Fulton River District
Paris may have the Left Bank, but Chicago has the West Bank (of the Chicago River). This clean, safe and friendly Chicago neighborhood is called the Fulton River District and is located directly next to downtown, just northwest of the Loop. It is bound by the Chicago River to the east, the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94) to the west, Grand Avenue to the north, and Lake Street to the south. The community is in a section of Chicago known by many as West Town or the Near West Side. It’s an area where a gritty industrial past blends seamlessly with the new residential present, giving the neighborhood a delightfully lean yet developed character that has attracted many first-time buyers, empty-nesters, singles and even some families.
Touching on a bit of the Fulton River District’s history – this part of town had a wholesale distribution center in the late 1800s. Des Plaines Street, which bisects the quarter, was the site of the notorious Haymarket Square labor riots in 1886. Trivia lovers can file away this other bit of Des Plaines info: Sears and Roebuck’s first mail order warehouse was built at Fulton and Des Plaines in the 1940s. Lumber and grain were shipped through this corridor, but they weren’t the only things on the move. Chicago’s first railroad terminal was built at Kinzie and Canal streets in 1848. (Union Station was later built a few blocks south along the river.) Today, the Ogilvie Transportation Center (on the southern edge of the Fulton River District) shuttles commuters in and out of the city. And with the nearby Kennedy Expressway catering to Chicago’s large quantity of motorists, this one of the most accessible—and busy—transportation areas in the city.
From its industrial and transportation origins, when it came time to flip our calendar pages to the 21st century the Fulton River District had become increasingly residential. These days there is no shortage of housing choices in this viable Chicago neighborhood, from high-rise and mid-rise condos and apartments to single-family townhouses. The reinvented residential streets of the Fulton River District even offer beautiful, four-story graystone private homes. These “vertical mansions” have been rehabbed with all the latest 21st century luxuries and are on the market for a cool $3 million.
The historically transient nature of the Fulton River District made it a melting pot of European immigrants and people from different backgrounds. Today the ethnic flavor of this Chicago neighborhood can best be appreciated in the kitchen. For an Italian meal that will make you think you have time-traveled back to the old country, visit La Scarola on Grand Avenue for a simple dish like mama used to make. Or, if you’re craving a quick bite, like a BLT with crisp greens, the Paramount Room on Milwaukee Avenue will serve you right. The Otom Restaurant on West Fulton Market will quench your thirst with its fabulous wine and cocktail list, which satisfies while you peruse the tempting menu selection. While Fulton River District is a first-rate place to eat out, it also has its share of trendy watering holes that draw the evening crowds. Skip the meal and make a visit to Fulton Lounge to relax on their patio seating, sip a refreshing drink and let the music take you away. After all that revelry and relaxation, you may feel up to challenging a regular to a friendly game of billiards at the City Pool Hall on West Hubbard Street.
No matter how you spend your days and nights, the Fulton River District is a slice of the Chicago metropolis that makes Paris seem, well, just a bit passé.