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Lake Shore Drive – Chicago’s Gold Coast Highway

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  • Traffic on Lake Shore Drive at Irving Park Road in the late Forties

Lake Shore Drive was originally laid out in 1875 to connect Oak Street with North Avenue at the south end of Lincoln Park. The primary motivation to build a broad thoroughfare along the shores of Lake Michigan came in 1899 after wealthy Chicago merchant and real estate developer Potter Palmer asked the city for a street improvement in front of his lakeside mansion. The Chicago Tribune reported that Mr. Palmer “would not object to putting a sea wall farther out into the lake and having a strip of land filled.”

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  •          May, 1930                    December, 1937                  July, 1947

The newly created land was considered prime real estate for development but another notable city resident, merchandising genius Montgomery Ward, fought to keep the lakefront “forever open, clear and free.” The result of his legal efforts are the beaches, parks and athletic fields that flank the modern boulevard today instead of the warehouses, piers and industrial structures seen on the waterfronts of other Great Lakes cities. All are photos courtesy of the Chicago Tribune where you can view more photos and find additional information. 

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  • Lake Shore Drive looking North from the Drake Hotel, circa July 5, 1927

4 responses to “Lake Shore Drive – Chicago’s Gold Coast Highway

  1. The outer drive was unique in that traffic lanes could easily be added during rush hour. If you look at the thumbnail on the right, you can see the lane dividers that could be elevated to keep cars from changing lanes & also to add additional traffic lanes. I don’t think that these are in use today, but I could be mistaken.

  2. The Drake Hotel that is mentioned in the caption to the last photo was the venue for the annual custom body Salons held each winter in Chicago up thru 1932 when the final exhibit was held. The Drake even issued its own in house Printed/published daily magazine that was given to guests, and mentioned prominent events at the hotel as well as important people that were staying there.

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