One of America’s wealthiest neighborhoods and the pinnacle of urban luxury in Chicago, the Gold Coast neighborhood has been home to the city’s social and economic upper class for more than a century. Its architecture and entertainment offerings exude sophistication. But unlike most American enclaves of wealth, Chicago’s Gold Coast still offers a selection of housing and activities for all people, allowing anyone to enjoy its history and luxury.
History and Architecture
Any discussion of the Gold Coast necessarily must start with history and architecture. Roughly bounded by North Avenue, Lake Shore Drive, the Chicago River, and Clark Street, the Gold Coast got its start after the Great Chicago Fire of 1881 when Gilded Age millionaire Potter Palmer moved from the south side’s Prairie Avenue neighborhood, filled in the swampy neighborhood, and built a castle-like mansion along the lake.
Potter’s castle was knocked down in the 1950s but so many paragons of architecture inhabit the Gold Coast that the neighborhood is a historic district. Some of the architectural gems include: the Archbishop’s Residence (the oldest), the 7 Houses on Lake Shore Drive, James Charnley House (designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright), the art nouveau Frank Fisher Studio, 1303 North Astor, the Patterson McCormick Mansion, the 3 Arts Club, the Madlener House, the Isham House (Hugh Hefner’s original Playboy mansion), and the Wooden Alley. But many other architectural gems abound throughout the Gold Coast including hotels, apartment buildings, retail, and so much more. Walking down the quaint, tree-lined streets bears witness to the fact that Chicago’s notoriety as the Architectural capital of the country is for more than just the magnificent skyscrapers of the loop.
As an old, urban neighborhood, navigating and parking in the Gold Coast can be a challenge. This is, after all, a place where motorcars were “horseless carriages.” Luckily, Gold Coast is easily accessible via public transportation, including the CTA Red and Brown Lines, the 151, 22, 36, or 72 buses, and even via bicycle on Lake Shore Drive. Surprisingly, many visitors to the Gold Coast happen upon it unintentionally while out for a walk along the lakefront or after dinner at one of its many fine restaurants and taverns.
Once here, finding a place to call home can be a fun, challenging, and sometimes expensive, adventure. Whether you want historic or modern, small or large, (relatively) inexpensive or luxury, you can find a home in the Gold Coast.
For renters, a bargain studio can be found for around $1300, with many good luxury 1 bedrooms between $2,500 and $5,000.
Buyers in late 2023, meanwhile, find themselves in a market that has actually tipped in their favor. Homes have been lasting on the market for an average 54 days, selling for 3.3% below asking price in October 2023, according to realtor.com.
There are some great single-family homes in the Gold Coast in the $1 million to $3 million range (and of course considerably more). However, the vast majority of Gold Coast residential real estate transactions are condominiums. Historic condos. New construction condos. Renovated condos. High-rise condos. Condos with views of the lake, of the skyline, of the city.
Condos in the Gold Coast technically start at $200k, but most starter condos go for closer to $300k. Top-end condos can hit or even exceed $5 million, with many large, luxury condos available in the $2 million-$3 million range.
Things To Do
With so much history, the Gold Coast features a few history stops you just won’t find anywhere else, including the Newberry Library (don’t miss the July book fair), the International Museum of Surgical Science (North America’s only museum dedicated to surgery), and the architectural treasure the Charnley Museum (which is open to tours on Wednesday). Another historic treasure: the Old Chicago Water Tower and its Lookingglass Theatre. And if you really can’t get enough of Chicago’s Gilded Age, there’s the Richard H. Driehaus Museum.
If you want a birds-eye view of the Gold Coast and environs (or maybe even above the birds) visit the top of the 100-story John Hancock Building and its 360-degree observation deck.
And the Gold Coast also features so many options for the more traditional things to do in a great urban neighborhood.
Gold Coast is a destination shopping district for luxury goods, whether jewelry, handbags, foreign sports cars, or nearly anything you can think of. The epicenter of spending within the neighborhood is the Oak Street District between State Street and Michigan Avenue. But also, Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile anchors the Gold Coast. And the 900 North Michigan shops is another luxury mall nearby.
The first and foremost outdoor spot in Gold Coast is Oak Street Beach. Washington Square Park is the kind of great outdoor space that can only exist in a neighborhood with such history. Children can get their play on at the Goudy Square Park Playground. And like many of these great north of the Loop neighborhoods, there is Lake Shore Drive.
What is Chicago cuisine probably best known for? (Please don’t argue with me hot dog and Italian beef fans), but it’s got to be deep dish pizza. And the Gold Coast features plenty of opportunities to indulge. But this historic hood has other time-tested tastes, including Gibson’s Bar & Steakhouse, and tons of other modern dining options.
Some of my favorites offering a variety of foods: 3rd Coast Cafe, Gibson’s, Somerset, Le Colonial, Terrace 16, Adalina, Francesca’s, Rosebud (either one), Goddess and the Grocer, Coq d’Or (inside The Drake hotel), and so much more.
Like so many neighborhoods in Chicago, Gold Coast socializing can stretch well into the evening, and this neighborhood features some truly special hangouts, including Gibson’s, Hugo’s Frog Bar, the soon-to-be reopened Tavern on Rush, Sparrow, BIGGS Cigar Lounge, Hopsmith Tavern, Butch McGuire's, Mother’s, Dublin’s, and many others. There is a nightlife spot with lively conversation for literally every taste and personality.
Navigate the Gold Coast with Matt
Whether you’re looking for a Gold Coast home or selling the one you have, you have just now stumbled onto the website of a real estate agent who knows and loves this great neighborhood like none other.
Let Matt Shrake’s experience, expertise, and insight guide you in your next Gold Coast real estate transaction. You can reach him via phone at 773-294-2667 or via email at [email protected] Learn why many have been said to consider Matt, “the best Realtor in Chicago.”