The Uptown name was adopted in an attempt to compete with Downtown and the Loop. The historical, cultural, and commercial center of Uptown is Broadway, with Uptown Square at the center. For a time, all northbound trains from downtown ended in Uptown. Uptown also very quickly became a summer resort for downtown residents.
The area experienced a housing boom after the World’s Columbian Exposition in the late 1800s. In the mid 1920’s, construction of large and luxurious entertainment venues resulted in many of the ornate and historic Uptown Square buildings which exist today. The craftsmanship and artistry of those Uptown Square buildings reflects the ornate pavilions of the Exposition.
Uptown has historically been a popular tourist destination with various music venues, nightclubs, restaurants and shops. Uptown Square, at the center of the Uptown Entertainment District, was designated as a National Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Uptown is also a stop for Chicago Gangster tours, with many locations tied to infamous gangsters such as John Dillinger, Al Capone, Machine Gun Jack McGurn, Roger “The Terrible” Touhy and others.
The Aragon Ballroom is still a very popular music venue. During the 1920s and 1930s, most of the nation’s well-known jazz groups played the Aragon.
The Riviera Theater was once a movie palace which featured live jazz performances with the movies. In the 1970s it was converted to a concert venue.
The Uptown Theatre is a large, ornate palace with almost 4,500 seats. This architectural gem is on several Landmark Registers. The Uptown Theatre is currently closed and in a state of decay, but efforts have been made by Friends of the Uptown and other local groups to halt deterioration, restore and reopen the theater.
Parks and Beaches
Chicago’s Lincoln Park provides soccer and athletic fields, as well as lakefront bicycle and running paths. Also in Lincoln Park is Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary (“The Magic Hedge”), a sledding hill, Puptown Dog Park, Wilson Skatepark and Waveland (Marovitz) Golf Course.