Astor Street

sights / Other

Lonely Planet review

In 1882 Bertha and Potter Palmer were the power couple of Chicago. His web of businesses included the city’s best hotel and a huge general merchandise store that he later sold to a clerk named Marshall Field. When they later relocated north from Prairie Ave to a crenellated castle of a mansion at what is now 1350 N Lake Shore Dr, the Palmers set off a lemminglike rush of Chicago’s wealthy to the neighborhood around them. The mansions sitting along Astor St, especially the 1300 to 1500 blocks, reflect the grandeur of that heady period.

While he was still working for Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright (who was 19 at the time) designed the large but only 11-room Charnley-Persky House , and proclaimed with his soon-to-be-trademarked bombast that it was the ‘first modern building.’ Why? Simply because it did away with Victorian gaudiness in favor of plain, abstract forms that went on to become the modern style. It was completed in 1892 and now houses the Society of Architectural Historians.

The Cyrus McCormick Mansion is one of the neighborhood’s standouts. The 1893 neoclassical home was designed by New York architect Stanford White. McCormick and his family had the whole place to themselves, but it’s now divided up into condos. It’s still the high-rent district – a three-bedroom, three-bathroom unit goes for $1.75 million (washer and dryer included).

The 1885 mansion that serves as the Archbishop’s Residence spans the entire block to Astor. This sweet crib, complete with 19 chimneys, is one of the many perks that comes with leading the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese. Seven archbishops have lived here, and world leaders from Franklin D Roosevelt to Pope John Paul II have crashed at the residence while in town.

Don’t forgot to check out another special house in the ‘hood: Hugh Hefner’s first Playboy Mansion is nearby.