Did You Know?
Discover the hidden treasures of the Near South Side by bike
On Saturday, June 29, a few Active Trans staff will be attending this year’s annual historic bike ride of the Bronzeville neighborhood. Biking is one of the best ways to explore the city and the Bronzeville ride is meant to introduce an often overlooked part of Chicago and its rich architecture, music, cuisine, and history to residents and visitors.
Considered the Black Metropolis, Bronzeville became a hub of African-American business and culture in the early 1900’s and was where many prominent African Americans lived.
The Historic Bronzeville Bike Ride incorporates visits to the homes and performance stages of legendary jazz, blues and gospel musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole and Mahalia Jackson; food samples from several local favorites; the impressive architecture of brownstone mansions and century-old churches; and stories about Bronzeville’s past spanning from the Great Migration to the Civil Rights movement.
The idea of the historic bike ride formed one summer day ten years ago when three Bronzeville homeowners were cycling around their neighborhood streets. During their ride they realized they knew very little about their community’s history and the magnificent architecture lining the streets.
According to Mell Monroe, one of the founders of the ride and a bed and breakfast owner in the area, the simple act of riding their bikes around their own community that day opened their eyes. On a bike they saw details they never before noticed, scenes they usually experienced as they whizzed by in their cars.
The three homeowners began asking other community members if they would be interested in joining a group bike ride. Suddenly 45 people wanted to ride while learning about the community by bike.
This was the birth of the Historic Bronzeville Bike Ride, which now brings in more than 100 people on bikes from all over the city.
It is a full community effort with 47 small businesses participating and 62 residents involved in organizing and hosting stops along the ride. Highlights of the ride include:
• Louis Armstrong’s Home – Jazz trumpet legend.
• The Metropolitan Church – Where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson performed and where civil rights meetings were held.
• Nat King Cole’s Home – First African American to host a primetime TV show in the 1960s; pianist/baritone singer.
• Meyers Ace Hardware/Sunset Café – Former venue of legendary jazz performers, including Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Earl Hines and Benny Goodman.
• Frank Lloyd Wright Townhomes
• The African American Market – Cuisine and comedy center with H Dogs, Uncle Joe’s Jerk Food and Jokes & Notes Comedy Club.
• Quinn Chapel AME Church – First African American Church in Chicago, formed and built by free men/women 1844.
• Eta Moten Barnett’s Home – Original cast member, singer, performer on Broadway/TV “Porgy & Bess.
• Gallery Guichard – Original fine art.
If you're interested in joining the ride and getting to know this unique part of Chicago, you can buy tickets. The 4 hour ride starts at 9 a.m. and is a leisurely 16 miles ride on Bronzeville’s boulevards and quiet streets, stopping at restaurants and historic sites along the way.
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