Self-Guided Tour: Andersonville
Explore beyond Chicago’s Swedish corner and go on a tour with a professional guide and lifelong Chicagoan. Be sure to take a look at all of our Chicago tours.
From the early 1800s until 1960, Swedes ranked as Chicago’s fifth-largest foreign-born group, behind Poles, Germans, Russians and Italians. For the most part, Swedes congregated in neighborhoods on the Near North Side of the city, especially in areas such as Lincoln Park and Lakeview. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, large numbers of Swedes moved farther north in order to escape the city’s new, strict building code which prohibited the use of wood in residential construction (and therefore made house construction more expensive).
One of the areas settled by Swedes was a bucolic subdivision about 6 miles north of the Loop (present-day intersection of Clark Street and Foster Ave.) called Andersonville. The residential development was named, ironically, after a Norwegian community leader, Reverend Paul Andersen, whose name was often misspelled with an “e” instead of an “o.” It grew to become a thriving community of Swedes until the Great Depression when many decided to relocate to the nearby Chicago suburbs.
Not all Swedes left the neighborhood, however. In 1964, Andersonville was rededicated as a community by Mayor Richard J. Daley and Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, and to celebrate the occasion the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce reinstituted the Swedish tradition of celebrating the summer solstice by hosting Midsommarfest, one of the neighborhood’s largest and most popular outdoor festivals. To honor the contributions of early Swedish immigrants to the area, local residents opened a Swedish American Museum with a gala ceremony that was attended by King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden.
Today, Andersonville is a diverse and vibrant community comprised of third- and fourth-generation Swedes, Mexicans, Koreans and Lebanese. Andersonville also is home to a thriving LBGTQ population as well as a pastiche of independent, locally-owned businesses that give the area a strong sense of both family and community.
Take a look at the map below for an itinerary of fun stops to take in Andersonville. Like our other Chicago walking tours, this map takes you to historic and unique establishments that only come from knowing a lifelong Chicago native.
Duration: 2 Hours
- Best Days: Weekends
- Best time to start: 11 am
- Before you begin: We recommend checking store and restaurant hours ahead of time
- Getting Around: Ride the Red Line to Berwyn and walk
- Swedish American Museum
- Svea Restaurant
- Hopleaf Bar
- Andersonville Galleria