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Near North Side, Chicago facts for kids

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Near North Side
Community area
Community Area 08 - Near North Side
Near North Side Skyline
Near North Side Skyline
Location within the city of Chicago
Location within the city of Chicago
Country United States
State Illinois
County Cook
City Chicago
 • Total 2.72 sq mi (7.04 km2)
587 ft (179 m)
 • Total 105,481
 • Density 38,806/sq mi (14,983/km2)
  population up 44.9% from 2000
Demographics 2019
 • White 70.1%
 • Black 8.2%
 • Hispanic 5.6%
 • Asian 13.4%
 • Other 2.7%
Educational Attainment 2019
 • High School Diploma or Higher 98.2%
 • Bachelor's Degree or Higher 81.6%
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
60611, most of 60610, and parts of 60654 and 60642
Median household income $106,026
Source: U.S. Census, Record Information Services

The Near North Side is the eighth of Chicago's 77 community areas. It is the northernmost of the three areas that constitute central Chicago, the others being the Loop and the Near South Side. The community area is located north and east of the Chicago River. To its east is Lake Michigan, and its northern boundary is the early 19th-century city limit of Chicago, North Avenue. In 2020 the Near North Side had 105,481 residents, surpassing Lake View as the largest Chicago community area by population. It is also the most densely populated community area and has the second most skyscrapers, after the Loop. With the exception of Goose Island (which is undergoing development with upscale residences), the Near North Side is known for its extreme affluence, typified by the Gold Coast, Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, and its world-famous skyscrapers.

The Near North Side is the oldest part of Chicago. In the 1780s, in what is now the Near North Side, on the northern banks of the Chicago River near today's Michigan Avenue Bridge, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable built the first known permanent settlement in what was called "Eschecagou." Today, this is marked by Pioneer Court.

Especially in the vicinity of Rush and Erie streets, the Near North Side was once known as McCormickville; so named because it is here where many branches of the famous McCormick family of mechanical reaper fame built their mansions in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1930 79,554
1940 76,954 −3.3%
1950 89,196 15.9%
1960 75,509 −15.3%
1970 70,329 −6.9%
1980 67,167 −4.5%
1990 62,842 −6.4%
2000 72,903 16.0%
2010 80,484 10.4%
2015 (est.) 85,711 6.5%

Gold Coast

The Gold Coast consists mostly of high-rise apartment buildings and stone mansions throughout. As with many neighborhoods, its exact borders are subject to dispute; but, generally, they are North Avenue, to the north, Chicago Avenue, to the south, and Clark Street, to the west.

The Gold Coast became the home of the super-rich in 1885, when Potter Palmer, former dry goods merchant and owner of the Palmer House hotel, built a fanciful castle on Lake Shore Drive. Over the next few decades, Chicago's elite gradually migrated from Prairie Avenue to their new homes north of the Loop.

Along almost every boulevard of the Gold Coast, upscale boutiques and shops have opened up. Giorgio Armani, Barney's, Brioni, Brunello Cucinelli, Bulgari, Tory Burch, Cartier SA, Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Escada, Tom Ford, Gucci, Hermès, Lanvin, Christian Louboutin, Marc Jacobs, Max Mara, Moncler, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Paul Stuart, Van Cleef & Arpels, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Vera Wang, and Harry Winston are just a few of the dozens of designers that have locations in the exclusive neighborhood. Also, Aston Martin, BMW, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Maserati, Rolls-Royce, and Tesla all have dealerships in the Gold Coast.

Many of Chicago's best known restaurants are located here as well. Carmine's, Gibson's, Hugo's Frog Bar, Lou Malnati's Pizzeria, Maple & Ash, the original Morton's, Nico Osteria, the Pump Room, Spiaggia, and Table Fifty-Two are in the area.

The "Gold Coast Historic District" was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 30, 1978.

The Gold Coast is zoned to the following Chicago Public Schools schools: Ogden School, and Lincoln Park High School. The prestigious Latin School, is located in the neighborhood as well.

