Marynook—20 Best Towns and Neighborhoods in Chicago and the Suburbs

A home in Marynook
The residential architecture in Marynook hints at its post–World War II origins.

 

Average house price: $93,528
Transportation * * * (out of 4) Served by Metra trains and CTA buses; expressways are nearby.
Schools * The public grade schools (Avalon Park and Caldwell) and high school (Chicago Vocational) are underperformers; a branch of the Chicago International Charter School has replaced little St. Felicitas School, a longtime anchor of the African American community.
Shopping * * 87th Street and Stony Island Avenue have many retail and dining options, and the Chatham Ridge Shopping Center is one and a half miles west, across the Dan Ryan Expressway.
Plus: Savor some carry-out ribs from Lem’s Bar-B-Que House (311 E. 75th St.; 773-994-2428) while watching an outdoor summer movie at Avalon Park.

When Chicago’s rigid street grid gives way to curves, it’s usually a sign that something interesting is around the bend. Marynook—part of the larger Avalon Park neighborhood, extending southwest from 83rd Street and Stony Island Avenue—is a prime example of that. Its 432 single-family homes, many with jauntily angled roofs, big front picture windows, driveways, and wrought-iron railings, have all the hallmarks of postwar suburban tract residences. The curved streets are such an anomaly on the South Side that the website of the Marynook Homeowners Association warns visitors: “Be careful, because you might just get lost in our original cul-de-sacs and winding streets.”

The Chicago architecture writer Lee Bey says that the tiny enclave (it encompasses about four blocks by three blocks) was a developer’s late-1950s attempt at keeping city residents from fleeing to the suburbs. What a change it must have seemed from the rows of bungalows with their alley garages across 83rd Street in Chatham.

Sandra Berry bought her three-bedroom Marynook home in the early 1970s, drawn by the opportunity, she says, “to live in a suburb in the city.” Now retired from a job with the city, Berry says that the neighborhood hasn’t changed much over the years—with one disappointing exception. When thugs figured out that they could enter Marynook backyards along 85th Street directly from Avalon Park, the gates leading from the park into the residents’ yards had to be locked permanently. Now those residents have to go around the block to get into their park.

That aside, Berry says, Marynook retains all its original suburban charm—the same charm that drew the producers of Roll Bounce (a 2005 movie set on the South Side in the 1970s) to film at a house on her block. Berry also likes the way the houses all echo each other’s looks, although she notes that her dog may not feel the same way. “Sometimes,” she laments, “he can’t tell which one is his house!”

 

Photograph: Courtesy of yochicago.com

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