Lake Shore Drive (1910)

Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive owes its origin to the development of Lincoln Park on Chicago’s north side in the 1870s and to the emergence of the so-called Gold Coast, a neighborhood populated by the mansions of many of the city’s social elite in the 1880s and 1890s, most notably retailer and real estate developer Potter Palmer. This postcard, looking south on the drive in Lincoln Park, shows that the Drive of Burnham and Bennett’s time was essentially an amenity for leisurely enjoyment of the lakefront, populated by carriages (both automobiles and horse-powered) and pedestrians. Sheridan Road, like Lake Shore Drive, was partly a real estate promotion conceived by suburban developers to provide a link between the Drive and the emerging wealthy suburbs of the North Shore. The Plan of Chicago’s redesign of the central and south lake shore provided the impetus for the extension of a similar drive on the South Side in the 1920s that was later incorporated into Lake Shore Drive. The roadway was considerably widened, extended further north, and transformed into a limited access highway for much of its length in the 1930s. Even though the roadway extended through parkland for almost its entire length, the re-design effectively ended its role as a pleasure drive. The transformation of the drive from its original recreational purpose has not been without controversy. Efforts to enlarge its capacity and efficiency as an automobile artery have consistently encountered resistance from local groups since the late 1960s who perceived as a threat to the integrity and quality of lakefront parkland as conceived by the Plan of Chicago. Some of these activists have even called for changes that would degrade its value as a rapid auto route.

 

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Ebner, Michael H. Creating Chicago's North Shore: A Suburban History. The University of Chicago Press, 1989.

“Lake Shore Drive.” Postcard, ca. 1910. Private Collection