Welcome to Uptown, Chicago’s entertainment hub and home to nearly 60,000 residents. Nestled along Lake Michigan about six miles north of downtown, Uptown was once dubbed “the Loop’s little brother.” Ever-welcoming, and ever-evolving, the neighborhood is a vibrant, living tapestry—as rich in history as it is in culture. Annexed into Chicago in 1857, Uptown has a colorful history as a nexus for arts and entertainment. The neighborhood’s iconic Prohibition-era venues and ornate architecture are as beloved today as they were in the early decades of the 20th century.

Uptown has long been home to social activists and advocates, immigrants, and refugees and artists and entrepreneurs of every stripe, all of whom have helped shape the area as it is today: a microcosm of Chicago itself—a neighborhood of big shoulders and rich contrasts. Drawn to its ample green space, vast lakefront, historic nightlife, global culinary offerings, and agencies that care for those in need, a new generation of visitors and residents are discovering what long-time Uptowners have always known—Uptown is a community where all belong.

Today, Uptown is one of the most ethnically and economically diverse communities in Chicago, and its mix of locally-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations reflects the neighborhood’s storied history. In this guide, you will see why we are so proud to serve this community. From the tastes of Argyle Street to the lights of Uptown Square to leafy Buena Park, we invite you to explore Uptown.

About Us

As the voice for business and economic development in our neighborhood, Uptown United and Business Partners, The Chamber for Uptown are pleased to provide you with this community guide and business directory. We work closely with Uptown’s businesses, nonprofit organizations, and residents to enhance our vibrant community. We serve the entire Uptown community area from Irving Park Road on the south to Foster Avenue on the north, Lake Michigan on the east and Ravenswood Avenue on the west.

The histories of Uptown and Business Partners, The Chamber for Uptown are inextricably linked. After all, it was one of the Chamber’s founding members who coined “Uptown” as the name for our neighborhood. Since its incorporation in 1923, the Chamber has been serving and promoting Uptown’s rich business districts and connecting local business owners with area residents and visitors. To join Business Partners, visit exploreuptown.org/join.

Our organizations share a mission to build a strong, unified business environment; facilitate economic development; and strengthen community—all to nurture a diverse, vibrant, thriving, and strong Uptown. Business Partners, The Chamber for Uptown is one of Chicago’s oldest chambers of commerce. While the Chamber is a membership organization with a focus on business development and promotion, the organization Uptown United assists local businesses, investors, and community organizations in addressing broad issues pertaining to quality of life for Uptown’s diverse population. Together we provide a strong support system for Uptown’s businesses and create a sense of place for those who call Uptown home.

If you have additional questions, be sure to visit our website at exploreuptown.org, call us at 773.878.1184, or send us a note at info@exploreuptown.org


This guide would not have been possible without the help of those who shared their time and knowledge of Uptown’s rich history: Gary Keller, Andy Pierce, Dave Syfczak, Vitaliy Vladimirov, and Al Walavich. We would also like to thank photographers Mike Rivera (mikeriveraphoto.com), Timmy Samuel (starbellystudios.com), Dave Suarez (davesuarez.com), and Zach Mortice (zachmortice.com).

Cultural History

Uptown is a vibrant neighborhood with a unique history. It has played many roles: a shopping, entertainment, and dining destination for the city’s elite; a port of entry for immigrants; a caring place where neighbors find a guiding hand; and a home to generations of visual and performing artists. Its residents are proud to call Uptown home and passionately support its broad range of businesses, social service agencies, and arts organizations. Uptown is fortunate to have several active block clubs, thriving community gardens, a stunning collection of public art, and an extensive network of parks and unique outdoor spaces.

In its early days, German and Swedish farmers populated the area. It soon attracted the attention of developers who, by 1890, had turned what we know today as Gordon Terrace and Hutchinson Street into a suburban refuge for wealthy Chicagoans. Hutchinson Street’s historic homes still preserve the luxurious charm of those early days.

Uptown saw a surge of development in the early 20th century when the Northwestern Elevated Railway Company and the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Rail Line were extended to Bryn Mawr, allowing suburbanites and servicemen stationed at Fort Sheridan and Great Lakes Naval Base easier access to the big city. Land speculator John Lewis Cochran had influenced the railroad companies so that their tracks would be laid near his developments. These routes made Uptown one of Chicago’s most populous residential centers.

