Chicago, as the old saw goes, is a city of neighborhoods. It’s also a city of blocks, ranging from great to grating, and for many Chicagoans their block is more important to their experience of urban living than their neighborhood.
What makes a great block? In the words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart:
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it …
Justice Stewart was talking about pornography, but his point is equally applicable to trying to arrive at a uniform description of the elements that constitute a great block.
For some, transitory social aspects completely divorced from a block’s physical characteristics, such as the number of children present or the diversity and vitality of the neighbors make their block a great one. Many will experience a block as being great due to its location, despite its being otherwise unappealing. Most people, I suspect, will consider a block’s physical characteristics the most important elements in defining it as great.
This post is the first in an occasional series that will focus on Chicago’s great blocks. My first nominee is the long block of East Bellevue Place between Rush Street and Lake Shore Drive.
The block would qualify as great simply because of its Gold Coast location – bookended by Oak Street Beach and the fabulous cluster of restaurants at Rush and Bellevue, with easy proximity to the shops of Oak Street and the Mag Mile and Division Street nightlife.
East Bellevue Place has a luxuriant tree canopy and a wide variety of housing, but its overall feel is dominated by the 1880s-vintage single-family homes along both sides of the block. Currently available housing options range from a furnished 1-bedroom basement apartment renting for $1,850 a month to a 7,500 square foot greystone listed at $3,950,000.
You can tour two single-family homes and two condos on East Bellevue in the following YoChicago videos:
If your Chicago block is a great one, tell us why in a comment and we’ll come out and take a look and possibly feature it here.
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