A historic neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, Bronzeville has been coming up in recent years.
Residents love the neighborhood’s thriving cultural scene and lovely affordable homes. The home of icons Louis Armstrong, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Sam Cooke — the neighborhood is absolutely brimming with public art and history. Located along Lake Michigan about 4 miles south of the Loop, it’s easy to get in and out via the CTA Green and Red Lines, the Dan Ryan Expressway, and the Metra!
Bronzeville Neighborhood Guide
Bronzeville can rival any neighborhood with its cuisine and culture. It offers some of Chicago’s most meaningful public art, delicious restaurants and cafes, and several notable art institutions.
One exciting development is the emergence of Bronzeville as a leader in shopping. Always a leader in African-American books and art, recently a number of new boutiques and shops have opened. Top boutiques include Agriculture Custom Tailors, a locally-owned men’s boutique in a gorgeous space, and Bronzeville Boutique, with clothes for both sexes. Gallery Guichard may be the top art gallery in the area, with fine art from Africa and across the African diaspora.
Bronzeville may not have the most restaurants of any Chicago neighborhood, but it does have unbeatable flavors. The food scene is diverse, with specialties ranging from Southern cooking and seafood to authentic African cuisine.
Some places worth your time include Pearl’s, for a delicious southern-style buffet, Yassa, serving incredible Senegalese food, and Abundance Bakery, with homemade baked goods (try the upside-down caramel cupcakes!). Sip n’ Savor is a top local cafe serving fair-trade coffee in a comfy environment. For home cooks, the neighborhood has a number of local grocery stores and a huge Mariano’s just opened on MLK Drive.
With art and history to spare, the neighborhood’s top attraction may just be its cultural scene. Scattered throughout the neighborhood are some striking examples of public art. On Martin Luther King Drive alone, there are three renowned pieces including Alison Saar’s “Monument to the Great Northern Migration” and The Bronzeville Walk of Fame.
Walking tours of the area are offered by the Chicago History Museum, but if one is looking for the highlights be sure to check out the Ida B. Wells House and the Victory Monument. Some great local institutions in the community include the Harold Washington Cultural Center and the South Side Community Arts Center.
Parks and Recreation
Recent Bronzeville transplants are shocked by the accessibility of the lake and the beautiful local parks. One of the nicest places for a swim in Chicago, the 31st Beach is a family-friendly spot with great views of the Chicago Skyline. The area has some great parks. Check out Fuller Park to see some of Chicago’s best basketball. Washington Park features open fields perfect for throwing around a ball or frisbee.
Washington Park also hosts sporting events, festivals, and the DuSable Museum of African American History. A community gem is the Wabash Avenue YMCA, which was painstakingly renovated in 2000. A staple of the community, the Park District offers youth sports, summer camps, and arts programming.
In the 1850s, the area was home to both the workers and barons of the nearby stockyards. In the 1880s, African-Americans began to move to the neighborhood from across Chicago. In the early 20th century, their numbers were bolstered by many African-Americans from the American South. This cross-country movement is known as the “Great Nothern Migration”.
Seeking a better life and reduced oppression, residents worked hard to build a thriving community. Major achievements included successful business, culture, and community institutions including the Chicago Defender and Chicago Bee newspapers.
From the 1920s to the 1940s, Bronzeville became the epicenter of black business and culture in Chicago. Rivaling the famed Harlem Renaissance in importance and activity, during the “Bronzeville Renaissance” the community was responsible for significant cultural and social progress.
The area was a musical hotbed, host to great developments in jazz, blues, gospel, and rock and roll. All-time greats lived and played in the neighborhood including Louis Armstrong, Sam Cooke, Duke Ellington, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson, and Chuck Berry. Other notable residents of the area include activist Ida B. Wells, writer Gwendolyn Brooks, 4-time Gold Medalist Jesse Owens, and founder of the Negro Baseball League Andrew “Rube” Foster.
Unfortunately, the good times were short-lived. The area was hit exceptionally hard by the Great Depression and many black-owned businesses went bankrupt. Many formerly middle-class families lost their homes and were forced into overcrowded public housing.
Today, the neighborhood is bouncing back in a serious way, driven by entrepreneurs. Historic buildings are being restored, new development is being built, and restaurants and other businesses are being opened and are flourishing.
With a new generation of businesses and residents restoring its shine, things continue to look up in Bronzeville. Whether one is looking to rent or buy, the neighborhood has great options. With historic homes including single-family residences, greystones, and two- and three-flats, as well as some new construction apartments and condominiums, there is something for everyone. A number of Victorian mansions from the early 1900s are also available.
With a rich cultural heritage and a blossoming business community, Bronzeville is poised for great things. Come and take a look!