The Story of Ravenswood
Chicago neighborhood names can be tricky; Ravenswood is a perfect example of that. For a long time, what many people today consider Lincoln Square was known only as Ravenswood. The Ravenswood elevated train, now the Brown Line, has stops in Ravenswood at Montrose and Damen but extends all the way to Albany Park. And Ravenswood Manor? Not part of Ravenswood – it falls into Lincoln Square and Albany Park.
Ravenswood began as an exclusive commuter suburb when developers bought land eight miles north of Chicago in 1868. Building a hotel to let potential residents visit the area before buying one of the large lots and restricting access by the cost of rail tickets, the developers ensured wealthy clients – although they didn’t build any infrastructure. Ravenswood got sewers only after Chicago annexed it as part of Lake View township in 1889.
As with other far-flung Chicago neighborhoods, Ravenswood saw population growth and diversification around the turn of the century as streetcar lines and the elevated railroad reached it. An industrial corridor sprang up along Ravenswood Avenue next to the rail line, while Ravenswood itself remained mostly residential, leaving commercial development to neighboring Lincoln Square. That industrial corridor now houses various creative businesses that have repurposed factory lofts: breweries, a distillery, art studios, architecture firms, and more.
Neighborhood Spotlight: Malt Row
Watch: Malt Row
In 2017, Ravenswood Avenue was dubbed “Malt Row” for its preponderance of breweries – and a distillery that claims to be Chicago’s first since Prohibition. Koval Distillery makes whiskeys from a variety of grains, including oat and millet, as well as gin, vodka, and liqueurs, and some of the nearby breweries use its barrels to age some of their beers. Near Koval is Urban Renewal Brewery, while the self-proclaimed nerdy Empirical Brewery is on the other side of the Metra tracks.
Band of Bohemia is the first Michelin-starred brewpub in the world, while Begyle and the German-style Dovetail are located farther down the former industrial corridor in North Center. A bit off Ravenswood Avenue you can find two locations of Half Acre Beer: one on Lincoln Avenue and a larger one with a patio on Balmoral, next door to Spiteful Brewing.
Things to Do
Head down Ravenswood or Damen avenues to shop at an eclectic group of stores that specialize in everything from bikes to home décor to jewelry. And if you need a bite to eat, try Aroy Thai or the Neapolitan pizzas at neighborhood joint Spacca Napoli.