My Chicago - #17 Streeterville
to be honest is a kind of made up neighbourhood in my mind but it was the first place I actually lived (below left) when I first came to Chicago, albeit for just 3 weeks. Four and a half years ago it was starting to look like things were happening at this scrunched up piece of the city, just north of the Chicago River, with Michigan Avenue to the west and Navy Pier and Lake Michigan to the east.
Older buildings were being torn down, a huge AMC theater, we call them cinemas, had appeared in what seemed the middle of nowhere, a very nice Art Center
had taken over a beautiful loft building on E Illinois St, just next door to where me and my couple of suitcases were temporarily staying and still to this day my favourite food market, Fox and Obel was up the street on the corner, a stone's throw from some brand new condominium buildings overlooking the mouth of the River.
Once upon a time this area began life under water. George Wellington 'Cap' Streeter and his missus Maria 'Ma' Mullholland from Flint in Michigan decided to make their fortunes as gun runners in Honduras. They purchased and repaired a boat and christened it the 'Reutan.' This was in 1886 and like all good well laid out plans in this part of the world, one can't account for the weather because sure enough they got on their boat to set sail for Honduras and the wind got up.
Gale force winds meant they only just got across Lake Michigan and Cap and Ma got stranded on a sandbar about 450 feet east of Chicago's Michigan Avenue. Instead of digging out and continuing their expedition they chose to make the sandbar their new home and lived aboard the Reutan an
d blew out the planned voyage down to Latin America!
The Sandbar eventually became a landfill and the Streeters seeked squatters rights. However the actual landowner was some rich dude called Nathaniel Kellogg (NK) Fairbank, a Chicago industrialist whose soap company invented and manufactured the still famous Fairy Soap
, now owned by Proctor & Gamble. And for 28 years Sweeter refused to budge from Fairbank's land despite a string of legal battles. The net result is the whole area is now named after the Squatter and the land owner, Fairbank, just has a tiny street
named after him as recognition!
The scaffolding is slowly starting to come down around Streeterville today, and from behind the dust is appearing a number of brand new skyscrapers, including what will be when it's finished the 2nd tallest building in the world, the Chicago corkscrew, sorry Spire
It's also home to the 20-acre Northwestern University's School of Law
and Medical Center, the state-of-the-art Northwestern Memorial Hospital
, the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business
, and both Chicago's CBS
Streeterville's number one tourist attraction is Navy Pier. 3,300 ft long, it is the most visited tourist attraction in the midwest and apparently 8 million people walk up and down it every year stopping in at one of it's museums, one of which is the Childrens Museum
, although they has announced intentions to move to a larger space in the city. Further down the pier there is an MAX theater as well as a ferris wheel.
But the main reasons I come to this part of town is to see a film at one of the 21 AMC River East
screens. Incidentially next door there is the Lucky Strike
bowling alley if you want to wear someone else's shoes or I come to mooch around the grand food store of Fox and Obel
and marvel at all that scrummy food and wine.
There are a couple of restaurants that I would recommend in Streeterville, both entirely different. First for reasonably priced and authentic Italian food try Volare
and for something splashy try De La Costa
, a flamboyant and theatrical mix of South America, Spain and the Carribbean. The ceviches are excellent, the lunch menu is simple and less expensive and make sure you sit at the very back of the restaurant to get some superb views of the river.
I wonder what old Cap Streeter would think seeing this place now with all it's highrise expensive apartments. A far cry from his boat I am sure. Nevertheless I bet he chuckles to himself knowing the locals named the neighourhood after him and not his arch nemesis Mr NK Fairbank.