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.
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.