As you head south on Chicago’s iconic Lake Shore Drive, a light becomes more visible. The sign belonging to a Gold Coast landmark, The Drake Hotel, shines a bright pink, just as it has for the last 70 years. The façade of this luxury hotel exudes the same glamour you’ll find throughout the Gold Coast Historic District: mansions, beautiful apartments, boutique shops, and dealerships selling Lamborghini, Bugatti, and other dream cars.
After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 the region’s evolution began. It would go from scarcely populated and swampy to a stronghold of wealth. Originally “The Astor Street District”, it took its name from one of the richest citizens in the history of the US, John Jacob Astor. The name projected an air of wealth, although he didn't actually live in Chicago. When a section of Lake Shore Drive opened in 1875, wealthy families began to take notice of the neighborhood.
Potter Palmer, a businessman and early resident of the area, saw a future for the area and invested heavily in it. In 1885 Palmer solidified the ‘Gold’ in Gold Coast when he completed his castle known as the Palmer Mansion. Chicago’s elite flocked there over the next few decades. The density of their wealth preserved it during the depression and buffered it from immigration.
The neighborhood would officially become known as the "Gold Coast" at the turn of the century. Today's owners and renters strive to preserve and enhance the quality of life and the beauty of the area.
Renters looking for an apartment in Chicago’s Gold Coast have a choice between high-rises with views of Lake Michigan and low-rise row homes on quiet streets, both with short walks to the beach. It’s even possible to find a no-fee rental in the Gold Coast, an area known for its affluence. The median household income of $153,358 for 2011 ranks it seventh highest in the US, down from the second highest back in the late 1980’s.
You’ll find an older and more established crowd and plenty of nightlife in the Gold Coast. Restaurants with outdoor seating are ubiquitous and many become lively hangout spots as the night progresses. The area is rather quiet north of Division St with the action mostly concentrated around Mariano Park.
Those with a taste for design and architecture should take a walk down Astor Street. Even though the Palmer Mansion no longer stands, there is an abundance of beautiful villas and manors. Walk down Rush St during the day to find fresh restaurants among classics like Carmine’s. When your Black Card gets tired from shopping, break for high tea at The Drake. Enjoy a delicious steak with inventive sides at Del Frisco and a cocktail at the Pump Room.
For something more relaxed, spend your day at the magnificent Oak Street Beach before heading to Lou Malnati’s for a slice of Chicago’s best deep dish.