Writing a new chapter
Chicago has long been known for its spectacular and innovative architecture. From the skeletal framework designed by Holabird & Roche that enabled buildings to rise to new heights, to the flowing concrete forms of Bertrand Goldberg, to the pared down elegance of Mies van der Rohe – Chicago stands apart.
Yet this excellence in architecture is not restricted to the city center; it can be found in the simplicity of a workingman’s cottage, the interplay of light and shadow of a Queen Ann frame, or seen in the sweeping cantilevers conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright. And one neighborhood has them all.
Nested along the shores of Lake Michigan and surrounded by parks designed by Olmsted & Vaux are the historic communities of Hyde Park and Kenwood. Served by excellent schools, enhanced by University of Chicago, one of the world’s great learning institutions and located a mere ten-minute drive from downtown – these communities have undergone a renaissance.
53rd Street now bustles with stores, restaurants and music venues. Facilities for the arts are booming, farmer’s markets offer organic produce, yoga studios have opened and new bridges will soon span Lake Shore Drive.
Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park is the definitive book on the history of these neighborhoods, and their story is told through the development of the American home. Author Susan O’Connor Davis is the realtor who understands the depth of these communities and their housing stock.
A resident of Kenwood for fifteen years, the house the Davis’s constructed was the recipient of the American Institute of Architects Distinguished Building Honor Award. In addition to being keenly aware of the construction process, Susan is familiar with zoning and landmark issues. With a degree in Interior Design, she offers guidance on preparing structures and marketing properties in their best possible light.
In addition to her passion for history and writing, Susan serves on the Board of Governors for the Smart Museum of Art, is a member of the Arts Club of Chicago, the Beverly Golf Club, and a founding member of the not-for-profit Kenwood Improvement Association. She has chaired numerous fundraising events for the University of Chicago Lab Schools, the Hyde Park Art Center and the Smart Museum.
Hyde Park - Kenwood
Stretching south from 47th Street to the Midway Plaisance and east from Washington Park to the lake’s shore, the historic neighborhood of Hyde Park—Kenwood covers nearly two square miles of Chicago’s south side. At one time a wealthy township outside of the city, this neighborhood has been home to Chicago’s elite for more than one hundred and fifty years, counting among its residents presidents and politicians, scholars, athletes, and fiery religious leaders. Known today for the grand mansions, stately row houses, and elegant apartments that these notables called home, Hyde Park—Kenwood is still one of Chicago’s most prominent locales.
Physically shaped by the Columbian Exposition of 1893 and by the efforts of some of the greatest architects of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—including Daniel Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies Van Der Rohe—this area hosts some of the city’s most spectacular architecture amid lush green space. Tree-lined streets give way to the impressive neogothic buildings that mark the campus of the University of Chicago, and some of the Jazz Age’s swankiest high-rises offer spectacular views of the water and distant downtown skyline
Hyde Park Legends
The ground level of the house at the southwest corner of 48th and Greenwood just always seemed too high. Not in the sense of the ridges that once ran diagonally across the landscape of Hyde Park, but specifically and oddly too high just in one place. The driveway at the back of the lot was cracked as the land shifted over time, and the garage had weeds growing from its gutters. That all changed last month as excavation began for a foundation for a shiny new garage. What came up with the backhoe was the lost history of one Kenwood family.
The huge pieces of limestone dredged up were the buried remnants of the house built for Charles Hosmer Morse, a 19th century industrialist. Morse began his career as a salesman in New York and moved up the ladder quickly. He came to Chicago to establish the first branch of an enterprise that became known as Fairbanks, Morse & Company.
New pop-up shops coming to 53rd Street
Three new pop-up shops are set to open on 53rd Street early next month, becoming the latest addition to Hyde Park’s burgeoning shopping, dining and entertainment district. Home goods purveyor Neighborly, handmade-fashions boutique Anastasia, and vintage retailer Meadowlark are all scheduled to open on November 7 and remain open through the upcoming holiday shopping season.
Toni Preckwinkle | Cook County Board President
“Susan O’Connor Davis’s work draws well-deserved attention to Hyde Park-Kenwood’s beautiful buildings and details their history. These architectural gems are a lasting legacy for future generations.”
Dominic A. Pacyga | author of Chicago: A Biography
“Few city neighborhoods have been as studied as Chicago’s Hyde Park. Susan O’Connor Davis has created an extraordinary guide to a remarkable place. Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park is a compelling visual account that introduces the reader not only to a complex local history, but also to one grounded firmly in the larger currents of both architectural change and urban development. Davis’s account ranges from Paul Cornell’s early Hyde Park through the still controversial urban renewal era and right up to current preservation efforts. This meticulously researched, wonderfully illustrated, lovingly written, and well-documented book is an important contribution to the history of Chicago and urban America.”
Ann Durkin Keating | author of Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs: A Historical Guide
“In Hyde Park, unlike many Chicago neighborhoods, major Chicago architects completed residential commissions for wealthy Chicago families. At the same time, the broad currents of changing population and economics brought dramatic change, as Hyde Park moved from an elite enclave to a diverse neighborhood within a vibrant city. Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park provides a richly illustrated and detailed view of a neighborhood that has been the home to many influential Chicagoans, including President Obama. Expanding on Jean Block’s groundbreaking Hyde Park Houses, Susan O’Connor Davis explores the evolution of housing over the twentieth century, showing how these broad patterns affected the stories of individual families, homes, and properties. And in so doing, she brings history to life.”
Jonathan Fine | Executive Director, Preservation Chicago
“Susan O’Connor Davis has created an invaluable resource for urban planners, preservationists, architects and anyone else who simply loves learning about the history of one of Chicago’s most fascinating neighborhoods.”
Patrick Reardon | former urban affairs writer of the Chicago Tribune
“While relating the rich and nuanced stories of the structures that defined Hyde Park and Kenwood over the past century and a half, Susan O’Connor Davis closely examines the always evolving, often controversial social dynamics of those neighborhoods. Would that every neighborhood in the country had a book like this!”
“Davis looks at Hyde Park, long an incubator of ideas for scholars, writers, athletes, religious leaders, politicians, and others. . . . Arranged chronologically and geographically, Davis’s book—replete with remarkably clear black-and-white photographs of extant and demolished buildings—includes vignettes of nationally or locally famous persons. . . . Recommended.”
Interview With The Author