Victory Monument on the Walk of Fame
Bronzeville is a district in Chicago's South Side. The boundaries Bronzeville are somewhat amorphous in the popular use of the name—some would define it more restrictively, to only include the more northerly parts of the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr area, while others would have a broader definition including much of Chicago's Near South. Bronzeville as Wikitravel defines it consists of the Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Fuller Park, and Washington Park community areas.
Bronzeville used to be known as the "Black Metropolis" and is a mecca of African-American History. It was the site of Chicago's version of the Harlem Renaissance and was home to many famous African Americans, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Coleman, Ida B Wells, Andrew Foster, and many more. The neighborhood was from the 1920s to the 1940s one of the premiere centers of African American culture and was fairly affluent and middle class. The Great Depression hit the area pretty hard, as black-owned businesses went bankrupt, but the neighborhood's worst enemy proved to be the neglectful and segregationist city government. The city in 1941 built the infamous and gigantic Ida B Wells housing projects. Because of segregation, many poor African Americans were unable to find housing anywhere else and the projects quickly became overcrowded while crime and urban blight expanded throughout the neighborhood.
Today, the neighborhood is seeing major community-driven revitalization efforts, mostly by wealthy and entrepreneurial African Americans who value the neighborhood's historic importance. Historic clubs are reopening and there are a handful of nice clubs, coffee shops, and restaurants that have opened in recent years. The principal attraction, however, remains the neighborhood's rich history, rather than its present. As a general rule, the revitalization efforts have not extended below 47th St into the Washington Park neighborhood, which remains very blighted, with an extraordinary amount of vacant lots and high violent crime levels.
The best way to reach Bronzeville by public transport is definitely the CTA Green Line, which runs along State and Indiana, with key stops at 35-Bronzeville-IIT, 43rd St, 47th St (Jackson), and Garfield (Jackson). The Red Line runs along Bronzeville's western border and through the Fuller Park neighborhood—a bit further away from most Bronzeville attractions, but convenient nonetheless.
The Metra's Main Line has a stop at 27th St, which is conveniently located near the "Walk of Fame" and Michael Reese Hospital, but not near much else.
Many CTA bus lines travel throughought Bronzeville. A few key routes are the #4 and #3, which run north-south along Michigan Ave and Martin Luther King Jr Dr respectively and will take you to Bronzeville from the Loop. The #55 Garfield route is useful for travel between Bronzeville and Midway Airport, in the Southwest Side.
Bronzeville is one of the few neighborhoods close to the Chicago center that is actually best seen by car. Free on-street parking is in ample supply pretty much everywhere throughout the neighborhood—owing to the relatively low population density of the district. There are many exits leading into Bronzeville from the Dan Ryan Expwy; if coming from Central Chicago, the best way is probably to just head south on Martin Luther King Jr Dr, which serves as the main drag for most of the district.
- DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E 56th Pl (in the Park just across S Cottage Grove from the University of Chicago), ☎ +1 773 947-0600, . M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Chicago's museum of African American history is named after the first settler of Chicago, a Haitian named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. The museum often has excellent and moving temporary exhibits. $3 adult, $1 child, free on Su.
- Illinois Institute of Technology, 3300 S Federal St, ☎ +1 312 567-3000.
- S.R. Crown Hall, 3360 S State St, ☎ +1 312 567-3104 (IIT Public Relations). locked on weekends, tours available by appointment. A major architectural landmark, designed by none other than Mies van der Rohe
- Kemper Room Art Gallery ([email protected]), 35 W 33rd St, ☎ +1 312 567-5293, . M-F noon-5PM, Sa 8:30AM-5PM, Su 2PM-6PM. An art museum specializing in late-modern and contemporary art.
- King Drive Gateway, S Martin Luther King Jr Dr between 24th and 35th St. A 1.5 mile stretch of Martin Luther King Jr Dr full of monuments to the neighborhood's culture and history. Highlights include Alison Saar's statue, "Monument to the Great Northern Migration," Gregg LeFevre's 14 ft bronze map of the neighborhood's history, The "Victory Monument" to the African American 8th Regiment of the Illinois State Guard (which served in France during WWI), and Geraldine McCullough's "Walk of Fame," a public art walk decorated with references to the neighborhood and its famous history.
- Stephen A Douglas Tomb and Memorial, 636 E 35th St, ☎ +1 312 744-6630. 9AM-5PM daily. A 46 ft tall column marks the mausoleum of one of the most prominent senators in US history (from whom the Douglas neighborhood gets its name), who ran and lost against Abraham Lincoln for the US presidency in a race where debate over slavery dominated the discussion.
- 31st St Beach, 3100 S Lake Shore Dr. summers 9AM-9:30PM. Fishing and picknicking.
- Fuller Park, 331 E 45th St, ☎ +1 312 747-6144. Some very serious basketball players hit the pavement here on weekends and the courts are worth a visit to watch the local players.
- Harold Washington Cultural Center, 4701 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 773 373-1900, . This major Bronzeville landmark is a performance venue showing movies, live jazz, blues, and more.
- Washington Park. A very big park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The park has big open fields, which host numerous festivals, sporting events, and performances throughout the summer. Be sure to check out the DuSable Museum of African-American History and the "Fountain of Time" sculpture. The park is the proposed site of of a new Chicago Olympic Stadium.