Additional commercial and residential development soon followed. In 1915, Loren Miller opened a branch of his Loren Miller & Company department store (later Goldblatt’s) on Broadway south of Lawrence. He named it the “Uptown Store” to differentiate it from its downtown counterpart. In typical booster fashion, Miller convinced city officials to recognize the Lawrence and Broadway intersection as Uptown Square, thus giving the neighborhood its name. Miller, alongside other local business owners incorporated the Central Improvement Association in 1923, which became Business Partners, The Chamber for Uptown in 2005.

By the 1920s, Uptown was a shopping and entertainment destination. From 1907 to 1917, Essanay Studios made Uptown the heart of the American film industry. Later, hotels were built to accommodate an influx of visitors and new residents: the Sheridan Plaza, the Lawrence House Hotel, and the since-demolished Edgewater Beach Hotel, among many others. The Riviera Theatre, the Uptown Theatre and the Aragon Ballroom drew huge crowds. Luxury apartment buildings were built along Winthrop and Kenmore Avenues. Thousands of worshipers flocked to the People’s Church on Lawrence and tuned their radios to hear the renowned Unitarian minister, Preston Bradley.

As with many urban communities, the Great Depression, World War II, booming suburban development, and white flight all changed the neighborhood. Many building owners converted large apartment units into smaller ones. Previously luxurious hotels were turned into single-room-occupancy units for those with scarce financial resources. Due to its affordable housing and transit access, Uptown became an appealing option for recent immigrants and Chicago’s poor. But even during the hard times, major companies and institutions such as Combined Insurance (later Aon Insurance), Kemper Insurance, Thorek and Weiss Hospitals, and Uptown National Bank (now Bridgeview Bank) kept their base of operations in the neighborhood.

The 1940s and 1950s saw an influx of new immigrants to the community: migrant Appalachian Americans from the South, Native Americans from the Midwest, and Japanese Americans returning from internment camps. Many social service agencies opened to meet their needs. As these populations settled into the city and moved up the social ladder, a newer mix of immigrants from East and West Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America replaced them. Thus, today, Uptown remains one of the city’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, and it still welcomes immigrants and refugees from across the globe.

The slow but steady rehabilitation of Uptown began with many urban renewal projects, such as Harry S Truman College in the mid-1970s and the recognition of Buena Park as a historic district in the mid-1980s. Later, Castlewood Terrace, Argyle Street, and Sheridan Park, along with many of Uptown’s outstanding landmarks, were added to the National Register of Historic Places. Neglected rental apartments were rehabbed or converted, new construction replaced abandoned buildings and vacant lots, and established institutions like Bridgeview Bank, Weiss Memorial Hospital and, more recently, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, expanded or built facilities in the area. Wilson Yards, the retail and housing complex anchored by Target, replaced underused CTA tracks and many key historic structures were beautifully restored.

Restoration continues in Uptown with the renovation of the CTA Wilson Station and the historic Gerber Building, plus restorations at Somerset Place Apartments, the Lawrence House, and many other historic buildings. In 2016, Argyle Street from Broadway to Sheridan Road became the first “shared street” in Chicago. Using brick pavers and eliminating curbs, the innovative design is perfect for hosting events like the Lunar New Year Parade and the popular Argyle Night Market.

The intersection of Lawrence Avenue and Broadway was renovated in 2017 with new sidewalks, decorative street lights, and a new plaza near the Riviera Theatre. In the coming years, the Chicago Transit Authority plans to completely rebuild the Lawrence and Argyle CTA stations and over a mile of 100-year-old tracks and viaducts.

Entertainment Jewels

Many Chicago neighborhoods have lost their movie palaces, theaters, and ballrooms to the wrecking ball. Uptown suffered some losses, but the crown jewels of its entertainment district still stand. Some bring joy to thousands, while others are waiting to be reborn.

The Uptown Theatre
4816 N Broadway

Designed by C.W. and Geo. L. Rapp for the Balaban and Katz Theatre Corporation of Chicago, the Uptown Theatre was designed to echo the style of an old Spanish castle. Opened in 1925, it was Balaban & Katz’ largest, most extravagant movie palace, covering almost a city block and featuring amenities such as air conditioning, cosmetic rooms, lounges, and even a children’s playroom. It also had the most expensive Wurlitzer organ built at the time and was billed as “An Acre of Seats in a Magic City.”

After declining for many years, it was left unheated in 1980, which caused pipes to burst, and made the building unusable without significant restoration. To block possible demolition, the City of Chicago landmarked its interior and exterior in 1991. Since 1998, the volunteer-run Friends of The Uptown Theatre have taken many steps to rehab and stabilize the structure. JAM Productions purchased the theater in 2008. It is estimated that full restoration of the Uptown will cost upwards of $70-$100 million.

