Having the same cachet as Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Chicago’s Gold Coast is as affluent as its name suggests: it is the wealthiest residential neighborhood in the Windy City.
The landmarked neighborhood for the super-rich got its start back in 1882 (shortly after the great Chicago Fire) when State Street dry goods merchant and hotelier Potter Palmer and his wife Bertha, built a fairytale-like castle on a block at 1350 North Lake Shore Drive.
Catering to High Society
Architects Henry Ives Cobb and Charles Frost designed the castle, which was completed around 1887, at a cost totaling more than $1 million dollars. The 42-room mansion featured a three-story Italianate central hall while other rooms were furnished in many historic styles: a Louis XVI salon, an Indian room, an Ottoman parlor, a Renaissance library, a Spanish music room, an English dining room that could seat fifty, and a Moorish room with perfume-scented rugs. Paintings, collected by Bertha Palmer, graced the mansion's grand 75-foot-long ballroom, and its exterior was adorned by dozens of turrets and minarets reminiscent of a Bavarian castle. Kings, presidents and the finest in high society were entertained there in its heyday.
Over the next few decades, Chicago's elite gradually migrated from South Prairie Avenue to new homes north of the Loop. Today, the neighborhood is a mixture of mansions, row houses, and high-rise apartments. The Palmer Mansion was demolished in 1950 to build a block of apartment buildings but some of the other mansions and townhouses remain (including the historic Charnley-Persky House). The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The Gold Coast features many high-rise apartment buildings on Lake Shore Drive, facing Lake Michigan, and mostly low rise residences inland. As with many neighborhoods, its exact borders tend to be disputed but, generally they extend from North Avenue, south, to Division Street and west to Clark Street; and, it also includes the areas east of State Street, south, to Oak Street and east of Michigan Avenue, south, to Walton Place. According to the latest data from the Chicago Association of Realtors, the average home price in the area ranges from about $680,000 to around $2 million.