Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Towertown


Dill Pickle Club Entrance, n.d.
Neighborhood in the Near North Side Community Area. Towertown was Chicago's bohemia in the early twentieth century. Lacking precise boundaries, the district took its name from the Water Tower, which stood to its north and east on Michigan Avenue. An art colony took root in Towertown when Anna and Lambert Tree built Tree Studios to tempt artists to stay in Chicago after the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The concentration of artists, writers, and poets attracted bookshops and coffeehouses, the most famous of which was the Dill Pickle Club. Soapbox orators gathered in Bughouse Square to debate the issues of the day. Gays, lesbians, and experimenters in free love took refuge among Towertown's radicals. By the mid-1920s, rising property values driven by the luxury shopping district on nearby Michigan Avenue were pricing out many of the artists. Towertown became a tourist attraction, further alienating its bohemian denizens. By the Great Depression, the art colony had dispersed.