Old Town

Old Town is a Chicago neighborhood bounded by North Avenue on the north, Larrabee Street on the northwest, Division Street on the south, Clybourn Avenue on the southwest, and LaSalle Street on the east. It crosses portions of the community areas of southern Lincoln Park, as well as the northern Near North Side, and is part of Chicago's 43rd ward. Old Town includes the Old Town Triangle Historic District which is bounded on its northwest side by the former Ogden Avenue right-of-way, its northeast side by Lincoln Avenue and Wells Street, and on its south side by North Avenue. This historic district sits within the Old Town Triangle Association (OTTA), a Lincoln Park neighborhood bounded by the former Ogden Avenue right-of-way, Clark Street, and North Avenue. It sits inside the community area of Lincoln Park and is part of Chicago's 43rd ward. Old Town north of North Avenue is in Lincoln Park, and south of North Avenue is part of the Near North Side. It is now an affluent gentrified neighborhood. Old Town south of North Avenue has become a mixture of rich and poor with new luxury homes near the remaining CHA Marshall Field Apartments and many planned new developments slated for the area which formerly housed the now demolished public housing projects (of Cabrini–Green) in this recently gentrified area of the neighborhood.

Old Town is now considered an affluent and historic neighborhood, home to many of Chicago's older Victorian-era buildings. However, in the 1950s, most of this area was an enclave to the first emigrants from Puerto Rico to Chicago, who referred to it as part of "La Clark" until commercialization decorated late 1960s shop signs with the name of Old Town. The neighborhood is home to St. Michael's Church, originally built to serve German immigrants, and one of only 7 to survive the great Chicago fire. St. Michael's, Holy Name Cathedral, Immaculate Conception, and St. Joseph's Catholic churches all catered to Latinos with a Mass in Spanish.

Many of the streets and alleys, particularly in the Old Town Triangle section, predate the Great Chicago Fire and do not all adhere to the typical Chicago grid pattern. In 1927, sculptors Sol Kogen and Edgar Miller purchased and subsequently rehabilitated a house on Burton Place, near Wells Street, into the Carl Street Studios. Through the 1930s, an art colony emerged in the neighborhood as artists moved from the Towertown neighborhood near Washington Square Park.

Old Town was home to many gays and lesbians from the 1950s through the 1980s. This was the first "gay ghetto" in Chicago, predating the current Lake View neighborhood. There were numerous gay bars, now mostly closed, along Wells Street, and the neighborhood is still home to the longstanding Bijou Theater. As the area gentrified, the LGBT population moved north to Lincoln Park and to the Lake View and Andersonville neighborhoods.

The neighborhood is home to The Second City improvisational comedy troupe.

Old Town has one Brown and Purple Line "L" station at Sedgwick. It is one of the oldest stations on the "L".

Goose Island

Goose Island is the only island on the Chicago River. It is separated from the mainland by the North Branch of the Chicago River on the west and by the North Branch Canal on the east. The canal was dug in 1853 by former Chicago mayor William Butler Ogden for industrial purposes, thus forming the island. Because he formed the island, at times, it has been known as William B. Ogden Island. After Irish immigrants moved to the island, it took on the name Goose Island as well as that of Kilgubbin, which was the immigrants' original home in Ireland. The Goose Island Brewery makes Kilgubbin Red Ale, in honor of this name.

The large facility on the north end of the island (visible from North Avenue, but only reachable from the south: Division Street to North Branch to 1132 W. Blackhawk) is the Wrigley Global Innovation Center, a 193,000-square-foot (17,900 m2) facility, which opened in September 2005 and was designed by Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum.

On the south end of the island is Kendall College's Riverworks campus.

River North

The former Chicago Sun-Times Building (site of current Trump International Hotel and Tower), Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower

River North is a dynamic and growing technology-driven neighborhood known for its fine dining, galleries, nightlife, and riverwalk amenities. It is home to the world headquarters of ConAgra, Groupon, Motorola Mobility, and the regional offices of Google, and Yelp. It is bounded by Michigan Avenue to the east, Chicago Avenue to the north, and the Chicago River to the south and west. Its famous structures include the Wrigley Building, Trump International Hotel & Tower, Holy Name Cathedral, the Marina City towers, and the House of Blues.

