River North is a relatively new name for one of the oldest neighborhoods in Chicago.
Situated north of the main branch of the river and alongside its north branch, this area was destined to be important to transportation and industry.
This was the location of the city’s first hotel and taverns, first ferry, first bridges and first rail line. It was mostly industrial and poor in the city’s early years, with an exclusive residential enclave developing in the late 19th century around the city’s oldest park, Washington Square. But the area experienced a serious decline in the middle of the 20th century, with change only beginning when Marina City opened in 1964.
The 1970s brought transformation by artists and gallery owners attracted to affordable loft space. A local developer of the time named the area ‘River North’ to emphasize its attractiveness and downplay its former seediness, which sparked a major transformation in the area. Development of offices, hotels, major retail, boutiques, restaurants, entertainment venues, and luxury residential has made River North an energetic and essential destination for locals and visitors.
Today’s River North Gallery District boasts the highest concentration of art galleries outside of Manhattan. A design district has grown up in River North, featuring commercial and luxury furnishings shops and showrooms. Some of Chicago’s most iconic buildings are located here, as well, among them the Wrigley Building, Marina City, and Merchandise Mart.
Two of the city’s major cathedrals, Holy Name Cathedral (Catholic) and St. James Cathedral (Episcopal), are surrounded by residential skyscrapers. River North also contains the highest concentration of restaurants in the city and is one of the most popular nightlife destinations with many taverns, rooftop bars, dance clubs, and other entertainment venues.
The North Branch of the River is newly alive with high-design residential towers, a brand new and expanding riverwalk, and a spacious park. The neighborhood is naturally well connected by many rail and bus lines.
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