History of Lakeview

History of Lakeview

“This is a delightful spot, and one to which our citizens have flocked in large numbers since its first opening,” the Chicago Daily Tribune wrote in 1854.

The delightful spot was the Lake View House, the breezy resort that gave Lakeview its name. The resort is long gone, but the visitors stayed. Chicagoans in the 19th century poured north into Lakeview, an agricultural region known as America’s celery capital. The newcomers turned truck farms into suburban subdivisions, incorporating as a city in 1887. Lakeview couldn’t make it on its own, and voted to join Chicago after two years of independence. The voters were “fools,” Lakeview’s mayor said, but it was done.

Lakeview grew into a prosperous industrial neighborhood, with factories on Diversey Parkway and along the railroad that ran down Lakewood Avenue (you can still see traces of tracks). A few old businesses survive. Monastery Hill Bindery, founded by a German immigrant before the Fire, along with Dinkel’s Bakery, are some of the reminders of Lakeview’s German community. One of Lakeview’s last manufacturers is Torstenson Glass, a 19th century business located near Belmont and Sheffield, in the heart of the old Swedish enclave where Ann Sather Restaurant stands.

By the 1970s, Lakeview boasted an unusual and shifting population. Old families of German and Swedish stock were joined by American Indians, Southerners, Hispanics, gays, hippies and Japanese Americans. Restaurants like Zum Deutschen Eck co-existed with hillbilly joints, folk bars, taquerias and drag queens. Somehow it all worked.

Lakeview started switching names regularly, a sure sign gentrification was coming. New Town, Wrigleyville, Boystown, Belmont Harbor, Graceland West: Some labels stuck and some didn’t. Lakeview grew into the neighborhood it is today, a fashionable urban locale with a deep history and a future yet to be written.

This brief history of Lake View is based on the book “Lake View,” by Matthew Nickerson. His new book, “East Lake View,” was published in 2017. Email him at mnickerson@outlook.com to buy an autographed copy. Books also are available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.