Smokey Hollow

River North was previously named Smokey Hollow, at the turn of the 20th century, due to the many factories and forges in the area. Smoke from the factories was often so thick that it blocked the sunlight. At the time, Smokey Hollow was a major transportation hub, with railroad tracks linking the ports along the Chicago River to the surrounding areas. The now mixed-use Merchandise Mart was once a major storage warehouse for goods, and it still has railroad tracks underneath its sprawling structure. Former major retailer Montgomery Ward also had a major transportation and storage facility in River North. Massive coal bins were formerly located throughout the neighborhood, for storage of coal transported by ship.

Little Sicily

Little Sicily in Chicago was also located in River North. The first Italian Roman Catholic Church in Chicago was Assumption, on Illinois Street, with a mandate to be the parish church for all Italians from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. Later, Sicilians began to move north from the immediate vicinity of Assumption and began to form their own parishes. Italians whose family roots were from other parts of Italy tended to move west along Grand Street and form parishes west of Assumption.


The Near North Side formerly included the now nearly demolished Cabrini–Green, which was a public housing project that became a haven for crime, gangs, violence, synonymous with poverty, and which once housed 15,000 federally subsidized (mostly African-American) tenants. A small fragment of it is still located within the Near North Side, but most of the project was demolished between 1997 and 2010. It was made up primarily of mid- and high-rise apartment buildings. The apartment buildings opened in 1958 and 1962, while the shuttered rowhouses (called the Frances Cabrini Homes, a few of which still exist) had opened in 1942. Cabrini–Green stood in what once was the former Italian enclave called the Little Sicily neighborhood, and the former site of St Dominic's Church. In the 1920s, Little Sicily also developed a reputation for poverty and crime. As gentrification began to take hold in the 1990s, the buildings made way for new development. The final Cabrini-Green tower was demolished in 2011. Following the conclusion of a long-standing civil lawsuit, this Near North Side area is now in the process of being transformed and revitalized by urban redevelopment spurred by the growth of Old Town to the north and River North to the south.

Present name

The River North neighborhood got its name from Chicago real estate developer Albert Friedman (chief executive of Friedman Properties Ltd.), who in 1974 started to buy, restore, and build commercial property in the southeast sector. Much of the area was a shabby urban neighborhood. In an effort to attract tenants Friedman began calling the area "River North". Within a few years, Friedman found photographers, ad agencies, and art galleries willing to rent the low-cost space and to coalesce into what is now the The River North Gallery District, which has the largest concentration of art galleries in the United States outside of Manhattan. Along with hundreds of art galleries, the area has many taverns, rooftop bars, dance clubs, popular restaurants, and entertainment venues. Between the years 2000 and 2010, the population in the four census tracts covering River North increased by an average of nearly 82%, boosting population from 9,835 in 2000 to 17,892 in 2010.

Districts of River North include:

  • the gallery district, primarily along Superior and Huron streets between Wells and Orleans;
  • a theme-restaurant area with many tourist-oriented restaurants, surrounding Clark and Ontario;
  • the cathedral district, an area with many new residential skyscrapers surrounding Holy Name Cathedral (Catholic) and St. James Cathedral (Episcopal), which are located near State and Superior, and Huron and Wabash, respectively;
  • a design district, with shops and showrooms selling commercial and luxury interior furnishings, in the blocks north of the Merchandise Mart;
  • and Kingsbury Park, an area of newly built residential high-rises surrounding Montgomery Ward Park, at Erie Street and the Chicago River.

River North is serviced by four "L" train stations: the above-ground Chicago-Brown and Merchandise Mart-Brown stations and the below-ground Chicago-Red and Grand-Red subway stations.


20090524 Buildings along Chicago River line the south border of the Near North Side and Streeterville and the north border of Chicago Loop, Lakeshore East and Illinois Center
Chicago River is the south border (right) of the Near North Side and Streeterville and the north border (left) of Chicago Loop, Lakeshore East and Illinois Center (from Lake Shore Drive's Link Bridge with Trump International Hotel and Tower at jog in the river in the center)

Streeterville is the easternmost neighborhood in Chicago north of the Chicago River. It is bounded by the river on the south, Michigan Avenue on the west, and Lake Michigan on the north and east.

