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Thread: River Forest: Chicagoland's overlooked architectural gem neighborhood (56k a no go)

  1. #1
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    River Forest: Chicagoland's overlooked architectural gem neighborhood (56k a no go)

    River Forest, IL (population ~11,000) is located 10 miles west of Chicago's Loop. It is generally seen as the more upscale, less diverse neighbor to Oak Park, and has quite a few things in common with it: a high school (highly ranked Oak Park/River Forest High), a park district, a downtown (Oak Park's central business district terminates at the River Forest line), and architectural heritage. The master himself, Frank Lloyd Wright, built several houses here, in addition to those in Oak Park.

    But the rest of the town isn't all cookie-cutter suburbia. River Forest is one of those upscale-urban-suburban neighborhoods, built mainly in the first half of the century, with large, traditional homes on uniform lots. It can be compared in feel to Chickasaw Gardens in Memphis, Santa Monica, or Rosedale in Toronto. What is most impressive about River Forest is its landscaping. Never have I seen so many well-kept lawns as on the streets of River Forest, and the gardens bloom with flowers in the spring.

    Here, then, is a tour of River Forest:


    As I got off the L in Oak Park, a row of about 20 tractors on a flatbed train greeted me. It may be busy metropolitan Chicago, but this is still the Midwest after all.


    Downtown Oak Park. Surprisingly free of chain stores.


    Hamburber anyone?


    We start on Clinton Street, one block west of Harlem.


    Prairie House detailing is everywhere.


    Especially on the new construction.


    Green lawns and tall tree canopies are the norm here.


    Most houses face onto the north-south streets. This might have something to do with the fact that River Forest follows Chicago's numbering system, and the smaller house numbers on the north-south streets are "more European." 7642 West Greenfield just doesn't seem to have as much cachet as 814 William Street, does it?


    Interesting tile roof, and picture-perfect landscaping. Everywhere you look in River Forest, someone's mowing the lawn.


    Dutch Colonial style--rare in the Chicago area--is in evidence here.


    And some homes are small castles.


    There's a lot of shade in River Forest. I mean A LOT.


    The River Forest pumping station sits in the middle of the neighborhood and adds a bit of Mediterranean flavor.


    The houses aren't all English and American-inspired. Here's Spanish on the left, French on the right.


    And, um... Texan across the street. Ick.


    There are a few apartment buildings in River Forest, near North Avenue at the northern border of the village.


    More attractive homes, tall trees. Damn those vans messing up the picture!


    As you head further south, the homes get smaller and older but no less impressive.


    "Painted ladies" in the older part of River Forest.


    It looks like small-town America at its finest. I bet kids sell lemonade on the sidewalk when it's hot out and make snowmen in the yard during the winter.


    And the same street... it was looking for inner-city Chicago but got lost along the way.


    River Forest is a commuter town. The L is less than a mile from here, and Metra can get you into the city in 15 minutes.


    Auvergne Place, an architectural treat in the southwest corner of the village.


    The showpiece of Auvergne Place, Frank Lloyd Wright's Heurtley House.



    The other houses on the street are re-imagined Prairie-style, and most are ranches, unusual for River Forest.


    There's a house behind all those trees. Very Northern California. When you look up, you almost expect to see mountains.


    We've made a complete circle around the village, and have ended up at River Forest's only collection of big-box stores, which actually abuts both the L station and downtown Oak Park.

    Thanks, from Hyde Park.

  2. #2

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    Nice photos. Reminds me a bit of Sacramento, California's East Side "Fabulous 40s" (numbered streets in the 40s range).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Ah, marvelous - I enjoyed those, thank you. Those houses are quite large! Surely this is a very wealthy area, yes? Do you know the median house price?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    The median house price in River Forest approaches $500,000, I believe. It's not one of the ten richest suburbs in the Chicago area (the wealthy communities of the North Shore and Lake County largely take that distinction) but it's the wealthiest western suburb.


    River Forest is something of an enclave, with mixed-income, though upscale, Oak Park on one side and less wealthy, mostly minority communities on the other three. It doesn't look like the ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of the area is changing, either. When you look at River Forest it looks like the type of area that would support a downtown with lots of overpriced upscale chains, but the enclave isn't big enough for that--River Forest does its fancy shoppin' on Michigan Avenue or in Oak Brook.

  5. #5
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I live within walking distance of all of River Forest, and I agree that it is pretty good, as suburbia goes. But on a scale of Urbanity, it is more post War II suburbia than 19th century rowhouse.

    I do like the quality of streetscapes and single family residential architecture, but for the money, I would rather live in Oak Park (which I do).

    On a readablity note: when you do these photo essays, drucee, you should watch the photo size in the thread. The photos are too big for the typical PC monitor which makes seeing the image and understanding the content very difficult.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    On a readablity note: when you do these photo essays, drucee, you should watch the photo size in the thread. The photos are too big for the typical PC monitor which makes seeing the image and understanding the content very difficult.
    the photos are too big for my Mac.

    otherwise, nice shots. I'm a fan of most things Chicago!
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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