appetite. The classic carne asada (steak) can stand up in flavor to any in the city, and they have a chicken gordita (thick corn pastry filled with cheese and whatever else you desire) that would make Taco Bell execs cry. To wash down your feast and end the meal on a sweet note, the leche con cafe (latte) is as sweet, creamy and delicious as any Starbucks beverage, not to mention more authentic, if you ask us.
Whether residents in Douglas Park are pining for Mexican cuisine, barbeque ribs, fish-n-chips, fried chicken, a burger and fries or a pizza pie, they know there’s one place in the neighborhood that can satisfy every craving under a single roof, and that’s at Guerrero’s Pizza (2024 S California Ave, 773-927-8290). The menu here runs the gamut of international dishes and culinary styles, but, as the name might suggest, the pizza here is top-notch. Not to say Guerrero’s tacos aren’t supreme—we especially like the ones filled with chicken—but when the place claims it’s a pizzeria, we generally go with the pizza, which comes in thin crust and pan with an extensive selection of fresh toppings to create the ultimate ‘za. Just a word from the wise (meaning a frequent visitor), it is best to carryout or get delivery as the dining space in Guerrero’s is minimal and there is often a crowd hovering around the entrance and ordering counter.
For a completely different dining experience, make New Life Health Foods and Grocery (3141 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-762-1090) a staple for a speedy, nutrient-packed grocery run or a quick sit-down meal in the store’s designated eating area. Many Douglas Park locals shop here for organic soy milk and vitamins, herbal cough remedies and greens teas, natural shampoos and other body care. We go for the veggie burger, but they also have an extensive bean-centric menu: black eyed peas, red beans and pinto beans, all paired with rice.
For a quickie lunch or breakfast head to the counter at Don’s Hamburgers (1837 S Western Ave, 312-733-9351) for a third-pound mushroom and Swiss burger for $3.19. You can add fries, a salad or a cup of their (should-be) award-winning chili for another buck. When you’re really hungry opt for the half-pound chopped steak sandwich. They also have omelets galore and diner-good corned beef hash. Another popular counter in the neighborhood, Douglas Park Grill (2856 W Roosevelt Rd, 773-722-1010), offers equally tasty and hefty portions at skinny prices. A Polish dog goes for $4 with french fries and a soda pop, but we usually pony-up another quarter for our favorite: double cheeseburger with fries and a Coke.
Best Shopping Spots
While the greater area of Lawndale hosts the majority of the Douglas Park community’s shopping, there are still a couple of places to go in the neighborhood for those few very particular items. Between a floral contractor, a beauty supplier and a convenience store, Douglas Park residents have everything needed for a successful social gathering, a first date, or a BBQ at the old homestead.
Say you’re planning a major trade show or corporate event for work and need to set the scene with a lovely backdrop of green plants and inviting floral accents—well, good thing Floral Exhibits Limited (1420 S. Rockwell St., 773-277-1888) is in the neighborhood. This isn’t your typical florist. Don’t expect to pop in and pick up a bunch of roses for your sweetheart on the way to your anniversary dinner—this company deals strictly with big time affairs and only rents out their floral creations. From foliage for museum exhibits to landscape props for movie sets, this Douglas Park-based business has been supplying live flora and lush plant arrangements to the Chicago area and cities around the country since 1942. So, if your venue needs a little something, call up Floral Exhibits for beautiful, custom-designed displays in any theme or mood you can imagine.
Got a big date coming up? Or perhaps a special occasion is just around the corner and you want to make sure every hair is in place and that you’ve got the perfect jewelry to go with your outfit. Then stop by Marge Fashion (2804 W. Roosevelt Rd., 773-265-0141) and let a professional help you find any last-minute beauty supplies and accent items you need to look your best. This Douglas Park neighborhood fixture stocks loads of hair products and fashion accessories. Get your favorite mousse and a new pair of earrings in one stop and you’ll be ready for an evening out on the town. Some folks prefer to stay in and have a casual cookout at home. A quick run to Brothers Five Food Mart (3034 W. Roosevelt Rd., 773-826-5454) for condiments, hamburger buns and a six-pack of beer will suffice for the required necessities. Or, for a twist, get a bottle of Cuervo 1800, triple sec, a bag of ice and some fresh limes to turn the backyard barbeque into a genuine fiesta. Let’s just hope you have a blender and the help of several guests.
