Expanding Lake Shore Drive

To expand or not to expand? Historically, that's been the question.

August 26, 2011

Lake Shore Drive in its present incarnation is a relatively recent addition to Chicago’s landscape. Built in pieces over much of the last century, the road was known variously as Leif Erickson Drive and Field Boulevard before it was christened with its current name in 1946.

The germ of the idea, however, began in 1882 with Potter Palmer, who wanted the city to build a road along the lakefront to increase property values. And as long as there’s been a Drive there’s been this question about the Drive: To expand or not to expand? And if we expand it, how far north or south should it go?

In 1933 Lake Shore Drive was extended from Belmont to Foster. In the ‘50s the road pushed further north to Bryn Mawr, and then to Hollywood Avenue in 1957.

On the South Side, there has been talk of expanding Lake Shore Drive into the former U.S. Steel South Works site, currently being redeveloped by Chicago based McCaffery Interests.  

But conversations about expanding North Lake Shore Drive beyond its current stopping point have been more controversial.

The idea was resoundingly rejected in a 2004 referendum in which 90 percent of Rogers Park residents voted against the idea of expansion.

Author Neal Samors grew up in Rogers Park and remembers the various LSD expansions. Together with co-author Bernie Judge, Samors tracks the highway’s history in Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive: America’s Most Beautiful Roadway.

In the audio above, the two explain why the question of expansion has tended to rouse the ire of many North Siders.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Neal Samors and Bernard Judge spoke at an event presented by Chicago Architecture Foundation in January. Click here to hear the event in its entirety.