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The Chicago suburb of Andersonville
The Chicago suburb of Andersonville

Places

The towering spirit of Andersonville

A local campaign to restore a much loved if unconventional cultural landmark tells you all you need to know about the homely nature of Chicago’s Andersonville.

It says a lot about the people in the Chicago neighborhood of Andersonville that when they looked set to lose their iconic Swedish flag-adorned water tower it wasn’t long before they rallied around to start fundraising for its return. It’s not just any old water tower though, this one had proudly sat on top of the Swedish American Museum for 90 years until harsh winter weather in 2014 forced its removal for safety reasons. That’s just the kind of place Andersonville is proudly retaining a small village atmosphere within the city.

Centered around Clark Street on the north side, this friendly enclave was once the hub of Swedish life in the city. In the 19th century, immigrant Swedish farmers started moving north into what was then a distant suburb of Chicago. Before long, the entire commercial strip was dominated by Swedish businesses, from delis to hardware stores, and bakeries to blacksmiths.

Originally a speakeasy during prohibition, Simon’s Tavern has been serving beer and glögg since the early 20th century.

Today, Andersonville is home almost entirely to unique, locally owned businesses and there is a palpable sense of unity in the neighborhood.

“You feel at home. You feel welcome,” says Karin Moen Abercrombie, the Executive Director at the Swedish American Museum. “You can get that connection with people.”

The museum, which honors Swedish culture and traditions, celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. Abercrombie grew up in Gothenburg, but has lived in Chicago for more than 30 years. During that time she has seen Andersonville change and grow into a more international community.  

Travelers can come up here, eat traditional pancakes for breakfast at Svea Restaurant, check out the museum, break for a pastry at the Swedish Bakery, stroll into the shops such as the Women’s Bookstore and the Wooden Spoon, and then stay for lunch or dinner at any of the international restaurants that line the block.  Then head into Simon’s Tavern, which has been serving locals since the 1930s, for a beer or some glögg. If you visit in summer, you can even enjoy Midsommarfest, one of Chicago’s largest street festivals.  

I love being in this neighborhood where I can walk everywhere, get my groceries, go to a restaurant,” says Abercrombie. “I love the fact that it feels very welcoming.”

Centered around Clark Street on the north side, this friendly enclave was once the hub of Swedish life in the city.

Guide to Andersonville:

Swedish American Museum

The museum features a gallery with the main exhibit, The Deam of America: Swedish Immigration to Chicago, a children’s museum of immigration, a library, a genealogy center, and gift shop.

Swedish American Museum

5211 N Clark Street, Chicago

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Simon’s Tavern

Originally a speakeasy during prohibition, Simon’s Tavern has been serving beer and glögg since the early 20th century. It’s a local bar that has stayed true to its roots while the area around it has been gentrified.

Simon’s Tavern

5210 N Clark Street, Chicago

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Hopleaf Bar

Hopleaf has one of the largest beer menus in the city and has a leafy and cozy backyard patio in the summer.

Hopleaf Bar

5148 N Clark Street, Chicago

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Reza’s Restaurant

Reza’s has been dishing out Persian and Mediterranean food on Clark Street for decades. For a great deal try their lunch or weekend brunch buffet.

Reza’s

5255 N Clark Street, Chicago

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Bongo Room

Not only does Bongo Room serve great (and filling) breakfasts, it also has a beautiful backyard patio.

Bongo Room

5022 N Clark Street, Chicago

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Jerry’s Sandwiches

Jerry’s has a huge menu of sandwiches of every kind, a lovely bar, plus another stellar backyard patio.

Jerry’s Sandwiches

5419 N Clark Street, Chicago

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Andersonville has many unique, independent shops. Pick up gourmet foods like cheese and olive oil, browse locally-made art and furniture or shop at one of the largest feminist bookstores in the United States.

Pastoral

5212 N Clark St
pastoralartisan.com

Women and Children First Bookstore

5233 N Clark St
womenandchildrenfirst.com

Andersonville Galleria

5247 N Clark St
andersonvillegalleria.com

Wooden Spoon

5047 N Clark St
woodenspoonchicago.com

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