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The South Side’s destination treasures: Small town comforts at the edge of urban setting

Wed, Jul 10, 2013

Straddling the Illinois/Indiana border between 120th and 134th Streets, Wolf Lake and the neighborhood of Hegewisch are tucked away at the edge of Chicago. They are retreats from city chaos for urbanized individuals who don’t want to lose the convenience that comes with living in a large city.

These two areas came to our attention through a friend involved with the Chicago Neighborhood Tourism Project, which sent writers into various communities to drum up interesting destinations throughout the city. She said Wolf Lake and Hegewisch intrigued her because they are almost rural environments that you wouldn’t expect to be within the city limits. In addition, you can get there by commuter train (the Northern Indiana Commuter District Railroad or “South Shore” Line), which makes them feel like a real “getaway.”

Our StreetWise team of three decided to take a car, however. We drove I-94, I-90 and U.S. 41. Once we passed the toll roads and got off on Calumet Avenue, it seemed as if we had passed into another dimension. The familiar Chicago skyline was easily visible in the distance, but this neighborhood seemed so placid and remote.

Speeding down twisting and gravel roads flanked by tall grass, we seemed to hit a dead-end or a one-way every turn we made. Finally, we found the William W. Powers State Recreation Area at 12949 S. Avenue O. Wind surfers cruised the water as we walked the edge of the lake.

And who knew that there was legal hunting in Chicago? During July, the lake is open for waterfowl hunting, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website. Ice fishing is even permitted if the lake is frozen enough.

We saw several men fishing, not for sport, but for dinner. One man reeled in a two-foot long catfish. Toothing us a grin, he grabbed the fish by the gills and walked off.

West of Wolf Lake, Baltimore Street in Hegewisch feels more like a town in Wisconsin, with its Mom & Pop stores. Aniol’s True Value (at 13416 S. Baltimore) is a family-owned hardware store that displays a bronze bust of Tony Piet, a former resident who was a White Sox second and third baseman in the 1930s and then a Chicago car dealer. Doreen’s Pizzeria at 13201 S. Baltimore has a deal every day; the three of us enjoyed sodas and pizza for $15.

In the 19th century, Hegewisch was the home of the U.S. Rolling Stock Company, a railroad car manufacturer. So getting there by South Shore railroad is appropriate. The South Shore Station is at 13730 S. Brainard St.; the No. 30 CTA bus runs down Baltimore Street and connects with both the South Shore and the Red Line at 95th Street.

By Torey Darin
StreetWise Editorial Intern

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