South Shore Beach

Part of the South Shore Cultural Center, South Shore Beach is the community’s crown jewel. Next to the beach spans a 65-acre park with a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts and a beach house with restrooms and showers. The cultural center features a country club–inspired interior, formal dining hall, solarium, Paul Robeson Theater, Parrot Cage Restaurant, Washburne Culinary Institute and the Dr. Margaret Burroughs gallery. The beach boasts its own nature sanctuary, a boardwalk and distance swimming.

South Shore Beach History

The South Shore Cultural Center dates back to 1905, when Lawrence Heyworth, president of the downtown Chicago Athletic Club, wanted to build an exclusive club in a country setting. He built the South Shore Country Club on an area of undeveloped south lakefront property. It was used as duck hunting and fishing for the new swanky club.

Marshall and Fox architects (of Drake Hotel fame) were enlisted for the job. Heyworth gave them a photograph of an old private club in Mexico city to use for inspiration. The club saw immediate success and social prominence, and the South Shore Country Club quickly outgrew the facilities. Marshal and Fox were hired once again to build a new club house in 1916, complete with a ballroom.

South Shore became a thriving community for African Americans. As the club excluded black members, it went out of business in the 1970s. The Chicago Park District purchased the property in 1974 in an effort to expand lakefront facilities. Community members rallied to serve the historic building. It was renovated and preserved as a cultural center in the 1970s. It includes such original features as the front colonnade, entry gate and stables. 

South Shore Beach Details

There’s a pay-and-display parking lot at South Shore Beach, so it’s easy to get here by car. You can also take public transit on the 6 Jackson Park Express or 71 71st/South Shore bus routes. Once you’re here, the park has everything needed to spend the whole day on the beach.

There’s an ADA accessible beach walk, and distance swimming is allowed during lifeguarded hours daily from 11am to 7pm. There’s no paddle sport access, but there’s plenty of recreation in the surrounding park, including an expansive boardwalk.

The beach us also home to a nature sanctuary. A surrounding boardwalk lets visitors view emerging sand dunes, a small wetland, wildlife and a prairie landscape. Restrooms and other facilities are included in the South Shore Cultural Center.

The historic building is home to a solarium, formal dining hall, Washburne Culinary Institute, Paul Robeson Theater, and the parrot Cage Restaurant. The beach itself also has a beach house with restrooms and showers.

The surrounding area spans over 70 acres. Green highlights include a nature sanctuary, butterfly garden, nine-hole golf course, and open space for picnicking and strolling. There’s a kid’s room, picnic grove, formal garden, art gallery and a teen club house.

South Shore Beach Events

The South Shore Cultural Center hosts after-school programs throughout the year. In the summer, it hosts the popular six-week day camp. Along with youth programs, the center puts on many fun events throughout the year, like movie nights and holiday events. Kids aren’t the only ones to find fun here. Senior Games is held in the summer. There are also music performances like the Chicago Philharmonic.

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