Living on Lake Shore Drive

As a Baby Boomer lifer in Chicago and the suburbs when I graduated college from Lewis University, I had picked out 3550 Lakeshore Drive where I would live. I ended up moving much further north in Gurnee for my first teaching job. But that’s what we did back in the 1970’s/1980’s after high school or college. We picked out our Lakeshore Drive home. Where did you want to live then or even now? As as a young child, it was Outer Drive East built in 1963 with the geoplastic covered pool. My mother wanted luxurious Lake Point Towers. A friend lived at 900/ 910 Lake Shore Drive in the 1980’s. Now, I can’t begin to find Outer Drive East since so many new buildings tower above it.

According to sources, Lake Shore Drive’s origins date back to Potter Palmer, who coerced the city to build the street adjacent to his lakefront property to enhance its value. Palmer built his “castle” at 1350 N. Lake Shore Drive in 1882. The drive was originally intended for leisurely strolls for the wealthy in their carriages, but when bringing on the auto industry, that changed quickly.

The condos at 3550 Lakeshore Drive are pretty popular still with a store and exercise room and children would attend Lakeview schools. 400 E. Randolph 400 East Randolph Street Condominiums or simply 400 East Randolph is a 40-story high-rise in Chicago and considered Outer Drive East. It was the first high-rise residence constructed on the east side of Lake Shore drive, in an area that has become The New Eastside. You can buy or rent as small as a studio. Other amenities for 400 East Randolph residents included a full service restaurant and bar, beauty salon, dry cleaners, convenience store, 1000 book lending library and 2000 sqft hospitality room with catering kitchen.

At the time of its completion in 1968, the 645-foot tall Lake Point Tower was the tallest apartment building in the world. You may rent or own a condo…generally renting a three bedroom for about 5,000 a month. Definitely a city within a city with many shops and service with a four lane heated swimming pool and state of the art fitness center including a racquetball and handball court.

910 Lake Shore Drive was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe the architecturally significant modern style 26 story building was built in 1951 along with 900 N Lake Shore Drive. They were originally called The Esplanade Apartments and now house 524 condos combined. 

Chicago’s Oak Street Beach

It was in the 1970’s during my high school and college years that I remember traveling with friends to Chicago’s Oak Street Beach for a summer field trip from the south suburbs of the city. We would also pick out high rise apartment buildings we wanted to live in after college. And I remember it crowded with beach chairs, towels, bicycles and of course, numerous bathers and acrobatics. I remember male friends wanting to be a life guard as a summer job there; where prestigious life began. Oak Street Beach is located at 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive at Oak Street and Lake Michigan near the Gold Coast/Streeterville neighborhoods.

According to the Chicago Park District, Lincoln Park and Lake Shore Drive suffered constant damage from storms and lake shore erosion. The city built a breakwater made of pilings, planks, and stone on the lake’s edge between Oak Street and North Avenue in the 1870’s. This device could not protect Lake Shore Drive, so in the late 1880s, the commissioners began working with the Army Corps of Engineers to design a seawall between Fullerton and North Avenues to provide better protection. Lake Shore Drive was also extended south from Oak Street to Ohio Street.

The park district claims property owners helped pay for the landfill extension, which included a breakwater to protect the lake shore and roadway from erosion. Constructed in the 1890s, the project included a 50-foot-wide roadway as well as an extensive granite-paved beach, stone sidewalks, bicycle path, bridle path, and luxury lawns with elegant trees.

The beach was extremely popular in the early 1900’s but rich, mansion property owners complained about how small it was so it was extended in 1923. My father remembers living in the city in those early years as a child attending the beach. According to sources, over 50,000 visitors were known to travel to the beach during that time.The Chicago Park District offers some wonderful history on all Chicago area parks and when they can be used.

Today, Oak Street has gone through many renovations and has a outdoor cafe though with Covid restrictions, not available at this time. Currently, the beach is closed but when opened, you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas and cabanas. Of course, public restrooms are available. Usually, various vendors carts are seen along the path. Besides swimming, many beach goers play volleyball or just sit, taking pictures of amazing sunrises and sunsets. Still, a beautiful place to visit.

Photo courtesy of Greg Wass

Chicago’s Rainbow Beach

During the early 1960s, I always wanted a backyard pool as a child. My best friend had one above ground and we could swim often. When she wasn’t around,I got stuck with a sprinkler in my backyard instead. But we did travel from Calumet Heights to Rainbow Beach on hot summer days. I remember the alewives the most. Large die off’s of this fish littered the beaches and Rainbow was one of them. I also remember some of my first sunburns at Rainbow Beach being treated with Solarcaine, Noxzema or Calamine lotion but as long as you had a portable radio, you didn’t care. I was in my pre-teens when attending Rainbow. Many who were a few years older took the bus or learned to drive in their parking lot.

Chuckman’s Places on WordPress offers some wonderful Chicago pictures from the past as well as vintage post cards. John Chuckman grew up in Chicago having one of the best collections of vintage photography. He is a former chief economist for an oil company in Canada. He lives in Canada and his writing appears on many internet sites.

Rainbow Beach was named for the U.S. Army’s 42nd Rainbow Division that fought in World War I and began its journey in 1908 as two beaches. Rocky Ledge Beach was crowded with changing rooms and bathrooms illuminated with electric lights. The city bought more land and expanded in 1918 officially naming the beach Rainbow. Located at 75th street and Lake Michigan, for many years the park lacked sufficient indoor recreational facilities, so in 1999 the Chicago Park District constructed a large field house designed by David Woodhouse Architects. Today, Rainbow Beach features a gymnasium, fitness center and multipurpose rooms, handball courts, and one of the oldest community gardens in Chicago.

