Lawndale (sometimes referred to as North Lawndale) is a historic area on Chicago's far west side. Leaders of industry, musical innovators, and organizers of social change have all chosen to make Lawndale their home over the years. However, the community has seen its share of struggle, from white flight in the 1950s to rioting in the 1960s and de-industrialization in the 1970s. More recently Lawndale is increasingly gaining the attention of neighborhood development groups, interested in promoting its fascinating history and architectural diversity which includes the largest percentage of graystones in the city. Spacious public parks, educational institutions and a tasty roster of restaurants are all part of the draw of this sprawling Chicago neighborhood.
Location: Approximately 6 miles west of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Little Village, Douglas Park, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, Tri-Taylor
Boundaries: Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) to the north, Western Avenue and the edge of Douglas Park to the east, Roosevelt Road (along the northern tip of Douglas Park) and Ogden Avenue (between Kedzie Avenue and the city limits) to the south and Kolmar Avenue to the west. A panhandle area extends at the western edge of the neighborhood between the Eisenhower Expressway and 12th Street which ends at Austin Boulevard.
Then and Now
In the mid 19th century the trade route known as Southwest Plank Road (which would later develop into Ogden Avenue and one of Lawndale’s current boundaries) had become one of the most traveled roads in the Chicago area. It was such a popular passage that it soon became the main transportation path for Dutch and English farmers coming from the outskirts of Cicero Township to the ever-expanding city of Chicago to sell their harvests. The area north of Southwest Plank Road was annexed by the city in 1869, and the streets were plotted and fitted with proper drainage that would sustain a new development called Lawndale which was planned for the land. Developers built homes mainly of fireproof brick, which—after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871—attracted many people that were wary of wood structures. The majority of the residential property in the neighborhood today still dates from the early developmental period when brick was the favored construction material.
One of the first corporations to call Lawndale home was the great McCormick Reaper Company—later International Harvester—which occupied a large plant in South Lawndale. (South Lawndale, the area south of Cermak and Ogden avenues, is now called Little Village.) Lawndale would later host some of the largest companies in Chicago: Western Electric and Sears Roebuck, attracting thousands of manufacturing and administrative jobs to the area and spurring the neighborhood’s population to skyrocket to over 40,000 inhabitants by 1910.
In 1913, a street-naming proposal was executed (and subsequently abandoned) which aimed to give each street a name based on its distance from the Illinois-Indiana border. Streets starting with a 'K,' the eleventh letter, were supposed to encompass the eleventh mile, which is why, in the area of Lawndale known as K-Town, the names of the streets include Karlov, Kedvale, Keeler, Kenneth, etc. Just an interesting little tidbit to stick under your hat.
Moving on, in the early 20th century the neighborhood became a mecca for Russian Jews and Eastern Europeans. The Maxwell Street Market area further east often attracted those who had just arrived in the city, but many immigrants were unhappy with the conditions in that cramped neighborhood and began exploring territory further west which included Lawndale. The population increased rapidly over the next 30 years, so that by some estimates there were roughly 120,000 people in the neighborhood during the 1940s, half of them Jews.
In 1950, two cultural phenomena started irrevocably shifting the landscape of Lawndale: Many Jews were attracted to neighborhoods further north, such as Albany Park and Rogers Park, which had started gaining popularity with the upwardly mobile; and there was an influx of African Americans from the south side who were being displaced by urban renewal projects. Over the next 10 years, the Jewish population dwindled as the African American population boomed. Victims of workplace discrimination, the African American new arrivals were unable to find work at Lawndale’s largest employers, Sears and Western Electric, which drove the neighborhood economy down significantly. As more of the community became unemployed, the housing situation worsened, eventually attracting the attention of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., who moved to Lawndale in the late 1960s, bringing national attention to many of the community’s problems.
Unfortunately, after Dr King’s assassination, rioting destroyed many of the businesses along Roosevelt Road. Further exacerbating the problems in the neighborhood was the shuttering of its major industries. International Harvester relocated immediately thereafter, and then in 1974 Sears departed for its gleaming new office tower downtown (that would be the Sears Tower). Zenith and Sunbeam followed suit in the 1970s, and finally Western Electric left in the 1980s. Housing deteriorated or was abandoned, and Lawndale experienced a loss of almost half of its residential units.