Streeterville houses some of Chicago's tallest skyscrapers (such as the John Hancock Center); many upscale stores, hotels, restaurants; and Northwestern University's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Feinberg School of Medicine, School of Continuing Studies, Kellogg School of Management's downtown campus, and School of Law. The Magnificent Mile portion of Michigan Avenue is part of Streeterville, as is the number one tourist attraction in Chicago, Navy Pier. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago is also located here.

Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile is a stretch of North Michigan Avenue between the Chicago River and Oak Street, in Streeterville. Although actually about three-quarters of a mile, the name "Magnificent Mile" has stuck.

Along this street is a mixture of luxury stores, restaurants, office buildings, and hotels. The area has a high concentration of the city's major media firms and advertising agencies, including the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

The street is the home of Chicago's famous Water Tower landmark, Water Tower Park with its historic clock, and the eight-level Water Tower Place shopping center which grew up next door to, and overshadowed, the comparatively diminutive landmark. The shopping center is anchored by Macy's North Michigan store and The American Girl specialty store. North of the shopping center can be found the famous John Hancock Center, the Art Deco Palmolive Building, and the lavish Drake Hotel.






  • Chicago Shakespeare Theater
  • IO Theater
  • Lookingglass Theatre Company
  • The Second City

Diplomatic missions

Several consulates are located on the Near North Side. The main building and visa office of the Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China are here. Other countries with missions here include Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Greece, India, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine.

Three trade missions have offices at 500 North Michigan Avenue: the Austrian Trade Commission is located in Suite 1950, the Italian-American Chamber of Commerce Midwest is located in Suite 506, and the Trade Commission of Spain is here.


Wrigley Building - Chicago, Illinois
Wrigley Building, the former headquarters of the Wrigley Company

Google's Chicago offices are in the Dearborn Plaza building. Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have offices in the John Hancock Center. The Wrigley Company had its headquarters in the Wrigley Building before moving to Goose Island, also within the community area, in 2012.

After American Airlines acquired Simmons Airlines, and before Simmons was dissolved, Simmons had its headquarters on the Near North Side. At one point Indigo Airlines was headquartered on the Near North Side. The Tribune Company had its headquarters in the eponymous Tribune Tower before moving to One Prudential Plaza in the Loop in 2017. Potbelly Sandwich Works likewise was located in the Merchandise Mart complex before moving to the West Loop in 2015.


Colleges and universities

  • Northwestern University School of Law
  • Northwestern University Medical School
  • Loyola University Chicago School of Law
  • Loyola University Chicago Graduate School of Business, School of Social Work, Institute of Pastoral Studies, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and School of Communication
  • Kendall College
  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  • University of Chicago's Booth School of Business Gleacher Center
  • Erikson Institute
  • Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago
  • Moody Bible Institute
  • Old Town School of Folk Music

Primary and secondary schools

Chicago Public Schools serves residents of the Near North Side.

  • Zoned elementary schools include Ogden International School (Jenner School has merged into Ogden)
  • Some students are zoned to Wells Community Academy High School while others are zoned to Lincoln Park High School

Magnet schools:

  • Walter Payton College Prep

Charter schools:

  • Noble Academy

Private schools:

Adult education

Feltre School


Newberry Library

Chicago Public Library Near North Branch

Chicago Public Library Water Works Branch

Notable residents

  • Conor Allen, AHL player with the Rochester Americans. He was raised in Old Town.
  • Henry A. Courtney Jr. (1916–1945), officer of the United States Marine Corps Reserve and a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor. He resided at 30 West Chicago Avenue while studying at Loyola University's School of Law.
  • Mitch Glasser (born 1989), Israeli-American baseball player
  • Nellie Grant (1855–1922), daughter of President Ulysses S. Grant. At the time of her death, she resided at 1130 North Lake Shore Drive with her husband Frank Hatch Jones.
  • Dwight H. Green (1897–1958), 30th Governor of Illinois (1941–1949). He resided at 1360 North Lake Shore Drive at the time of his death.
  • Robert Halperin (1908–1985), athlete and businessman who founded Lands' End. He resided on the Near North Side.
  • Suzanne Le Mignot, television news anchor and reporter.
  • Polo G (born 1999), rapper.
  • Gene Siskel (1946–1999), film critic. He resided at 1301 N. Astor St.
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