by Amanda Landwehr / Arts & Culture Editor
Chicago is a city defined by each of its 77 unique neighborhoods. However, visitors to the city often choose to overlook some of these communities’ vibrant cultures in favor of staying exclusively inside of the famous Chicago Loop. In lieu of gawking at the bean or standing on top of the Willis Tower Skydeck, visitors and residents of Chicago alike can simply hop on a CTA bus or train and explore the charm of Chicago’s local neighborhoods for a more holistic experience of the city.
This week, I travelled to the Northern neighborhood of Andersonville to check out the community’s annual art festival, food scene and Swedish culture. What does Andersonville have to offer, and is it worth a visit?
Andersonville was established as a Swedish farming community in the early 19th century. At the time, Andersonville was considered to be a distant suburb of Chicago. Following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, city officials declared that no wooden homes were to be constructed within city limits. Because of this, working-class families were financially unable to reconstruct homes with brick or stone. This resulted in Chicago residents scattering off to distant areas such as Andersonville or Portage Park. Today, Andersonville has become much more accessible with the development of roads and public transportation.
My travel companions and I chose to travel to Andersonville via the CTA Red Line and travelled north for about 50 minutes before exiting at the Bryn Mawr stop. From that station, we walked to our chosen brunch destination of M.Henry Cafe. After a delicious meal consisting of black bean cakes, french toast and eggs, we continued our tour of Andersonville by walking down Clark Street. This bustling road was clearly the neighborhood’s primary center of commerce and was lined with trendy restaurants, residences and bookstores. On our walk throughout town, we stumbled across Andersonville’s notable Swedish American Museum.
Located right off of Clark Street and impossible to miss due to its iconic Swedish-flag covered water tower, this museum is one of Andersonville’s primary attractions. Founded in 1976, the three-story museum features thousands of Swedish artifacts and a rotating series of special art exhibits. This museum is one of 25 cultural centers within the Chicago Cultural Alliance and helps to promote the highly-concentrated Swedish-American heritage of Andersonville. Admission is only four dollars for students and is a must-see for visitors of the neighborhood.
To end our day, we stopped by Andersonville’s 17th annual Art Festival, a four-day long gathering of independent artists, local businesses and restaurants. Over 200 artists including photographers, painters and fashion designers lined the north end of Clark Street in order to promote and sell their work. Amongst the dozens of vendor tents and food trucks, dancers and violinists performed on the sidewalk to hundreds of spectators. The several genres of art and the support of the local community makes the annual Art Fest one of Andersonville’s largest events.
Andersonville’s unique culture and Swedish American heritage continue to act as a reminder of Chicago’s vast history of European immigration. From the trendy streetside cafes to the surrounding brownstone residences, Andersonville is an alluring community not to be missed when visiting Chicago. Tourists can easily spend the greater part of the day visiting this neighborhood by checking out landmarks such as Hamburger Mary’s burger bar or Alleycat comic book store. Overall, I was enchanted by the charming character of Andersonville and will certainly be returning for another visit soon.