South Loop is a part of Near South Side.
A dynamic mix of history and innovation, Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood has flourished from a once booming commercial sector into one of the city’s hottest residential areas. Much of the area’s eastern edge encompassed by the Museum Campus, home to an impressive collection of cultural institutions including the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium. Sitting along the scenic lakefront, the parkland area located around the Campus is an extension of another one of the South Loop’s amazing spaces—Grant Park. Known as “Chicago’s front yard” locally, Grant Park boasts 319 acres of green space and is host to many of the city’s festivals such as the Taste of Chicago, Chicago Blues Fest, and Lollapalooza. Perfect for nature lovers and avid sports fans alike, the South Loop is also home to Northerly Island and Soldier Field. The South Loop offers a variety of dining and entertainment options, and is the location of notable Chicago restaurants including Acadia, Niu B Sushi, Eleven City Diner, and so much more.
The South Loop has been quite the chameleon over the years; recent decades have seen huge transitions in the neighborhood fabric. But before we get to that, let's take a trip back in time to see what got us to where we are today.
Like most of pre-colonial Chicago, the South Loop was once Native American territory. In the 1800s, a group of working-class Irish immigrants began to settle south of the city along the Chicago River, while more affluent citizens built homes on Michigan and Wabash avenues. It is said that the South Loop was one of the first residential districts in Chicago, although it didn't maintain its residential status for long.
In the 1850s, the railroad industry set up freight houses and passenger stations in the region. When the Great Fire of 1871 struck the city, the South Loop was mainly spared, so the thriving Loop businesses moved into the area while reconstruction took place in other parts of town. The explosion of commercial activity helped spur the South Loop's development, but another fire in 1874 ended up destroying much of the residential character of the neighborhood.
Railroads were still a large part of the South Loop's livelihood, and by 1900, tracks dominated the vicinity between State Street and the western edge of the South Loop. More terminals and shipping depots were established, although later declines in passenger train travel left many of the rail yards abandoned and unused. At the same time, the South Loop neighborhood was also experiencing the rise of a prosperous cultural district with the construction of museums and public parks along the eastern waterfront property. This widely-visited section of town has become one of the city's major tourist attractions, bringing visitors from all over the world to enjoy Chicago's gigantic playground along the lake.
The past decade or so has seen the most drastic transition toward the vital, urban setting the South Loop is today. Developers, investors and city organizations have been working swiftly to meet the exciting promise of this Chicago neighborhood. In addition to newer residential buildings and condominiums conversions, restaurants, bars, boutiques, cafes, and book stores are moving in and breathing life into this near south side community on the rise.
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