Chicago/Rogers Park

Rogers Park dancers

Rogers Park is the northern border of Chicago — the wild-eyed inheritor of uninhibited lakefront, swamps become beaches, and the beauty of Chicago bricks. There may be no better place to experience the casual riches the city has to offer, with several miles of parks and beaches, and quiet blocks of breathtaking apartments and homes.

This article also includes Edgewater, the more reasonable counterbalance to its neighbor (fewer calamities, and a few terrific bars), and West Ridge, home to several ethnic communities, including nearly a mile of great Indian restaurants and stores.

Understand

When Philip Rogers arrived in Chicago for the first time in 1834, he immediately began making plans to leave. There was mud everywhere, the narrow streets were choked and chaotic, and the winters were brutal. But he was stuck in Chicago because the waterways back to New York were frozen, so Rogers had to wait out the winter; by the spring, he had a line on a pretty good team of oxen, so he headed as far north as he could, past the limits of the city and its fringe settlements, out to wild swampland where Indian villages were still resident — and there began Rogers Park.

The nature of Rogers Park is calamity amid beauty and the equality of impulse toward each. In this way, many of the neighborhood's key events can be understood: the secession of the West Ridge area (sometimes called West Rogers Park) over whether to incorporate as a village (which they did anyway); the 1894 "Home-Made Transfer War," in which Rogers Park residents stuck it to railroad tycoon Charles Yerkes by refusing to pay extra to ride the northern extension of his streetcar line, and tried to pass off the transfers they'd made at home on the conductors; and the "Cabbage Head War" of 1896, in which a Rogers Park politician gave unsophisticated West Ridge farmers an unflattering nickname, and they proved him wrong by putting cabbages on poles and marching on his house.

With regular floods from the wild and swampy beaches to the east, annexation to Chicago and its sewage services proved a strong temptation. As the city surged north, a building boom followed, and Rogers Park was blessed with a gorgeous stock of residential and commercial buildings; West Ridge wound up with long blocks of lovely, modest Prairie-style bungalows. Only one famous name is still in the area (Frank Lloyd Wright's Emil Bach House), but the routine beauty of the architecture in Rogers Park and West Ridge is still incredible.

The diversity, too, is unrivaled in a notoriously segregated city. Rogers Park has always been the most beautiful place in Chicago where basically anyone could afford to live — silent Irish generations still fighting the Cabbage Head War in their sleep, and immigrants newly arrived from Serbia, from Jamaica, from the Sudan. For a visitor, special mention has to go to the Indian community on Devon Avenue. Between roughly 2200 W and 2700 W Devon, among thriving import stores that specialize in saris, spices, and the latest Bollywood dreams, there are a number of amazing Indian and Pakistani restaurants that will almost certainly spoil you for the stuff back home (assuming "back home" is anywhere but the Indian subcontinent). The only day not to go is Tuesday, when many businesses and restaurants are closed.

Edgewater, on the other hand, is remarkably laid-back. It was originally demarcated as part of the Uptown community area, but when that area went into economic decline, Edgewater residents swiftly seceded and established their own neighborhood. Today, it segues neatly into Andersonville to the south, with a few gay cultural institutions and several nice restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

Get in

By train

The CTA Red Line runs from the Loop to Edgewater (Bryn Mawr, Thorndale, Granville) and Rogers Park (Loyola, Morse, Jarvis), eventually terminating at Howard Street on the border of Evanston. (There is a major bus terminal adjacent to the Howard station - see below). Travelers with disabilities should plan to disembark at Howard, Loyola or Granville and use a bus to cover any remaining distance to their destinations. The Red Line runs 24/7.

During weekday rush periods, the CTA Purple Line runs from Evanston to Howard, continuing non-stop southward to the Belmont station in Lakeview and then onto the Loop. In non-rush-hour periods, the train runs from Evanston and terminates at Howard. The Purple Line opens at about 5:00 AM (6:30 AM Sundays) and closes at about 1:00 AM (2:00 AM Fridays and Saturdays).

The CTA Yellow Line travels between Skokie and Howard. The Yellow Line opens at about 5:00 AM (6:30 AM weekends) and closes at about 11:00 PM.

The Metra Union Pacific North Line stops in Rogers Park (at 1800 W. Lunt Ave) before moving on to Evanston. Not every train serves that station, though, so check signs or schedules before boarding.


By bus

A few Pace suburban routes depart from the Howard Street bus terminal.

By car

The best way to reach Edgewater and Rogers Park by car is the fabled Lake Shore Drive, which ends at Sheridan and Hollywood in Edgewater. The Edens Expressway has exits at Peterson and Touhy just west of the two neighborhoods.

The intersection of Sheridan and Devon can be confusing if you're trying to follow directions. Coming from Rogers Park, although it looks as though Sheridan continues south past Devon, that's where it becomes Broadway; Sheridan actually veers left at that point and then right along the lake. From the other direction, this is the eastern border of Devon Avenue, even though it looks like it continues further east — that's where the Sheridan name has taken over.

Parking is generally no problem in Edgewater and West Ridge, but Rogers Park is never easy. Watch for permit-only streets near Loyola University, and check street signs on Sheridan before parking overnight there. They're usually full, but there are meter parking lots near the beach at the end of Touhy and between Lunt & Greeleaf, and on the western side of the L tracks on Glenwood.

