North Kenwood Park is a part of Kenwood.
This classy south side Chicago neighborhood is rapidly reviving itself to its former glory. Once coined the “Lake Forest of the South Side,” Kenwood is flanked with landmark buildings and breathtaking homes designed by influential architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright. Kenwood is associated with another name that has gained worldwide recognition in recent years, Barack Obama. He and his family live in the upscale section of the neighborhood where million-dollar properties are the norm. Other areas of Kenwood offer more affordable real estate in the way of condominiums and three-bedroom single-family houses. Along with a growing commercial district, Kenwood has established itself as a center for the arts. A couple design and art galleries are located in the community, supplying residents and other Chicagoans with venues to exhibit their creative talents and educational opportunities to fine tune those artistic skills.
The community of Kenwood, located about six miles south of downtown Chicago, ranks as one the city’s best examples of premier architecture from the earlier part of the 20th century. The old school 'McMansions' of Kenwood give us a glimpse of the neighborhood’s former elite status that flourished in the early 1900s.
The area’s earliest European settler, Dr. John A. Kennicott, constructed a sprawling weekend getaway in 1856 and called it Kenwood—named after his mother’s hometown in Scotland. In 1871, the Chicago Fire further ignited the residential development of the small community as folks moved to the outer reaches of the city for real estate undamaged by the fire’s wrath. Within a few years, super-sized homes were a common fixture in the south side neighborhood. An interesting—and creepy—tidbit of history: infamous murderers Leopold and Loeb, both from affluent families and students of the prestigious University of Chicago, lived in Kenwood, as did their victim Bobby Franks who was killed 1924.
By 1919 Kenwood’s glory days had reached their peak, and the period following saw the area quickly falling into decline as many of the vacated single-family homes were converted to multi-family apartments. Three decades later, Kenwood had evolved from a white-collar neighborhood to a working-class one as it embraced newly arrived immigrants (during the post World War II population surge) and low-income, mainly African American families. It wasn’t until the 1960s, a decade after the birth of the Hyde Parkâ€“Kenwood Community Conference (HPKCC), an organization made up of local residents, that action to save the decaying community took place.
It would take Kenwood another 30 years before the neighborhood witnessed a noticeable shift from the disheartening scene of numerous vacant lots and neglected buildings. Today, Kenwood’s ambitious urban renewal plan is rapidly restoring itself to meet the needs of a new generation of residents made up of working professionals.
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