Prospects in Lawndale had always hinged on its ability to balance the needs of both industrial and residential stakeholders. Once the industries had moved on, the neighborhood’s landscape was divided among two-flat apartments and the massive industrial complexes that now sat empty. However, in the 1990s signs of revitalization started taking hold. The declining population stabilized, and new housing initiatives created renewed interest in the area as property values started to rebound. A mixed-use commercial development called Lawndale Plaza in nearby Homan Square opened in 2003. As a result of the neighborhood’s easy access to the expressway and mass transit, affordable housing, and several spacious parks, Lawndale is again becoming a desirable residential neighborhood on Chicago’s west side.
Lawndale has a long history as a place for creative park design. Jens Jensen, an acclaimed designer was responsible for the unique look of the neighborhood’s Franklin Park, and two other good-sized parks give area residents plenty of room to stretch their legs.
Altgeld Park (515 S. Washtenaw Ave., 312-746-5001) is a fun place to enjoy a picnic or participate in a baseball or softball game at one of the designated fields. If swinging a bat isn’t up your alley, hit one of the basketball courts to hoop it up. The park also has a soccer field for those who like to bend it like Beckham. If it’s too hot to do anything but relax in a cool spot, head to the park’s outdoor pool and spend a few hours relaxing in comfort. There are also swim classes available for children aged 6-12 from June to August, so your little fishes can learn the strokes.
In the heart of Lawndale neighborhood lies Franklin Park (4320 W 15th St., 312-747-7676), which was planned by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen (who also worked on other Chicago neighborhood parks such as Lincoln Park and Douglas Park). Franklin Park had some innovative design features such as irregularly shaped ponds, which were radical for the time it was built. Most of these unique aspects were lost, however, when the 8.5-acre park was expanded in later years. Still, it is one of the most inviting places in the area and offers locals plenty of activities and leisure time fun to while away the hours. Today Lawndale residents swing by for a leisurely game of baseball, or head to the gymnasium for a solid workout. If you are looking to plan a neighborhood meeting, the fieldhouse also has an assembly hall available. And when the kids start whining about the summer heat, bring them to the water playground and let them cool off while splashing about in cool refreshment. During the summer months (June to August), there are also several basketball clinics and leagues on the basketball courts.
Once night falls on those warm summer nights, Lawndale parks fill up with lawn chairs, wagons full of tots, blankets spread across the grass, and the smell of popcorn. Both Altgeld Park and Franklin Park participate in the 'Movies in the Park' program (see 'Mark Your Calendar').
Lawndale Real Estate
Although it is necessary to look past some unsightly empty lots, Lawndale has come a long way in the last 15 years, as many developers are realizing the wealth of available quality housing and the potential for residential revitalization.
In addition to private developers taking an interest in the neighborhood’s real estate for new construction possibilities, the Historic Chicago Greystone Initiative is helping to provide homeowners of the hundred-year-old limestone houses in Lawndale with the necessary resources to restore and modernize their historic residences. Families taking part in the program have led to a renovation boom in the last few years, but property prices are still reasonable, which makes the area very alluring to first-time homebuyers and young families. This west side Chicago neighborhood is rapidly growing, and new and rehabilitated properties are appearing on the market every day. Younger buyers are looking to Lawndale for good value in a neighborhood on the rise.
Condominium conversions have also been gaining in popularity over the last several years, but few are actually on the market to buy. Generally, the average sales price for a two-bedroom condo in Lawndale is around $125,000, although there are units available for much less. The average price for a detached single-family home with three bedrooms in Lawndale is about $136,000. Some of the bigger places, with a bedroom or two more space, go for between $150,000 and the low $300,000s.
What’s on the Menu?
Lawndale has a flavorful history of food, and today there are several places to dig into it, from barbecues to an Internet cafe.
If you want a great deep dish pizza, most Chicagoans know one of the best spots in town is Lou Malnati’s Pizza (3859 W. Ogden Ave, 773-762-0800). In addition to offering great pizza, Italian favorites like spaghetti and spumoni, and our favorite, the stuffed spinach bread, the Lou Malnati’s branch in Lawndale gives back to the area by ensuring a portion of the profits from this restaurant flow back to the community, benefiting children’s educational and recreational programs. Somehow that little fact makes each slice of pie taste that much better. Similarly, the huge 4,600-square foot Academy Bakery (1231 S Pulaski Road, 773-522-5133) does more than create great coconut cakes, sweet potato pies, apple cobbler and oatmeal raisin cookies. It is also a learning institution, where young neighborhood residents can build confidence while becoming certified bakers. The bakery has comfy couches, cafe tables and chairs, and even provides free Internet access.
