Lincoln Square is the definition of a cozy, family-friendly Chicago neighborhood.
A charming mixture between new and old, it celebrates its German heritage while looking to the future for inspiration. Residents love the neighborhood’s welcoming spirit, abundant parkland, and creative businesses. With a walk down the area’s bustling corridors, one will find hip restaurants and bars, cozy coffee houses, and an array of independent shops. With the nearby CTA Brown Line, the Metra North Line, and the Kennedy Expressway, the Loop and beyond is an easy commute!
Originally forest and prairie, the area was first settled in the 1840s by German immigrants. Still mostly farmland, notable businesses also included a pickle factory and a commercial greenhouse. The neighborhood’s population spiked after the Chicago Fire of 1871, when many citizens could not afford to build homes downtown according to new city codes. Much like today, the area presented an attractive alternative to the city’s densely built and crowded areas. Named Lincoln Square in honor of Abraham Lincoln in 1925, a prominent statue of the president was erected in 1956.
With the opening of the Ravenswood Elevated Line (today the CTA Brown Line) in 1907, the farmland began to fill up with bungalows, two-flats, and small apartment buildings. The area remained partly agricultural until the final farms were sold after World War II. Keen to promote the area’s commercial identity, the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce was busy in the post-war years promoting its Old World-flavored commercial district. The proprietors, however, were diverse, including a growing number of Latino and Asian residents. A major project, the Lincoln Square pedestrian mall was built in 1978, requiring the rerouting of local traffic. Today, the neighborhood is a favorite across Chicago, featuring a unique suburban-pace in the heart of the northside.
Lincoln Square’s commercial district may not be as celebrated as some other northside neighborhoods, but it is no less vital. At the center of the neighborhood (at the intersection of Lawrence, Western and Lincoln Avenues), great restaurants blend with shops, entertainment, and neighborhood bars. The area retains aspects of its German heritage such as the Niedersachsen Club and the German American National Congress, but one is just as likely to see Thai or Middle Eastern businesses.
Lincoln Square attracts from across Chicago with its excellent shopping and dining. Great independent establishments including local bookstores, indie record shops, and clothing/home boutiques along with national retailers and chains. Lincoln Square’s underappreciated restaurant scene ranges from fine dining establishments to great Chicago dives. Local favorites include Bistro Campagne, an intimate French restaurant, Pannenkoeken cafe, a cute breakfast spot, and Gather, offering innovative American food. Like all northside areas, Lincoln Square has great neighborhood bars, such as The Grafton and Half Acre Beer Company, perhaps Chicago’s best independent brewery.
The area is proud of its music, arts, and crafts. Lincoln Square is host to The Old Town School of Folk Music. Founded in 1957, the Chicago institution offers music, dance, and theater classes (including family-favorite Wiggleworms) as well as in-house concerts of national and international acts. Local movie theater, The Davis Theater, is an old-school neighborhood institution showing first-run movies, as well as Saturday morning cartoons and affordable matinees of family classics. The area hosts several festivals, including The Square Roots Festival, featuring great music along with local food and craft brews. German festivals are another treat, with Mayfest in June, and the German-American Festival in September.
In good weather, residents can take full advantage of the numerous parks, trails, and playgrounds that dot the neighborhood. Welles Park is a particular gem, with amenities for kids and adults alike including a playground, a natural play area, a fitness center, and an indoor pool. The North Shore Channel Trail is a local secret. From the trailhead on Lawrence Ave, it follows the Chicago River northward, offering lovely views of the river and a sculpture garden.
Lincoln Square housing include charming single-family homes, three-flat greystones, and bungalows along tree-lined streets. Along the North Branch of the Chicago River, some beautiful Lovely Victorian and Prairie School homes are available. More affordable options include vintage apartment buildings and condominiums. With a lively cultural scene, great restaurants, and easy access to the Loop via the CTA Brown Line, Lincoln Square is an ideal Northside haven!