The one bar in Douglas Park neighborhood keeps it real and gets straight to the point: no-frills drinking, a little sports on TV and a free jukebox filled with favorite tunes.
Join the crew of regulars at Water Hole Lounge (1400 S Western Ave, 312-243-7988) where many area locals come to put back a few brewskies, chat with neighbors and watch the game with other fans on the big screen TV. Drinks here are strong and cheap, and the company is casual—a mixture of hospital workers getting off their shift and area employees enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. Make this Douglas Park bar your frequented nightspot and before you know it, the usual suspects gathered around the bar will be calling you by name and challenging you to find the best song on the jukebox. And on the weekends, you may just pop into someone else’s birthday party, as the Water Hole is a popular location to book your special day.
Mark Your Calendar
With a slew of neighborhood activities that include the celebration of Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo to free concerts in the park, Douglas Park is the place to be from the first sign of spring to when the first snowflakes start to fall.
Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout the U.S. and around the globe as a tribute to cultural pride and Mexican heritage. Since the majority of the population in Douglas Park is of Hispanic and Latino descent, this west side Chicago neighborhood really does it up for this annual event with a community-wide party that takes over the streets and brings an air of merriment to the urban blocks. For one weekend in early May, Sacramento Drive between Ogden Avenue and 19th Street erupts into a carnival of family fun, customary music, festival fare, live entertainment and traditional dance. This well-attended fest has whirling rides, lots of performances and street food with a Mexican twist-think churro (a deep fried pastry dusted with sugar) instead of the typical elephant ear. Nearly 300,000 from the neighborhood, surrounding areas and across the country come en masse to experience this granddaddy of Mexican anniversaries, taking in the elaborate piņatas, stands with homemade goods and colorful full skirts swirling to Mexican polka.
After the excitement of Cinco de Mayo has died down, Douglas Park neighborhood keeps the thrill of live entertainment going with local theater and choreographed acts presented at the Douglas Park Cultural and Community Center (1401 S Sacramento Dr, 773-762-2842). A well-lit stage in the auditorium of the fieldhouse makes for the perfect showcase for performance art. This is where Chicago area children show off their talents as young musicians and dancers. The district even brings in local dance companies Joel Hall and Hubbard Street to do their thing and help the kids put their best foot forward. Proud parents and interested Douglas Park residents alike flood the community center for recitals which are scheduled throughout the year.
The Chicago Park District’s Concerts in the Parks (312-742-7529) series and The Ravinia Festival Lawndale Partnership (773-522-5303) have teamed up to bring music to this west side community in a big way. The outdoor concerts are free and play through the fall. Pack a picnic, bring blankets and mosquito spray, and head on down to park to join the neighbors for these popular evening events. The sounds of summer now include great music to accompany your picnic outing. And, if you’re like us, you enjoy a night at the movies as much as a performance on the stage. There’s nothing like catching a flick on the big screen and popping fresh-popped popcorn in your mouth. Lucky for Douglas Park locals, you don’t have to go far to get your film fix, the park also hosts the Movies in the Park program which offers all-age appropriate showings of classic Hollywood hits, feature-length animated pictures and new release favorites during the summer months—all for absolutely free. Of course, it is BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair), and if you want popcorn, you’ll have to bring that yourself, too.
The traditional saying of "trains, planes and automobiles" needs a slight revision to describe the transportation options available in Douglas Park neighborhood—instead trains, buses, bicycles, tennis shoes and automobiles makes a more appropriate list of common means of travel used by locals in this west side Chicago locale.
Although the city trains don’t run directly through Douglas Park, there are a few stops within a block of the neighborhood’s southern edge that make getting to downtown and other parts of Chicago a cinch for residents in the area. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue and Pink lines run underground below 21st Street, with stops at Kedzie, California and Western avenues, literally a block from Douglas Park’s southern most border along 19th Street. Both lines follow the same route for a ways and then split before reaching the Loop with the Pink Line making fewer stops as an express train into downtown for commuter traffic.
CTA buses also service a large portion of Douglas Park travelers with two main routes that operate along Roosevelt Road and Western Avenue. Heading north/south on Western and east/west on Roosevelt, these buses pass by the neighborhood every five to fifteen minutes, making travel in all directions accessible and convenient. Ogden Avenue cuts through the enormity of Douglas Park on a diagonal, saving time for motorists and buses alike. This multi-lane route shoots straight for downtown, intersecting with Jackson Boulevard and Adams Street at Ashland Avenue, then heads northeast up to Chicago and Milwaukee avenues (west of the Chicago River) where is ends.
