Bronzeville Neighborhood Guide
Bronzeville is a legendary Chicago neighborhood noted for its African-American heritage. The career of famous trumpet player Louis Armstrong was launched in Bronzeville, where the young musician would play in local nightclubs and accompany Joe Oliver’s Big Jazz Band. Civil rights advocate and newspaper woman Ida B. Wells spent three decades in Bronzeville, fighting for urban reform in the city. Her grey-stone house, located on S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, is now a Designated Chicago Landmark. The blocks west of King Drive are dotted with several historic buildings and monuments that have made Bronzeville a popular tourist stop in recent years.
The community was first established in the 1910s, during the height of the Great Migration from southern states. Many African-Americans moved north in search of jobs and to escape the oppression in the South. At the time, Bronzeville was referred to as the “Black Metropolis” and it became a well-known center for African-American life. Businesses such as the Chicago Bee newspaper, the Overton Hygienic Company, and Supreme Life Insurance were operated out of the neighborhood. The headquarter buildings are still there today and have been added to Chicago’s Designated Landmark roster.
The Historical Bronzeville Tour is a great way to see the sights and learn first-hand about the neighborhood’s past and present. Among other stops, the bus takes visitors by the Ritz Hotel, through the 47th Street Blues & Jazz District, and to the Bronzeville Walk of Fame on King Drive between 47th and 25th streets. Other notable attractions in Bronzeville are the Victory Monument, built in the late 1920s to honor African-Americans in the Illinois National Guard; Sunset Café, once a hopping jazz club in its hey-day, now a hardware store; and the Wabash Avenue YMCA, a fully restored 1913 brick community center that still remains open to the public.
Amongst the notable statues and landmark buildings is evidence of modern revitalization and new businesses. There are coffee shops, cafés, bookstores, lounges, galleries and even a summertime farmer’s market. Bronzeville Coffee and Tea House is a friendly neighborhood haunt with an outdoor patio, fresh-baked pastries, Fair Trade coffee drinks, and a book exchange for guests to trade in old reading material for something new. The Negro League Café is a Bronzeville restaurant enveloped in baseball memorabilia. Murals and paintings of the league’s players cover the walls and delicious soul food entrées and Caribbean dishes cover the menu. Also serving up traditional jerk-flavored fare are J & R Caribbean Cuisine, Welcome to Jamaica, and Mississippi Rick’s. Bronzeville is also loaded with rib joints, barbeque places and southern cooking specialists. Alice’s Bar-b-que, Chicago Rib House, Sweet Potatoes Café, Southtown Sub, Glady’s Luncheonette and Sweet D’s Diner are just a sampling of what the area has to offer.
On Saturday mornings, stock up on home-made treats and home-grown produce at the Bronzeville Farmer’s Market, situated on King Drive during the warm weather months. Then, on Sundays, head over to 35th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue to check out the assortment of goods for sale at the Bronzeville Antiques and Mongo Market. In mid-June, local and national filmmakers, authors, actors, producers and other creatives congregate in the neighborhood for the Bronzeville Cultural Festival, which combines the community’s Film Festival and Book Fair. The event features work by African-Americans that promote awareness of African-American issues and themes.
Provided by Chicago Real Estate