See

The Ghost Pilot of Rogers Park

Calvary Catholic Cemetery, across Sheridan Avenue from Juneway Terrace Beach at the border between Chicago and Evanston, has a few notable names buried within, including White Sox owner Charles Comiskey (inexplicably interred on the Cubs' side of town) and "Hinky Dink" Kenna, a legendarily corrupt alderman from the former vice district who left $33,000 in his will for a mausoleum and received an $85 tombstone from his heirs instead.

But one of the best-known stories about Calvary comes from someone who isn't buried there. Legend has it that "Charlie," an Air Force pilot doing training exercises over Lake Michigan during World War II, crashed and drowned. According to one version of the story, Charlie wanted badly to get back to his plane, and would pace around near the cemetery gates, until one night a forgetful keeper left them open — and Charlie was never seen again. According to another, Charlie wants back in: his ghost "is still seen today" getting out of the lake sopping wet, covered in seaweed, and crossing Sheridan to get some rest in Calvary.

The Glenwood Avenue Arts District is a nice idea that someone had at some point, and it's still optimistically advertised by banners up and down the street (between Pratt and Touhy), but there isn't much going on. Most of the storefronts are vacant (or appear to be). Occasional group shows are held at the Greenleaf Art Center (1836 W Greenleaf).

For a better check on the artistic pulse of Rogers Park, check out the block-long concrete bench between Pratt Beach and Loyola Beach (facing the lake and the jogging trail), which is divided up into short segments and re-painted every year by members of the community and a few local businesses, musing on the neighborhood, the city, outer space, and whatever else is on their minds — a good mix of the memorable and the inexplicable.

Do

Loyola University Chicago has its flagship campus here, with 15,000 students. In 1991, it absorbed Mundelein College, a pioneering women's school. Loyola University athletics haven't been up to much since the 1963 NCAA basketball championship, but Rogers Park would still go nuts at the first signs of life from the Ramblers — Loyola basketball tickets ($5-10) are a cheap way to catch some local flavor and have fun. More recently, the Loyola men's volleyball team has become a major national power, winning the 2014 NCAA title.

This area isn't well-known for theater, but it should be — there are some exceptional companies here. The Heartland Cafe (see Eat) is event-happy, and there are a few great music venues to check out (see Drink).

Beaches

As with the rest of Chicago, the official swim season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 9AM-9:30PM daily. However, the parks along the lakefront are open year-round (6AM-11PM daily), and fill up with picnics at the first sign of spring. And the piers on Pratt Beach are favorites with people taking the "polar plunge" on New Year's.

Edgewater

Rogers Park

Pratt Beach in the winter

Rogers Park is lined with pure lakefront glory. From Loyola all the way north, nearly every block east of Sheridan ends in a public beach and park. Some are little more than a building's length wide, and others run much longer. During the summer, these are very popular with locals, but they're also a great place for a walk during the fall and even the winter, when most turn into moonscapes.

From south to north:

Events & Festivals

Buy

Outside of Devon Avenue and a couple of cowboy fashion shops on Clark, there are only a few notable places to shop in this part of the city.

Devon

Sahil, Devon Avenue

Saris, jewelry, suitcases, phone cards, spices, Bollywood movies, and more saris — Devon Avenue is a great place to shop. Bargaining is generally welcome, so don't be shy to make a counter-offer.

Eat

Budget

Mid-range

Devon

Most restaurants on Devon specialize in cuisine from specific regions of India, which can vary quite a bit. Southern Indian cooking will be less familiar to most, but it's also remarkably friendly to vegetarians.

Others

Splurge

Drink

Coffee shops

There's a few exceptional independent coffee shops with great character (and coffee) in the area.

Bars

Rogers Park and Edgewater have several quality dives where a good time is the one and only priority — save your fashion for another part of the city. Howard Street was a jazz hotspot several decades ago, and while there are no clubs there now, several places near Morse Avenue are picking up steam as live music venues.

If you're hungry, heading down Broadway to raise a glass over a burger at Moody's Pub (see above) is always a sound idea.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

The notorious motels of Lincoln Avenue have been listed in Lincoln Square, although some are located close to West Ridge.

Connect

Chamber of Commerce

Libraries

Internet cafes

Stay safe

Ancient beasties by the lake, Rogers Park

Edgewater and West Ridge are low crime areas, but Rogers Park has some rough spots at night. Chicagoans tend to overstate the crime rate there, largely because it's surrounded by neighborhoods where crime is comparatively unknown. By overall city standards, it's not particularly dangerous, but don't carry anything irreplaceable on your person (or in your car) if you plan to go roaming after dark. (That said, trouble by day is virtually non-existent.) Campus police patrol the area near Loyola University around the clock, but some visitors may feel uncomfortable walking alone on Morse, Jarvis, Glenwood, Howard, and the side streets late at night. There are police cameras on the streetlights at Morse and Howard, so wave and say 'hello'.

Wandering the beaches and parks is fine after dark, but don't go swimming after hours, particularly at the smaller beaches--certain property owners thrive on calling the cops on late swimmers. Climbing the breakwater rocks between beaches can be a lot of fun, but it is not allowed by the Chicago Park District lifeguards.

Go next

Routes through Rogers Park

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 12, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.