Chicago, a city where literature thrives, is teeming with landmarks where writers have found inspiration and left their mark. Discover your own piece of Chicago real estate with the help of the Related Realty brokerage firm, and you will be living where Nelson Algren, Lorraine Hansberry, Saul Bellow, and Ernest Hemingway helped build the literary landscape of the Windy City and America.
One of the most beloved literary landmarks in Chicago lies at the center of Wicker Park: a fountain commemorating the life and work of Nelson Algren, perhaps the writer who most clearly developed the myth of Chicago that still exists today. Algren, the author of Chicago: City on the Make, once wrote that: “Between the curved steel of the El and the nearest Clark Street hockshop, between the penny arcade and the shooting gallery, between the basement gin-mill and the biggest juke in Bronzeville, the prairie is caught for keeps at last.” You can see the building where Algren lived from 1959 to 1975 at 1958 West Evergreen, but if you really want to chase his ghost, pay a visit to a famous former speakeasy, Lottie’s Pub, in Bucktown; you can have a drink in the room where Algren is rumored to have romanced French author Simone de Beauvoir, whom he seduced away from Jean-Paul Sartre.
Humboldt Park, another neighborhood immortalized by a Chicago writer, features prominently in two of Saul Bellow’s masterpieces, The Adventures of Augie March and Humboldt’s Gift. A child of immigrants, Bellow was captivated by the mix of cultures that defined the neighborhood in the 1920s. Visitors can take a swim in the newly revitalized Humboldt Lagoon and channel the poetic rhythm of Augie and other famous Bellow characters. You can see the building where Bellow grew up at 2629 West Augusta and visit what became his favorite bar later in life, The Woodlawn Tap in Hyde Park, which he frequented as a student and a professor at the University of Chicago. The Woodlawn is also the bar where Dylan Thomas parked himself while away from the White Horse Tavern in New York.
Another notable author’s home is the Lorraine Hansberry House at 6140 South Rhodes Avenue, famous for being part of the inspiration for her seminal play A Raisin in the Sun, as well as for being the contested grounds over which her father had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court against racially biased housing laws, a case which he famously won.
No tour of literary Chicago would be complete without a visit to the Ernest Hemingway Museum and Birthplace Home at 339 North Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, where you can see not only the house where Hemingway was born but also take a tour of the artifact- and photo-filled museum across the street.
One of the most suspenseful literary tours of Chicago might well be the Devil in the White City Tour offered by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which highlights some of the sites from the critically acclaimed book by Eric Larsen about the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and its connection with the story of the serial killer Dr. Henry Holmes. The tour will take you to the Art Institute of Chicago, which was built as part of the fair and where you can now find a photograph taken of Nelson Algren outside one his favorite bars on Division Street, where he is ensconced, as he described in Chicago: City on the Make, in “the great city’s night colors.”
To become the hero of your own Windy City adventure, work with Chicago real estate brokerage firm Related Realty to create a new Chicago story.