Summers in Saugatuck

We climbed out of the Vista cruiser after pulling up along side the small white cottage. The trees towered above us as we began to grab our suitcases and, of course, my pillow. I could hear the waves of Lake Michigan located across the road which was called Lake Shore Drive in Saugatuck Michigan.

The rental was tiny inside; only two bedrooms for the adults which was Mom and her friend. Me and Rita’s two daughters …my same age… slept on cots and sleeping bags in the expansive living room. Our Dads would come up from Chicago in a few days for the weekend and then travel back with us to Chicago.

We read, we swam, we cooked hot dogs on the beach and visited quaint shops in downtown Saugatuck.  The entire week, I had a stomach ache and constantly complained. They took my temperature. They gave me medicine. And still my stomach ached and ached. And sometimes my head too. But when my father arrived, it was amazing how the pain began to subside as we played miniature golf and took a trip on the ferry. Unfortunately,when we all left together…I never felt better. I was only eight and the first time I had ever been separated from my Dad.

I returned to Saugatuck many times in the, 1970’s, 1980s and 1990s with friends and family. And did find the cottage that had been renovated in a more upscale environment and could not believe the disappearing beach caused by erosion. Those vacations usually included a stay at the Blue Star which has been revamped over the years or Lake Shore Resort though today, Saugatuck is filled with excellent bed and breakfast mansions.

I remembered shopping downtown; a much more powerful experience when I was an adult. My mother returned on a trip with me in the 1990’s and said that the artistic shops and culture had truly expanded. This included a variety of antiques,collectibles, and art galleries which were just beginning in the late 1960s.

Now, Saugatuck is named one of the best art towns by Expedia, which included the plein air painters of the early 1900s, the Art Institute of Chicago’s OxBow students, and the artists who continue to live their today. Through its affiliation with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ox-Bow still offers one and two-week courses for credit and non-credit students.

There were also more places to eat and drink but the Butler, once an historic Inn, offers spectacular waterfront dining. Today, live entertainment can be enjoyed every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day

Saugatuck is one of Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 25 Beaches in the World,” and also a great place for hiking and fishing.

I remember sitting on the dunes trying to enjoy the sunset and the amazing beauty that surrounded me. I didn’t think I missed my father; I had no idea why my stomach hurt.

But now, I can go back; still mesmerized by sun, sand, and water without stomach pains. and with an amazing understanding of the love a daughter has for her father.

 

 

Summers at Lake Michigan

For me, it all began at Rainbow beach which also had an expansive park for picnics. I remember the water purification plant which is now called Eugene Sawyer Purification Plant. My memories of Rainbow had a lot to due with dead fish on the beach and closings due to poor water quality during the 1960’s so since the Southside of Chicago wasn’t that far from Indiana and someone had a car, we would head to Indiana Dunes.

The Dunes was less than an hour from Chicago so a day trip was perfect. Located in Porter County, the beach offered about 15 miles of sandy shoreline with great hiking trails and camp grounds. Though some people became afraid to go to the Dunes in July of 1966 since three young women in bathing suits left the beach, climbed in a small motorboat and were never seen again. Others found the Dunes extremely crowded and in the 1970’s so many of us gravitated to Warren Dunes in Michigan instead.

Warren Dunes has three miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and is open year-round. It also has a dune formation that rises 260 feet above the lake with spectacular views and 1,952 acres of recreational opportunity. Located in Sawyer Michigan, the dunes was approximately an hour and 30 minutes from the city by car and you could take a train from Union Station. The beach was never crowded and always clean. Among the park’s dunes are Mt. Fuller, Pikes Peak, and Mt. Edwards, with the most significant being Tower Hill, the highest point in the park, which stands 240 feet (73 meters) above the Lake Michigan. And downtown Sawyer offered bookstores and antique shops.

Throughout the 1980’s, I lived in the Waukegan area teaching high school and sometimes spending my summers working other jobs or going to school. But did I spend alot of time at Waukegan Harbor and Illinois Beach State Park. In fact, I could hear foghorns from my kitchen window…only a few miles from Waukegan Harbor and the Marina.

The first times I sailed, I did with friends from the Waukegan Harbor and when we didn’t sail, many would fish and take a walk out to the lighthouse. One of the best seafood restaurants was located their called Mathons, which had portholes for windows and a friendly bar. On the fourth of July in 1987, we went down to the Harbor for fireworks and I was pregnant with my son. He had been fairly quiet up until that night when he kicked up a storm at listening to the sounds. He was born only a few weeks later.

The first time I said the words Illinois State Beach Park or was it Illinois Beach State Park when I was in third grade on a stage; terrified to speak. I was so worried that my informational one minute speech, completely memorized, would be botched. It was not by choice. It was a place in Illinois given to me by my teacher to research. All third graders was assigned this project.

That is the first thing that I remembered as a guest at the beach and park. Oh, my, it really does exist! Illinois Beach State Park  stretched 6.5 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan in Zion. The 4,160-acre park, consisted of two separate areas (North Unit and South Unit), which offered ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and simply appreciating nature.

In the 1990s, 2000’s and now, I live in Downers Grove with a pool and a pond in the back yard though I don’t think the pond would be good for you! (Caddyshack movie joke for some who remember. In the movie, the pond was better for you.

However, today, my adult children and I travel back and forth, up and down. We have taken a walk at Rainbow beach, had ice cream at the Waukegan Harbor, took pictures of what used to be the beer store at Illinois Beach State Park, explored the Dunes and added Michigan City to our travels.

All through one’s lifetime, great vacations still spent on the shore’s of Lake Michigan!