A Squared: City Walk #6: Printers Row

Monday, September 1, 2014

City Walk #6: Printers Row

It's been a long time since I have written a City Walk post... like months, I am pretty sure. In fact, Alex and I went on this walk around the Printers Row neighborhood earlier this summer. It was before we moved up to the north side and actually lived in walking distance from Printer's Row. Printer's Row is a very interesting neighborhood. Located on the south side of the Loop, it's not quite the South Loop, but it's right downtown and has a very different feel from the rest of the Loop. As the name suggests, this neighborhood used to house dozens of printing companies. While most of these have gone by the wayside, many of the original buildings remain and have been converted into residential lofts.

Our first stop on the walk is one of the most iconic in the Chicago Loop. The Harold Washington Library Center [1] is a massive place and-- in my opinion-- marks the division between the Loop and the South Loop neighborhoods. One of its' most recognizable features is its roof, which is adorned with large owl sculptures. Owls are symbolic of wisdom, so this is a totally fitting feature for the library-- and one that is visible from several blocks away. The library is also well known for its interior. The top floor is a "winter garden," a big beautiful greenhouse-style room that houses a huge art collection. It is also one of the places that Alex and I  considered as a potential wedding venue too.

We continued walking west down Congress and then south on Dearborn. This stretch of Dearborn between Congress and Polk Street is one of my favorites in this neighborhood. As the City Walk card describes, it is "surprisingly quiet and intimate" and I would agree. It has a wonderful neighborhood quality about it that you don't often find downtown. The Franklin Building [2] is located right on this street and is also on the National Register of Historic Places along with neighboring buildings. Now a condo building, this is where Chicago-based department stores Montgomery Ward and Sears catalogs were once printed. Also, check out the detailed tiling and mosaic on the facade of the building-- it's really incredible!

Next door to the Franklin Building is Sandmeyer's Bookstore [3], located at 714 S. Dearborn. This electic independent bookstore is cozy and charming, the way an old fashioned bookstore should be. Sadly, Printers Row Fine and Rare Books [4] across the street-- known for a selection of rare and vintage books-- has not fared so well. This space is now vacant.

This part of Dearborn Street comes to an end at Dearborn Station [5]. This classic old train station is one of the oldest in the United States and is recognized by its ornate clock tower. It hasn't been used as a train station since the early 1970's, but the interior has been converted into commercial and office space. We ducked in and, though the interior is a bit dated, the space is great-- all open and light-filled in the center common space, flanked by smaller commercial spaces along either side.

The City Walk then took us northeast and up South Michigan Avenue, an area that I don't technically associate with Printer's Row, but that is far enough south that it isn't the Magnificent Mile. One of the buildings of note here is the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies [6]. This contemporary building houses a museum dedicated to the Jewish experience and it really stands out among a sea of very traditional architecture in this neighborhood.

Directly north of the Spertus Institute, you'll find the final stop on this City Walk: The Museum of Contemporary Photography [7]. Unlike its neighbor, this historic building is classic Chicago architecture. This museum hosts rotating photography exhibits.

Oh, and while there may not have been any restaurants on this City Walk I have a few suggestions of my own. First, I'm a huge fan of local fast casual Mexican restaurant Flaco's Tacos. Their Printers Row location is my favorite (it's a good size and rarely crowded) and a perfect fix for a Mexican craving. Printer's Row is also home to Hackney's, known around Chicago as home to one of the best burgers in the city.

Additionally, my all-time favorite Chicago breakfast spot Meli Cafe has a brand new Printer's Row location. Alex and I stopped in here before our City Walk began (it's conveniently located across the street from Harold Washington Library) for brunch and I had a delicious and spicy breakfast burrito that was on the specials menu that day. And while I have to say that I prefer our old faithful River North location, this Meli Cafe offers a full bar and serves dinner... check it out!


  1. Kevin's parents got us that set of city walk cards a couple years ago - so fun to walk around and explore!

    1. Aren't they so fun? It's my goal to get through all of them!

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