My Chicago - #18 Oak Park
Another city neighbourhood that is not actually in the city. Famous as the home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright Oak Park
is less than 10 miles directly west of downtown and a small oasis with excellent transport links, a thriving arts scene and good schools and therefore perfect for families not yet ready to give up city life.
Oak Park is also a stop on the tourist trail for Chicago visitors. Many come to view the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings found throughout the village. The largest collection of Wright-designed residential properties in the world is in Oak Park. Over 30 buildings were designed and built by America's most influential architect who worked and lived here from 1889 to 1909. His home and studio at 951 Chicago Avenue has been restored by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust
to its original 1909 appearance and the Preservation Trust has two superb self-guided audio tours that I would recommend. One is inside his home & studio and the other is of the local area complete with map that lasts about an hour and takes you past 20 examples of his work. Note that all the homes are privately owned so keep nosing in the window to a minimum!
Other Oak Park attractions are Ernest Hemingway's
place of birth and family home at 339 North Oak Park Avenue. Now a museum the house where Hemingway was born in 1899 has gone major renovation and includes many original pieces. Two blocks away is a museum
documenting his life
and his literature. The museum contains rare photographs and writings from a man known for his adventure and as an inspiration to many modern day authors.
Another claim to fame of Oak Park are the three homes of Chicagoan Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan. Edgar Rice Burroughs
was said to be an influence on a young Hemingway when he lived in Oak Park between 1910 and 1919.
The north part of the town contains many large houses and mansions, particularly along the pretty tree-lined Chicago Avenue and North Oak Park Avenue. Most of the action downtown
is at the cross section of Lake's and Marion Street. An ice cream shop, Cold Stone Creamery
(134 N Marion St) was very welcome when we were here at the end of last summer and we had some very decent middle eastern food sat outside the Jerusalem Cafe
The landmark Lake Theater
is the place to see a movie and there is an arts district on Harrison Street
, which is a little walk from downtown. This area has become popular with the more independent boutiques and restaurants. The Oak Park Conservatory
is only a $1 to go in and has a vast fern and orchid collection and nearby Rehm Park
is beauteous and has a huge outdoor pool and concerts fill the air in the summer months.
I spent the day of my birthday last year at Oak Park and we made a good choice. With it's architecture, gardens, and family feel Oak Park has a lot to catch the eye.