Dearborn Park provides a link between the hustle and bustle of the central Loop and the quieter, more residential South Loop area. Residents are drawn to the neighborhood's new developments, suburb-like streets, and the accessibility of Chicago treasures like the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Grant Park, Navy Pier, and, of course, beautiful Lake Michigan. Much of Dearborn Park's residences take the form of traditional townhomes or hip, new condo and loft spaces. Because of its great location, prices in Dearborn Park can be up market, but there are plenty of properties in an affordable bracket as well. The community is fairly small which doesn't leave much room for copious restaurants, but there are a few neighborhood haunts where locals can grab a sandwich for lunch or order pizza for dinner. Instead of little storefront shops, Dearborn Parkers head over to the one-stop shopper's favorite: Target.
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Okay, let’s begin at the very, very beginning. Henry Dearborn was Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of War in the early 1800s. Apparently Dearborn made quite an impact during this time period, because in 1803, Fort Dearborn was named after him. Built at the mouth of the Chicago River, the stronghold was designed to protect the trade coming in and out of Chicago. Even though the fort is now gone, Dearborn’s legend lives on. Not only is there a marker placed where the citadel once stood, but a major street and an old train station also bear the Dearborn name in honor of the brave war secretary.
Though Dearborn Park borders downtown, where development is never at a standstill, it is also surrounded on three sides by the South Loop, where development was nearly non-existent until about 40 years ago. Until 1970, the South Loop could count high crime, rundown housing and a lack of development among the many reasons it was an undesirable location to live. But a few keen developers noticed potential in the former railroad land behind the old Dearborn Station on Polk Street. And, after Papa Bear George Halas (the legendary Chicago Bears coach) was finally convinced to give up his chunk of this land, housing development began.
The city saw potential, too, and started making its own purchases to ensure there would still be plenty of green space when all the construction was said and done. Thank goodness for the Chicago Park District’s forward thinking, because now the heart and soul of the neighborhood is Dearborn Park, a one-and-a-quarter-acre section of greenery with countless trees, flowers, and even an obstacle fitness course.
The first of the new residences to pop up during this overdue building boom in Dearborn Park neighborhood was the Dearborn Park residential complex, which included two separate high-rises—one on each side of the neighborhood. Since then, the area has grown to include a variety of different housing options, the park, and even a few schools to accommodate all of the young families moving into the small subdivision tucked within the South Loop community.