Calumet Heights is a good place for people who want the less congested appeal of suburbia, but can’t give up that city zip code. Walking along the neighborhood’s well-kept sidewalks and tree-lined streets (perfect for bike riding and dog walking), you’ll notice the area is almost completely residential, with few commercial strips to speak of. Instead classic bungalow architecture, plots of green space and convenient highway access to downtown Chicago characterize this south side bedroom community.
Calumet Height’s 17-acre span of land known as Owens Park (formerly Stoney Island Park) is the most notable neighborhood feature. The park was named after Olympic athlete Jess Owens, who has held the position of director for a number of Chicago youth organizations. This centrally located expanse of green is the Calumet Height locals’ go-to for outdoor recreation and community programs. The site offers a spray pool for kids, baseball diamonds, tennis courts and an extensive walking trail. The fieldhouse hosts summer camp and several types of after-school activities, including art classes, sports and fieldtrips.
This south side Chicago neighborhood has an affordable inventory of houses that make good real estate opportunities for first-time home buyers and young families looking for more space. Because most of the blocks are residential, there are lots of quiet, neighborhoody avenues with well-maintained front lawns, wide streets, easy parking and sizeable backyards. It won’t take long for newbies to catch on to Calumet Heights residents’ love of backyard barbeques and friendly next door neighbor chats across the fence. Housing in Calumet Heights is still mostly affordable. Units here are a range of apartments and condos in preserved brick buildings and vintage courtyard complexes, plus there are pockets of stately townhomes. But getting back to the family appeal, Calumet Heights is comprised of many single-family homes with spacious back lots. You can find an assortment of nice, decent-sized homes in the upper $100,000 to mid-$500,000 range. Two bedroom condos sell for around $50,000, while newer rehabbed versions can cost up to $400,000. Larger homes with four to six rooms can easily breach the $800,000 mark.
Calumet Heights restaurants are known for serving up great grilled fare with some of the tastiest sauces this side of the Calumet River. The southern-fueled dining scene here (mostly found along the neighborhood border street of 87th Street and Stoney Island Avenue, Calumet Heights’ other main artery) offers hardcore comfort foods. Look no further than Soul Queen, where the down-home dishes are doled out as authentic as can be. The woman behind this whole shebang has fed the likes of Jesse Jackson, Harold Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, himself. Fans of the Queen’s cooking particularly adore her barbequed ribs, succotash, mac n’ cheese and potato salad. When your inner Chicagoan gets the best of you, check out Leona’s Pizza for pies topped with organic ingredients, plus a mouthwatering menu of buffalo wings, salads, dessert pies and cake.
A little Calumet Height history: In 1920, the neighborhood had little more than three thousand residents. About ten years after that, the area saw an influx of Italians, Irish, Poles and Yugoslavians – all in search of a place to settle. By 1960, Calumet Heights’ population had increased to nearly 20,000 residents. Today, the historic community is comprised of mostly African-Americans with a strong showing of Latino culture.