Hyde Park

June 1, 2020

Found on the south-side of Chicago, this historic neighborhood is home to many
U-High students as well as the University of Chicago’s campus, including the Laboratory Schools. The neighborhood is dense with historical, architectural, and nature sites, making it so that there is always more to discover. Hyde Park is extremely accessible, right off of Lake Shore Drive, and with more than 10 CTA bus routes running through it. On your walk around the neighborhood, make sure to stop at Medici on 57th, a favorite of many locals, for a coffee and a snack. 

 

Structures

Henry Moore Nuclear Energy Sculpture – HIS

5625 S. Ellis Ave.

The Henry Moore Nuclear Energy Sculpture commemorates the exact location where the Manhattan Project produced the first human-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in 1942.

Located between the bright-bricked Max Palevsky Dorms and the glassy dome of Mansueto Library, the bronze statue commemorates the exact location where the Manhattan Project produced the first human-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in 1942. The statue was unveiled on Dec. 2, 1967, after four years of construction, precisely 25 years after the discovery. When visiting the statue, make sure to view it from multiple angles to make out the multiple images represented in the complex bronze figure. 

 

Obama Kissing Rock

5285 S. Dorchester Ave.

This 3,000 pound boulder is often overlooked by passersby but this rock commemorates the exact spot where former President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama had their first kiss.

Hyde Park residents take pride in the fact that former President Obama’s family lived in the neighborhood before his two terms, but many pass by this little gem every day without knowing what it is. The 3,000-pound rock was installed by the Dorchester Shopping Center in 2012 to commemorate the spot Barack and Michelle had their first kiss. 

“On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate,” reads the metal plaque on the boulder, a quote from an interview with Obama and O, the Oprah Magazine, back in 2007

 

Shoreland – HIS

5454 South Shore Dr.

The Shoreland’s neoclassical building stands elegantly directly in front of Promontory Point. Before the massive building served as a luxury apartment building with 330 apartment units, it was used as dormitories by University of Chicago for 32 years, and before that, it was one of Chicago’s most glamorous hotels. The Shoreland, after opening in 1926, hosted many famous figures including Elvis Presley, Amelia Earhart, and Al Capone.

 

Fountain of Time

6000 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

The fountain’s figures stand on the west end of the Midway bordering Washington Park. The concrete fountain was dedicated in 1922 after more than a decade of effort by Lorado Tuft, the artist behind the statue, as part of his “Midway Beautiful” initiative. The fountain is 120 feet wide and should be looked at from across the street from the statue to get a full view of the statue at the Dr. Allison Davis Garden. 

 

Buildings

Cobb Hall

5811 S. Ellis Ave.

Cobb Hall is tucked away in the south-west corner of the Quadrangle.

Cobb Hall’s gothic architecture is quintessential of the University’s look. When University of Chicago held its first classes on October 1, 1892, Cobb Hall was the first building that had been completed. Out of the 16 original buildings constructed by University of Chicago, it was the most expensive. When visiting the building, make sure to check out the C Bench which sits directly in front of Cobb.

 

Keller Center

1307 E. 60th St.

Located on the south side of the Midway, the Keller Center houses the Harris School of Public Policy. The building was renovated recently in 2018 since being built originally in 1963 by architect Edward Durell Stone. The limestone facade has decorative tracings that should be approached when viewing.

 

Isidore Heller House

5132 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Built in 1896, this is the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s only other building in Hyde Park beside the Robie House. Wright designed the home for Isidore H. Heller, an Austrian businessman, who lived there with his family for 16 years. The house strays from Wright’s earlier designs that were defined by square plans and features three stories. 

 

Laird Bell Law Quadrangle

1111 E. 60th St.

The Laird Bell Law Quadrangle is home to the University of Chicago Law School and was designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinen.

The mid-century modern building is home to the University of Chicago Law School and is situated south of the Midway. Designed and constructed in the 1950s by renowned architect Eero Saarinen, the building was completed in 1960. The limestone featured on the law school’s facade is the same Indiana limestone used for the University’s gothic buildings. The school also has many notable alumni including Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Senator Amy Klobuchar.

 

South Campus Chiller Plant 

6053 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Tucked away next to the Metra train tracks, this shiny modern rectangle is a striking contrast from its dark bricked predecessor, the old University of Chicago Steam Plant. The plant was completed in 2010 and was designed by architect Helmut Jahn. Even the parts of the building’s facade that aren’t glass, use perforated steel sheets to allow the building to “breathe.” The unique design showcases the function of the building, which is to generate chilled water and steam for the south and east sides of the university campus. The water plant has received awards from the American Institute of Architects, AIA Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Foundation and McGraw Hill.

 

Parks

Midway Plaisance South Winter Garden

E. 60th Street and S. Woodlawn Avenue

This little garden is situated on the Midway across from the University of Chicago Law School. With an abundance of benches and trees for shade, this is a perfect spot to just sit and rest. The garden is also near the midpoint of the Midway, making it even more ideal for a little rest stop.

 

Botany Pond

1103 E. 57th St.

Botany Pond is a favorite among Hyde Park locals for a reason. Many Lab students have visited the little corner, nestled between Zoology Building and the Erman Biology Center, with their classes to observe nature and get some fresh air. Look out for Honey, the beloved duck that resides at the pond with her ducklings.

 

Washington Park 

5200 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

This 350-acre park borders the west side of Hyde Park and features a large nature area, a garden and an arboretum. The park was designed by Olmsted and Vaux in 1870 and construction began in 1872. Since then, numerous additions have been made including the DuSable Museum, the Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts and the Washington Park Pool. 

 

All images from this chapter taken by An Ngo.

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