- Afrocentric Bookstore, 4655 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 773 924-3966. M-F 10:30AM-6:30PM, Sa 10AM-6PM. A bookstore dealing mostly in African-American literature, which gets some very big-name authors to come in now and then for guest readings.
- Gallery Guichard, 3521 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 773 373-8000, . T-Sa 11AM-6PM, Su noon-4PM. A Bronzeville art gallery dealing in fine art, especially related to Africa and the African diaspora.
- Jemini II Music, 4641 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 312 624-3845. M-F 9AM-6PM. Big record store, mostly offering vinyl and cassette tapes, with an extensive gospel section.
- Muddy Waters Drive Flea Market, 611 E Muddy Waters Dr. Sa-Su 9AM-8PM. The most inexpensive deals in the city for clothing, books, and other goods. Expect to haggle a bit.
- Nicole Gallery 2, 4653 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 773 373-4700. T-Sa 11AM-5PM. An art gallery featuring art of the African diaspora.
- Steelelife Gallery, 4655 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 773 538-4773. T-Sa 11AM-5:30PM, Su noon-5PM. Yet another contemporary art gallery featuring works of the African diaspora.
- Twenty First Century Books, 607 E Muddy Waters Dr, ☎ +1 312 538-2188. Th-Sa noon-6PM. Packed full of books related to African-American culture.
- Ain't That Sweet Cafe, 4315 S State St, ☎ +1 773 285-2663. M-F 10AM-8PM, Sa noon-8PM. Ice cream and healthy sandwiches. Has pleasant seating in a garden out back.
- Alice's Bar-B-Que, 65 E 43rd St, ☎ +1 773 924-3843. M-Th 11:30AM-2:30AM, F-Sa 11:30AM-5AM, Su 2PM-2AM. Good BBQ joint that doesn't ever seem to be closed at night. $5.
- Ann's Diner, 407 E Oakwood Blvd, ☎ +1 773 538 4300. 7AM-7PM daily. A true South Side diner with great pancakes. $3-$9.
- Blu 47, 4655 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 773 536-6000 ([email protected], fax: +1 773 536-3080), . closed Mondays. A rather upscale, but casual Cajun/Creole restaurant with an inventive menu. Live jazz on Thursday nights. entrees $30-$50.
- Harold's Chicken Shack, 307 E 51st St, ☎ +1 773 373-9016. 10AM-2AM daily. The great South Side fried chicken chain is cheap, sometimes a little dirty, and always delicious. $2-$5.
- Jazz Country Kitchen, 518 E 43rd St, ☎ +1 773 924-2994. M-Sa 7AM-10PM. Delicious soul food, some of the best in the city. $5-$10.
- Jimmy's Red Hots, 110 E 35th St, ☎ +1 312 225-8238. Hot Dog dive.
- Negro League Cafe, 301 E 43rd St, ☎ +1 773 536-7000, . T-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-2AM, Su 1PM-8PM. Caribbean and Soul Food in a local landmark restaurant that pays homage to the baseball players of the Negro League. Sometimes shows movies, has live jazz, or other performances. $15-$30.
- Richard's Jamaica Club and Restaurant, 301 E 61st St, ☎ +1 773 363-0471. 9AM-midnight, when open at all. Good Jamaican restaurant/night club, but owing to the downward spiral in the neighborhood, it's not always open.
- Bronzeville Coffee House, Inc., 528 E 43rd St, ☎ +1 773 536-0494, . M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa 8AM-6PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Coffee, smoothies, tea, and snacks. A comfy spot with some books to read. Has occasional live music performances.
- Jokes and Notes, 4641 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 773 373-3390 ([email protected]), . showtimes: W-Th 7:30PM, F-Sa 8PM & 10:30PM, Su 4PM. A comedy/smooth jazz club primarily featuring African American stand-up comedians. $10 W-Th,Su, $20F-Sa; 2 drink minimum.
- New 113 Club, 113 E 47th St, ☎ +1 773 548-5768. 10AM-2AM daily. Legendary blues joint that has gone through hard times. Call ahead for performance information. $3-$5.
- New Bonanza Lounge, 552 E 47th St, ☎ +1 773 538-3200. 10:30AM-2AM daily. Small, laid back, blues joint. usually no cover.
- Odyssey II Cocktail Lounge, 211 E Garfield Blvd. 10AM-2AM daily. A very easy-going lounge/pub/bar
- Root Inn Lounge, 230 W Root St, ☎ +1 773 285-5280. M-Sa noon-2AM, Su noon-midnight. Laid back neighborhood bar/lounge/pub
- Spoken Word Cafe, 4655 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 773 373-2233. M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa noon-4PM & 7PM-midnight. A coffee house that often has poetry readings and live blues and jazz.
- Bronzeville's 1st Bed & Breakfast, 3911 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 773 373-8081. Located in a 5,500 square foot mansion, this is a very nice luxury option for anyone interested in staying in Bronzeville. In fact, this B&B is probably alone reason enough to come to Bronzeville, as it is one of America's few black-owned inns. Serves three meals a day, (upmarket soul food) and walk-ins are welcome. Has a spa, jacuzzi suites, butler service, an art gallery, and a lounging area on the roof. $150-$255.
- Climax Motel, 6625 S Martin Luther King Jr Dr (Just off the Chicago Skyway), ☎ +1 773 667-5118. With a name like that in a rough part of town, don't expect a nice hotel!