Riviera Theatre
4746 N Racine Ave

Also designed by Rapp and Rapp, the Riviera was built in 1917 and originally seated more than 2,500 people. Built in the style of French Renaissance Revival architecture, the Riviera featured movies accompanied by an orchestra as well as high-caliber musical acts. Since the mid-1980s it has been used primarily as a concert venue. In 2006 JAM Productions purchased The Riviera Theatre.

Aragon Ballroom
1106 W Lawrence Ave

Built by brothers William and Andrew Karzas in 1926, the Aragon Ballroom features lavish Moorish terra cotta ornament inside and out. Its massive dance floor sits on springs to accommodate over a thousand dancers. In 1973, under the ownership of Latino promoters Willy Miranda and José Palomar, the Aragon began to recapture its earlier glory as the new owners worked to restore it while hosting rock and Latin concerts. Live Nation is the current owner and continues to invest in the building. The Aragon remains one of Chicago’s top music venues.

Wilson Avenue Theatre
1050 W Wilson Ave

Opened as a vaudeville theater in 1909, the Wilson Avenue Theatre was converted into a bank in 1919 and served as such until 2011. It was recently acquired by developer Cedar Street Companies who is seeking to secure a creative tenant for the building. In the meantime, Cedar Street has partnered with local arts organizations like Pivot Arts to activate the space.

Lakeside Theatre
4730 N Sheridan Rd

This vaudeville theater opened in 1915 and offered programming specifically for Uptown’s many single working women—the era’s flappers. The theater closed in 1966 and was bought by Columbia College for its Dance Center. In 2000 the space was taken over by Alternatives, Inc., a 30-year-old youth development organization.

Essanay Studios
1333 W Argyle St

Hollywood may be known as the “dream factory,” but once, some of those dreams were being filmed right here in Chicago. Uptown served as a back lot and production center for Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, founded by early film pioneers George K. Spoor and Gilbert “Broncho Billy” Anderson.

Essanay’s stable of actors included Gloria Swanson and in 1914, Essanay landed the biggest name of them all: Charlie Chaplin, who signed for the then-record salary of $1,250 per week. Chaplin, though, only shot one movie here. After Chaplin starred in “His New Job” in 1925, much of the film industry moved west. Essanay closed its doors in 1917. Today, the building houses the bilingual St. Augustine College. The site was designated a Chicago landmark in 1996 and St. Augustine continues to care for the site and its history.

Uptown’s Theater Tradition Thrives

Complementing its rich theater history, the neighborhood has seen the rise of many new theater groups, each with their own distinct mission and style.

Black Ensemble Theater
4450 N Clark St

Founded in 1976 by actress, producer and playwright Jackie Taylor, the Black Ensemble Theater has grown from a small community arts organization to a vibrant nationally and internationally renowned arts institution. A leader and innovator in the African-American and mainstream arts communities, Black Ensemble Theater is recognized as one of the most diverse theaters in the country, producing excellent musical theater. The Black Ensemble Theater exists to eradicate racism and its damaging effects upon our society through the theater arts.

Pride Films and Plays at the Pride Arts Center
4147 N Broadway

Pride Films and Plays in Uptown’s Buena Park creates diverse new work and presents Chicago premieres with LGBTQ+ characters or themes. Pride Films and Plays is the primary tenant in the Pride Arts Center, which connects and promotes other artists who possess the shared value of creating a safe environment for all. The Pride Arts Center books one-night events or limited runs of cabaret, film, dance, comedy and other performances.

Uptown Underground
4707 N Broadway

Descend the stairs below Broadway to the speakeasy cabaret that specializes in “Top Shelf Retrotainment.” Featuring performances from Chicago’s best in cabaret, burlesque, magic and variety entertainers, Uptown Underground offers nightly performances. While catching the show, enjoy cocktails from their full-service bar of local and regional craft spirits, beer, and wine.

Getting To Know Uptown

Uptown is large enough that it is home to several distinct areas—each with its own history, flavor, and character. And even though boundaries vary depending on who you ask, added together they make Uptown a vibrant “city within a city.”

Asia On Argyle

The blocks around the Argyle “L” station are a distinct district within Uptown, brimming with character and history. Once a Jewish community, Chinese entrepreneurs in the 1970s, as well as refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia following the 1975 Fall of Saigon, transformed the area by opening restaurants, bakeries, pharmacies, and social service agencies.

Today, Asian-American entrepreneurs continue to be drawn here, with a spate of recent eateries and cafés that opened around the “L” station. Long-standing businesses still thrive, and several have been passed onto second-generation owners. Plus, the new shared-street design allows businesses to open sidewalk cafés and provides more space for hosting street festivals like Argyle Night Market, which draws more than 40,000 annual attendees and occurs every Thursday evening in July and August.

