Home to top Chicago attractions including Navy Pier, the John Hancock Center, and The Magnificent Mile, Streeterville might as well be “Chicago” to most tourists. But, just beyond the hotspots, this affluent residential neighborhood is exploding in popularity.
Once a shantytown ruled by namesake Captain George Streeter, today the neighborhood is bursting with luxury high-rises, prestigious institutions, and a thriving restaurant scene. In their exciting location at the center of the action, residents love their hub of big city living!
Streeterville’s peculiar history begins with the boat captain and circus owner George Streeter. In 1873, a storm ran his steamship aground at a sandbar north of Navy Pier. Unable to dislodge the boat, Streeter instead decided to proclaim the area as the “District of Lake Michigan”, an entity separate from Illinois. In the wake of the Chicago Fire of 1871, developers needed a place to dump debris and waste from reconstruction. For a fee, Streeter let them dump on “his” sandbar, eventually adding nearly 200 acres of land. Streeter then began to rent out the land, leading to a thriving shantytown made of debris. The wealthy landowners in the Gold Coast protested, but when police came to evict Streeter they were driven away by rifles. It wasn’t until the construction of Lake Shore Drive in 1902 that Streeter was finally removed, but, of course, the name remains.
Freed from Streeter, the neighborhood began to take on its modern character. The construction of the Michigan Avenue Bridge and the economic boom of the 1920s brought wealth to the area. In these years, numerous high-rise buildings and elaborate hotels, including the historic Drake Hotel, were built. These new buildings refined the Chicago skyline with an emphasis on historicist architecture styles. Despite this development, much of the area along the Chicago River and near Navy Pier remained industrial, mainly factories and warehouses.
A new wave of development hit the area after World War II. An influx of urban renewal dollars led to the development of the “Magnificent Mile” shopping district and many more high-rise apartments. By the end of the 1960s, residential complexes were first built among the warehouses and, by the end of the century, residential and retail dominated the entire area. Other major projects from this era include the John Hancock Center in 1969 and the Water Tower Place in 1976. Today, Streeterville continues to grow as new developments are underway, such as the upcoming 400 Lake Shore Drive project (in the site of the now-defunct Chicago Spire).
Streeterville residents are spoiled with great restaurants, world-renowned shopping, theater, and some of Chicago’s top attractions right in their backyard. Navy Pier is the most famous attraction in the neighborhood, featuring shops, restaurants, an IMAX cinema, and, of course, the famous Ferris wheel. Perhaps more a tourist destination than a local haunt, but everyone can enjoy the seasonal events, great people watching, and one of the best views in the city. The Pier is also home to the Chicago Children’s Museum and the renowned Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Including part of the famous Magnificent Mile shopping district, and lined with upscale boutiques and national and international retailers, Streeterville is a premier shopping destination. Some great boutiques include Azeeza, named by Forbes as a top shopping destination, and LuLu’s on the Avenue, for vintage jewelry. With so much variety, the options are endless.
The neighborhood’s restaurant scene is perhaps best known for its steakhouses, including the famous Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse, but it is full of culinary gems. Local classics include Jellyfish’s for world-class sushi, Emilio’s for fresh tapas, and Beatrix, for great brunch. Along with Logan Square, Streeterville is a contender for best cocktail bars in Chicago, though pubs, beer-bars, and dive bars are also available. Some great spots include Drumbar, for inventive cocktails on the 18th floor of the Raffaello Hotel, and GreenRiver, a great bar/restaurant with great views of the city.
Local entertainment includes theater, art museums, and much more. Theater includes the Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theater, putting on cirque-influenced productions of classic literature. The Museum of Contemporary Art houses one of the largest collections of modern art in the nation and hosts major touring exhibits, film screenings, and performing artists. In a central location, other major attractions, including The Art Institute of Chicago, Millenium Park, and Grant Park, are within walking distance. And with easy access to the CTA Red Line and Lake Shore Drive, the rest of Chicago is at a resident’s fingertips.
Streeterville residents don’t only have great shopping, dining, and Navy Pier to choose from–Lake Michigan and lakefront beaches are only steps away. Two of Chicago’s nicest beaches, the Oak Street and Ohio Street Beaches bookend the neighborhood. Both beaches offer top views, beachside cafes and restaurants, great swimming areas, and other amenities. Just to the north lie miles of lakeside trails and all the splendor of Lincoln Park, including the free Lincoln Park Zoo. Near Navy Pier, Jane Addams Memorial Park and Milton Lee Olive Park offer beautiful grassy areas, fountains, and walking trails.
Streeterville has come a long way, from a lawless shantytown to one of Chicago’s most exciting and affluent residential neighborhoods. The wide range of housing includes luxury high-rise buildings, some mid-rise options, and a few townhomes and single-family residences. With top attractions including Navy Pier, The Magnificent Mile, and beautiful Lake Michigan, Streeterville is a truly exciting place to call home!