Those who favor vegetarian cuisine won’t be disappointed by I.C.Y. Vegetarian Restaurant and Juice Bar (3141 W Roosevelt Road, 773-762-1090). Not only is this place a safe haven for vegetarians and vegans (and any health-conscious folks), but the meals are rather reasonably priced—unlike most of the other organic/health food restaurants in Chicago. Most of the entrees are under $10, but the ingredients are still top-notch. As for the menu itself, veggie-eaters can fill up on tasty imitation sausage and tofu eggs for breakfast and get a steak-like (but it’s not real meat) sandwich with a fresh-made juice to wash it all down.
On the other hand, if meat is what you savor, head to La Quebradita (4859 W Roosevelt Road, 708-780-8110) for traditional Mexican grub that is special to Guerrero, one of our southern sister’s Pacific coast states. One popular dish is the goat barbacoa, which has a savory flavor most carnivores will enjoy. Also check out the well-marinated skirt steak that goes well with an order of fresh guacamole. And the classic salty/citrus beef cecina pairs nicely with an ice cold brew, but this restaurant is BYOB so grab a six-pack of Mexican beer or maybe a bottle of tequila before stopping in for a bite. Also for those who love meat, check out a few of Lawndale’s barbecue joints. Both Miller’s Barbecue (1806 S Pulaski Rd, 773-762-2662) and AA Barbecue (1139 S. Pulaski, 773-265-9380) specialize in Memphis-style BBQ, which features pork ribs slathered in sauce. Or try a succulent pulled pork sandwich, a favorite among the regular clientele.
Best Shopping Stops
Shopping options in Lawndale are somewhat limited at the moment, but with nearby Lawndale Plaza coming into its own, the future seems bright for future shopping prospects.
If you’re a musical connoisseur, head over to George’s Music Room (3915 W. Roosevelt Road, 773-762-8910). You’ll find a one-of-a-kind interior—walls pressed with gold and platinum records of artists such as B.B. King and Janet Jackson, who have visited the store over the last 40 years; posters of upcoming releases; and free-standing cardboard cutouts of singers in various stages of undress. In the long glass case along the side of the store there is a fantastic selection of hard-to-find CDs, generally heavy on Hip Hop, old-school R&B, gospel and blues. The store also sells incense, fragrance oils, a few selected book titles, and posters.
The retail opportunities in this west side Chicago neighborhood have not quite kept pace with the residential growth, but there are signs of improvement. The recent development of Lawndale Plaza shopping center in nearby Homan Square includes a movie theatre, a Dominick’s supermarket, a branch of National City bank, and several small businesses.
Mark Your Calendar
When we’re in the mood to get out of the house on a stuffy summer night for a light-hearted movie, we head over to the park to catch one of the films being shown outdoors during the Park District’s 'Movies in the Park' program. Both Lawndale’s public parks, Altgeld Park (515 S. Washtenaw Ave., 312-746-5001) and Franklin Park (4320 W 15th St., 312-747-7676) host screenings, so head to the one closest to your front door and settle in for a little evening entertainment. The movies are free but the popcorn is on you. And don’t forget to bring a blanket or some lawn chairs, unless you don’t mind popping a squat on the grass.
Lawndale has loads of metered street parking on Independence Boulevard, one of neighborhood’s main drags, and even on the weekends it’s not too difficult to find a spot. Most of the side streets have parking that does not require a permit. But ultimately, many of the residences in the neighborhood have their own garage, so unless you’re the packrat type who uses their garage as a second basement for storage, you should be set on parking space.
Assuming you do have a car and intend to use it for travel to and from Lawndale, the neighborhood is accessible via the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) using the Cicero Avenue, Independence Boulevard or Western Avenue exits. This highway runs along Lawndale’s northern edge and provides residents with a direct route straight into the Chicago Loop, a mere 10-minute drive away. But even when going to destinations in your own neighborhood or doing local errands, remember that this is a large community and it can be extremely useful to have a car for transportation—and carrying groceries home from the market.