Okay, so far we’ve touched on train and buses—guess that means bicycles and tennis shoes are next. Walking and biking are not only economical and environmentally conscious ways to travel around this west side Chicago neighborhood, it is also probably the most scenic, with picturesque trails winding through the central park grounds. We’ll gladly lace up those sneakers or oil the bike chain any day to do errands in the vicinity. And, on nice fall days, we don’t even mind making the four-mile trip into the Loop—hey, it’s good exercise, and we’re saving the earth while we’re at it!
Only one means of transit remains to be discussed, and it’s a biggie: automobiles. Having your own car is quite handy in Chicago, and many city inhabitants endure the limited parking and crowded expressways everyday for the privilege of driving your own vehicle. Fortunately for car owners in Douglas Park, parking is fairly easy in the residential parts of the community as street parking is permitted and some residential buildings have small garages out back. So there’s none of that circling the block for 20 minutes looking a spot. The neighborhood’s main thoroughfares and nearby highway make for a fairly quick commute to downtown for anyone who wants to drive. As we mentioned before, Ogden Avenue is a multi-lane diagonal surface street that heads towards the city’s center, while an entrance to I-290 (Eisenhower Expressway) is about eight blocks north of the neighborhood. It heads east to downtown and dead-ends into Congress Parkway. If you don’t have your own car, but still like the idea of traveling by automobile, there is always the time-honored taxi. Unfortunately, taxis are scarce around here, making it a bit difficult to hail a cab off the street, but you are guaranteed one within 20 minutes of calling 312-TAXICAB for Yellow Cab.
School’s in Session
Douglas Park families find there are several public schools to choose from in the area. In addition to the following list, you can get more information on these educational facilities and other Chicago schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Ambrose Plamondon Elementary School - 2642 W 15th Pl - (773) 534-1789
Chalmers Elementary School - 2745 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 534-1720
Collins High School - 1313 S Sacramento Dr - (773) 534-1500
Johnson Elementary School - 1420 S Albany Ave - (773) 534-1829
This west side Chicago neighborhood provides great outdoor space and plenty of cultural activities via the Douglas Park Cultural & Community Center, but residents still have all those handy stores and services needed to stock your pantry with groceries or get an annual checkup at the doctors—right around the corner from home.
Chicago Transit Authority - (888) 968-7282
Mount Sinai Hospital - 1500 N Fairfield Ave - (312) 344-1328
Saint Anthony Hospital - 2875 W 19th St - (773) 484-1000
Abdella Jalili Grocery - 1125 S Western Ave - (312) 563-1484
Brothers Five Food Mart - 3034 W. Roosevelt Rd - (773) 826-5454
New Life Health Foods and Grocery - 3141 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 762-1090
Iron Mountain - 2625 W. Roosevelt Rd - (773) 542-5906
Floral Exhibits Limited - 1420 S. Rockwell St - (773) 277-1888
Marge Fashion - 2804 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 265-0141
Don’s Hamburgers - 1837 S Western Ave - (312) 733-9351
Douglas Park Grill - 2856 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 722-1010
New Life Health Foods and Grocery - 3141 W Roosevelt Rd - (773) 762-1090
Dunkin’ Donuts - 2401 W Ogden Ave - (312) 850-9220
Guerrero’s Pizza - 2024 S California Ave - (773) 927-8290
Spicy - 2147 S California - (773) 523-5516
Water Hole Lounge - 1400 S Western Ave - (312) 243-7988
Douglas Park Cultural & Community Center - 1401 Sacramento Dr - (773) 762-2842
Sometimes it makes more sense to view the city of Chicago as a bunch of separate neighborhoods - especially when it comes to real estate. Whether you are in the market for a loft, condo, townhome, or house, it is just as important to inspect the surrounding area as it is to inspect the home’s foundation. Douglas Park is just one Chicago community with an abundance of residential properties, and a life all its own. From where you send your kids to school to where you dine at night, the information we provide is an essential piece of the puzzle when you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy that beautiful loft or adorable house in Douglas Park.