Get Off the Grid in Riverside
Riverside is one of the 10 Towns That Changed America, according to PBS. This is a beautiful village to get lost in. And that may happen!
Only 20 minutes from the Chicago Loop in western Cook County, Riverside today doesn't feel like Chicago, or even Illinois. It's another world: pastoral, green, connected to nature. That's no accident. Designed in 1869 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, architects of New York’s Central Park, Riverside is America’s first planned suburb, and an escape from Chicago’s relentless utilitarian grid.
Then as now, Riverside is a masterful example of landscape design. Enjoy the winding, curvilinear streets with green space at every turn. Drive or stroll along Riverside Road as you follow the Des Plaines River on which Riverside is sited. Parks and commons with old-growth trees abound everywhere in the village, so all have ready access to nature. Olmsted’s use of native plantings to create natural “rooms” (vistas) within the parks ensured his vision would be appreciated long into the future.
Riverside’s architecture is likewise phenomenal. William Le Baron Jenney, father of the skyscraper, built Riverside’s first Water Tower and train depot along with elaborate Victorian homes for Riverside’s founders. Lush real estate with hundreds of landmark homes by Frank Lloyd Wright, Silsbee, Drummond, Vinci, and other Chicago architects can be seen and enjoyed here.
Allow yourself a full day to explore Riverside, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970. Not being on a grid means you may get a little turned around, but all roads eventually lead to the village center, with much to taste and great shopping.
Use any extra time to visit adjacent Chicago suburbs of Oak Park, with its Hemingway and Wright landmarks; Berwyn, with its vintage bungalows; Brookfield for its famous zoo; Stickney to the east, North Riverside, or Lyons to the south. Enjoy a meal at a delicious Czech or Polish restaurant.
A day in the village of Riverside, Illinois, takes you back in time to a friendlier era. You're sure to leave with a new perspective on how suburban living should be.