Lake Shore Drive

Lake Shore Drive

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If ever asked to take a trip on LSD,  Chicago is the safest place in the world where you can answer “yes.”

Lake Shore Drive is often referred to as one of the most beautiful urban highways in the country — and for good reason. This road offers an impressive view of Lake Michigan on the eastern side with the city to the west. It has been a cornerstone of Chicago’s identity since the late 1800’s when it was a simple, private drive used for carriage rides up and down Lake Michigan.

The Chicago Commercial Club approached Daniel H. Burnham in the late 1800’s asking him to improve not only Lake Shore Drive, but other areas of Chicago as well. Burnham’s “Plan of Chicago” was completed in 1909 and was responsible for creating roads, public parks, railroads, buildings, and docks on Lake Michigan. The plan was centered around the idea of making the lake more accessible to the public via pedestrian paths and the highway. Burnham wrote, “First in importance [to the city] is the shore of Lake Michigan. It should be treated as park space to the greatest possible extent. The lakefront by right belongs to the people… not a foot of its shores should be appropriated to the exclusion of the people.”

Over time, the highway has been added to and reconstructed. One notable construction project took place in 1937 with the addition of the “S curve,” which connected the northern portion of the drive to the southern at Oak Street. The “S curve” remained the same for 45 years until it was revamped in the early 80’s. By 1987, the reconstruction on the “S curve” was completed and the highway took on its new look for nine years.

LSD’s look today was formally completed in 1996 with the reconfiguration of traffic lanes near Soldier Field and the Field Museum. This project led northbound traffic east of the buildings and southbound traffic west. These two major landmarks of the city are easily accessible by Lake Shore Drive. However, you can count on seeing a lot of traffic on Sunday afternoons when the Bears are at home.

Besides its use by thousands of Chicagoans daily, Lake Shore Drive plays host to the famous “Bike the Drive” event where the entire highway shuts down to motor traffic and is only open for bikers. Furthermore, thousands of Chicagoans, tourists and public servants utilize the road for different reasons every day.

Future plans for LSD include extending the road on both ends. However, there is currently disagreement between residents in Rogers Park and Edgewater and a private company that is endorsed by the Chicago Park District regarding development to the north. Only time will tell what LSD will become, but it will always serve as a major part of Chicago’s history.

Fun Facts:

  • Officially titled “Lake Shore Drive” in 1946. It was formerly known as “Outer Drive.”
  • In 1875 Potter Palmer takes initiative to start groundbreaking on a new Lake Drive after the Chicago fire in October 1871.
  • Today, Lake Shore Drive extends 16.4 miles total from north (intersection of W. Hollywood Ave. & N. Sheridan Rd.) to south (intersection of E. 67th St. & S. Lake Shore Drive).
  • Lake Shore Drive is a part of U.S. Route 41, which runs from the upper peninsula in Michigan to Miami, Florida. Highway 41 is a total of 2,000 miles.
  • Chicago’s radio station, “The Drive” is named after Lake Shore Drive.
  • Not too many roads in America have a song named after them.
Pat Howard

About Pat Howard

Patrick grew up in Jefferson and Norwood Park on Chicago's northwest side. He spent most of his childhood playing sports, but when he wasn't holding a bat or shooting free throws he found he needed a creative outlet for his thoughts. He found he had a love of storytelling and how it brings people together. This is when he started writing creatively and talking to people... a lot. He attended college at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota where he graduated with a degree in journalism and English. He soon returned to Chicago where he is currently working at a career as a journalist.

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