Okay, now assuming you do not have a car—or you just prefer not to drive—let’s talk about the public transportation available in the neighborhood. Several Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus lines serve Lawndale. On 16th Street, take the #18 to travel westbound to the suburb of Cicero, or eastbound to State Street where you can transfer to the #29 northbound to go downtown. The #53 runs north and south along Pulaski Avenue, connecting with the Pulaski stop of the CTA Pink Line train at Cermak and Pulaski roads. The #52 bus runs north and south along Kedzie Avenue, connecting with the Kedzie stop of the CTA Pink Line at Cermak Road and Kedzie Avenue. The #82 runs north and south on Homan, Douglas and Central Park, and connects with the Pink Line at Cermak Road and Central Park Avenue. Sound confusing? Don’t worry, within a week you’ll know the CTA routes like the back of your hand.
For starters, it might be easiest just to head to the neighborhood’s southern border where you can hop on the CTA Pink or Blue Line 'El' (so-named for the train’s sections of elevated track) at Kostner Avenue, Pulaski Road, Central Park, Kedzie Avenue or California Avenue. Following basically the same route, these lines head northeast up to the Chicago Loop or west out to Cicero.
School’s in Session
Lawndale has several public and private schools where little Lawndalers can attend class from kindergarten to college. In addition to the following list, you can find more information on area schools and other Chicago educational facilities at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Blessed Sacrament School – 2153 S Millard Ave
Cardenas Elementary School – 2345 S Millard Ave
North Lawndale College Prep – 1616 S Spaulding Ave
Paderewski Elementary School – 2221 S Lawndale Ave
Augustine College – 2610 W 25th Pl St
Gregory Episcopal School – 2130 S Central Park Ave
Just to make the move to a new neighborhood that much smoother, we’ve compiled a list of some of the places you can get your bare necessities, from groceries and toiletries to post stamps and community news.
Public Library Branch (Legler) 115 S. Pulaski Road, 312-746-7730
Chicago Transit Authority – (888) 968-7282
Post Office (Lawndale) 2302 S Pulaski Road
Del-Kar Drugs Inc. 3726 W 16th St 773-762-5058
Hospital Emergency Room
Saint Anthony Hospital 2875 W 19th St. 773-484-1000
Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital 1401 S California Ave. 773-522-2010
Save A Lot 3939 W Ogden Ave. 773-762-8870
Lawndale Food Market 3705 W 16th St. 773-762-9410
Hip Hopercise 3333 W Arthington St. 773-826-8469
Below are a few of the dining, shopping and entertainment activities that Lawndale has in store. Be sure to discover the other available amenities as you discover the neighborhood on your own.
Movies in the Park Altgeld Park – 515 S. Washtenaw Ave. 312-746-5001
Movies in the Park Franklin Park – 4320 W 15th St. 312-747-7676
George’s Music Room 3915 W. Roosevelt Road 773-762-8910
Changing View Records 1859 S Lawndale Ave. 773-762-5372 Elena Flower Shop 3116 W. Cermak Road 773-522-1107 Rajah’s Mobile Lock and Key Service 1240 South Kedzie Ave. 773-277-9322
Beatrice Florist 2106 S Harding Ave. 773-521-9276
Family Dollar Store 3939 W Ogden Ave 773-522-8062
China Buffet 3939 W. Ogden Ave K Town Kitchen 4246 W 16th St 773-542-9361
Lou Malnati’s Pizza 3859 W. Ogden Ave 773-762-0800
Miller’s Barbecue 1806 S Pulaski Rd. 773-762-2662
AA Barbecue 1139 S. Pulaski Rd. 773-265-9380
Chicago Steak and Lemonade 3944 W Roosevelt Rd 773-638-6400
I.C.Y. Vegetarian Restaurant and Juice Bar 3141 W. Roosevelt Road 773-762-1090
J & J Fish 4203 W Cermak Road 773-277-2008
La Quebradita 4859 W. Roosevelt Road 708-780-8110
Academy Bakery 1231 S Pulaski Rd 773-522-5133
Wardlow’s & Loretta’s Bar 1556 S Keeler Ave. 773 542-8985
The residential real estate in Lawndale is fairly diverse, providing homeowners with a number of housing options from condos to lofts to townhomes. But there is more to your Lawndale 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 Lawndale 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.