A Brief History of Chicago’s Lake View Neighborhood

The neighborhood of Lake View has a history that will assuredly surprise you. Its vibrant energy is reminiscent of that which is usually associated with smaller neighborhood enclaves such as Wrigleyville, Boystown, and the Southport Corridor. However, it is Lake View that encompasses the word welcoming in it’s most literal sense. The neighborhood is home to the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, also known as AGLOChicago. Which is one of the largest welcoming LGBTQ+ congregations in the United States! Yet with this fact alone, it’s easy to imagine Lake View as it was when founded. Clues to its foundation can of course be seen in surrounding architecture, and in between the lines of long-standing rumors and historical acquiescence. 

History tells us that Lake View allegedly got its name from a Great Gatbsy-like resort that no longer stands, the Lake View House. The clubhouse offered an unobstructed view of the lake and became wildly popular for offering a “breezy atmosphere”. Although it was the neighborhood landscape that attracted a large number of immigrant families due to it being named the celery capital of the US. This translated to a clear pathway for prospective immigrant farmers from the likes of Germany, Luxembourg, and Sweden who aimed to settle with financial success from farming. Even better, the landscape offered access to a gorgeous lake…Lake Michigan! The local population continued to grow despite Chicago experiencing a brutal cholera outbreak that ravaged the city and its residents.

Cholera wasn’t the only problem, typhoid soon arrived in Chicago due to a tainted water system. An onslaught of subsequent multiple diseases required the city to do a complete overhaul of its sewage system. This led Chicago to build the first municipal sewer system, the first-ever in the US! This no doubt increased the city’s popularity to the country’s newest immigrants. Factories were being built at an impressive rate to meet the demands of the industry. This forced developers to get creative as the city’s wage workers struggled to find affordable housing near their job sites. The solution? High-rise apartments and ‘four-plus-ones (multiple-unit low rises)’. These dwellings quickly became popular with couples without children and singles. This is why you see so many of these infrastructures prominent in the neighborhood today, especially close to the waterfront.

Something that is not present but is a large part of Lake View’s history is the famously missing burial mounds or effigy mounds. Lake View served as a trail path and campground for the Miami, Ottawa, and Winnebago Native American tribes. Curious City published a map from the early 1800s showing a “lizard shaped effigy mound” in what is now Lake View! Similar effigy mounds had been found nearby in Wisconsin and usually resembled animals. Effigy mounds are estimated to date as far back as 1000 AD! These mounds were noted to be 3 to 7 feet in height, so one would assume that an effigy mound of this size wouldn’t just disappear. Yet, the remains have never been found. One possible location was said to be at the Brown line stop at Wellington and Oakdale.

In sum, the expansive history of Lake View represents a myriad of people seeking refuge and a sense of belonging by the lake. This neighborhood of Chicago remains to be an area that is accepting of all tribes, individuals, and ways of living and offers a sense of community that ceases to relinquish the respite it has offered for centuries.


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