Buena Park

Tucked between Lake Michigan and Graceland Cemetery, Buena Park is a tight-knit community and nationally recognized historic district. Popular for its many tree-lined blocks and Prairie-style historic mansions, Buena Park faces Montrose Beach and Harbor—both popular destinations for tens of thousands of Chicagoans.

Founded as a bucolic retreat from urban life in the 1860s, by the 1930s Buena Park took on its current densely settled character, largely thanks to the construction of the “L.” Despite the more recent construction of many high-rise buildings, the area retains much of its historic charm, particularly in the landmarked Hutchinson Street area. The rest of the neighborhood is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Margate Park, Lakeside, Clarendon Park, and The Lakefront

Facing Lake Michigan, the Margate Park, Lakeside, and Clarendon Park areas are known for their many lakefront amenities and a concentration of residential high-rises alongside historic residential buildings. In warm months, thousands pack Montrose Beach and Harbor daily. Montrose Beach features food concessions, kayak, and volleyball rentals, as well as showers, restrooms, and an ADA-accessible beach walk. Patrons can park at pay-and-display lots or take advantage of street parking. A busy dog-friendly beach is located at the north end of Montrose Beach. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary is a spot birdwatchers from near and far gather to see over 340 species.

The Clarendon Park Fieldhouse is home to the Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club and features The Garfield Central, a model railroad with over 1,400 feet of hand-laid track. The fieldhouse is also home to Kuumba Lynx, a 20-year-old urban art youth development organization that presents, preserves, and promotes hip hop as a tool to reimagine and demonstrate a more just world.

Sheridan Park

Centered along Wilson Avenue west of Broadway and known for its historic homes and many small businesses, Uptown’s Sheridan Park district is adjacent to Truman College and its 23,000 faculty and students, plus large-scale events such as Chicago’s Pride Parade and the Windy City RibFest.

In 1985, the Sheridan Park Historic District was established to protect the unique single family and smaller multi-family architecture of the area. Many of the large single-family homes and apartment buildings along Dover Street date to the early 1900s. In 2007, Dover Street was established as a city landmark district.

Uptown Square

Uptown’s long and colorful history as an entertainment destination is centered at the intersection of Broadway and Lawrence. Today Uptown remains packed with venues big and small, including the Aragon Ballroom, Riviera Theater, Uptown Underground, and Uptown Lounge, which draw large audiences year-round—adding up to more than 240,000 annual attendees. Meanwhile, the Green Mill remains one of the nation’s premier jazz clubs. Recent developments and new businesses only reinforce the area’s standing as a regional entertainment destination.

Andersonville & East Ravenswood

Andersonville is well known as a destination for shopping and eating, but less known is that its southern half extends into Uptown as the blocks along Clark Street south of Foster Avenue lay within the Uptown community area. This commercial corridor is known for its Swedish heritage and a concentration of locally owned restaurants and shops.

Uptown’s western-most district is primarily a residential community filled with vintage homes and apartment buildings. It also includes some industry along Ravenswood Avenue. Clark Street is known for its eclectic shops, restaurants, and the renowned Black Ensemble Theater. Lawrence Avenue and Montrose Avenue have clusters of local restaurants and shops, especially near the Montrose “L” station and Ravenswood Metra station.

Historic Landmark Districts

Uptown Square

In addition to being the entertainment hub of the neighborhood, Uptown Square was designated a historic landmark district by the City of Chicago in 2016. This district encompasses many of Uptown’s crown jewels: the Preston Bradley Center, Lawrence House, the Aragon Ballroom, the Bridgeview Bank Building, the Green Mill, the Riviera Theatre, the Uptown Broadway Building, the Wilson Avenue Theatre, the McJunkin Building, the historic Wilson Station’s Gerber Building, the Uptown Theatre, and much more.

Castlewood Terrace District

Located north of Lawrence Avenue between the Lakefront and Sheridan Road, Castlewood Terrace features many distinguished Arts and Crafts and Historic Revival homes. Chicago historian Studs Terkel lived on Castlewood for many years.

Dover Street District

Designated in 2007, the Dover Street district is the result of years of community organizing. Originally conceived at the turn of the century to take advantage of the newly-built commuter train service (Northwestern Elevated Railroad; now the CTA Red Line), this collection of residential buildings is noted for its architecture, building materials, and craftsmanship.

