On Chicago’s far Southwest Side is the quiet residential neighborhood of Morgan Park. This area is green and tree-filled with a number of public parks and large private yards. The majority of the community’s development is single-family homes, which spread from Western Avenue to Halsted Street and from 107th Street down to 119th Street. The landscape is divided into two very distinct sections. On the east side the streets follow the city’s traditional grid plan with short, orderly blocks, back alleys and defined lot sizes. However, the west side gives way to long, meandering lanes with more space between houses and a very suburban feel. You’ll even see backyard pools and front driveways. Not what you’d expect from a typical Chicago neighborhood!
Morgan Park is located about 13 miles from the downtown Loop. It is easily accessible from I-57, which bisects the neighborhood and acts as a boundary line between its grid-street east side and the curving roads of Morgan Park’s west side. Commuters with cars will find the expressway is the most efficient way to get to the city center. It generally takes about 20 minutes, although rush hour traffic slows things down quite a bit! Those who prefer public transportation can take the Metra Rock Island District line. This train runs right through Morgan Park and has four stops in the neighborhood.
There are several designated recreation spots in Morgan Park where people can play b-ball, take a swim, swing the bat, climb the jungle gym, take a walk or have a picnic. Some local favorites are Crescent Park and Prospect Gardens Park (on the neighborhood’s northwest side), Blackwelder Park (on the southwest side), and Ada Park (on the east side). In the summer, Blackwelder is a popular venue to catch a movie out under the stars. Just bring a folding chair or blanket (and some pre-popped popcorn) for an evening of family-friendly film-watching. Children’s day camps are run out of Ada Park, which also has an auditorium and gym, tennis and basketball courts, soccer field and baseball diamonds, and a huge outdoor swimming pool.
Morgan Park is a bedroom community, so it doesn’t have much in the way of dining and nightlife. However, there is a showing of restaurants and businesses along the neighborhood’s border streets. Up on Western Avenue are quite a few places to eat, ranging from fast food sandwich shops to sit-down seafood and barbeque houses. That’s also where you’ll find Mrs. O’Leary’s Dubliner (an authentic Irish pub) and a couple other neighborhood watering holes with their own set of regulars and a guaranteed Chicago sports game on the TV.
Much of Morgan Park’s cultural attractions are situated within the walls of the Beverly Arts Center. This 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility has art galleries, music and dance studios, classrooms, a film and live performance theater, and regional outreach programs for area schools. The BAC offers non-credit multidisciplinary classes for students of the arts and hosts free art exhibits for the public to enjoy. It is also home to Chicago’s only Irish Film Festival. The annual event showcases the latest independent gems of Irish cinema, while celebrating Morgan Park’s strong ancestral ties to Ireland.