Graceland Cemetery

Graceland Cemetery is a serene yet vibrant park-like cemetery that opened in 1860. Located east of Clark Street between Montrose Avenue and Irving Park Road, Graceland Cemetery is the final resting place to many prominent Chicago figures, including The Palmers, Marshall Field, George Pullman, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Daniel Burnham, and Louis Sullivan. Graceland both serves as a glimpse into the past and a beautiful place for the future. Even with over 150 years of history, Graceland Cemetery is still an active cemetery and arboretum.

Hutchinson Street District

Hutchinson is recognized as containing “one of the city’s best collections of Prairie-style residences” designed by noted architect George W. Maher. The district includes Prairie-style designs and other historical styles such as Classical Revival, Queen Anne, and Richardsonian Romanesque, providing a perspective on the changes that took place in residential architecture between 1890 and 1920.


Community Events

Uptown United, Business Partners, and many other local organizations host public events that enliven Uptown throughout the year. Visit exploreuptown.org for a full listing of neighborhood events.

Lunar New Year Parade

The annual Argyle Lunar New Year Parade is a decades-old local tradition that features a processional of local groups and floats starting at the Argyle “L” stop—all to celebrate the start of the new Lunar Year! Come for music, lion dances, and other celebrations of local Asian cultures.

Uptown Saturday Nights
Various Saturday nights from late spring to early fall

Uptown Saturday Nights showcases the Uptown Entertainment District with free performances on Saturdays. This seasonal event brings free entertainment to multiple venues and cultural hotspots around the neighborhood.

Chicago Pride Parade
Last Sunday in June

Each year, the annual Chicago Pride Parade kicks-off in Uptown! Look for rainbow “Uptown Proud” flags in Uptown businesses all month long, and be sure to check exploreuptown.org for ways to redeem your pride flag for perks and discounts at local businesses. For more information on the parade, visit chicagopridecalendar.org

Windy City RibFest
Late June/Early July

The Windy City RibFest features top local and national “ribbers” and brings in over 25,000 attendees each year. The fest also offers a lineup of musical acts featuring local and national rock/pop, classic, indie, and tribute bands. Ample stage time is reserved for Chicago-based artists, while specialty performers rove throughout the festival grounds.

Argyle Night Market
Thursday evenings in July and August

The popular Argyle Night Market features food from local restaurants plus live cultural and musical performances. This free event draws more than 3,000 people each week and continues to grow in popularity. Part market, part street festival, this vibrant and award-winning event is located on the city’s first and only shared street.

Taste of Uptown
Early Fall

The Taste of Uptown is the neighborhood’s restaurant stroll event. It is designed to showcase and support the diverse mix of locally owned restaurants. Guests are taken on a global, culinary adventure as they taste delicious samples from Uptown eateries.

Casino Uptown

Casino Uptown features a variety of casino games, food from Uptown restaurants, libations, prizes, and live jazz performances—all at the historic Aragon Ballroom. This annual fundraiser benefits Uptown United and Business Partners, The Chamber for Uptown.

Winter Walk on Wilson
Early December

This free event invites guests to stroll along Wilson Avenue during the holidays to get to know the business community. Each business provides some type of holiday treat, menu sample, or activity for the public to enjoy. In addition, several musicians can be heard spreading holiday cheer as they stroll through the neighborhood.

Uptown Walking Tours

Explore Uptown’s many landmarks and rich history through the free seasonal Uptown walking tours. These hour-long tours are led by knowledgeable local docents from Choose Chicago’s Greeter Program.

Other Community Events
Uptown United sponsors summertime outdoor movies and live music in parks and public areas throughout the Uptown neighborhood. As the weather cools, community events include Halloween events and holiday pop-up markets. Visit exploreuptown.org for all current event information.

Business Events
Uptown United and Business Partners, The Chamber for Uptown regularly host events geared towards resourcing and supporting neighborhood businesses and organizations. Visit exploreuptown.org to learn about upcoming business events.

State of Uptown
The annual State of Uptown luncheon gathers Uptown’s business, development, and nonprofit community to hear from city officials about how their work impacts our community.

Member Mixers
These regular networking events build community among Uptown businesses and nonprofits, strengthening Uptown’s local economy by facilitating strategic partnerships. Mixers are typically held in new or re-imagined businesses and feature local food and beverages.

Speed Networking
The Northside Networking Group is a partnership of five neighborhood economic development agencies from Uptown, Andersonville, Edgewater, Rogers Park and West Ridge. The group coordinates and hosts five lunchtime speed networking events in each neighborhood throughout the year.

Seminars & Workshops
Business Partners and Uptown United regularly host educational events for local businesses and nonprofit organizations. Topics range from tourism and marketing to commercial leasing and business financing.