Givins House, a replica of an Irish castle, built 1886 at the corner of 103rd and Longwood, atop the high glacial ridge that parallels Longwood. Used for many years as a Unitarian church. At the time, it cost an exorbitant $80,000 to build, due largely to the necessity of hauling limestone from Joliet via ox-cart. The wooden addition to the right is unfortunate, if unobtrusive. Photo by Eric Allix Rogers. Flickr CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

After living in Morgan Park or Beverly for a few years, you’ll start to see familiar faces everywhere. Each month, it seems more interesting events are happening in the area to keep people rooted—for the weekend, and for the rest of their lives. Residents of this southwest region of Chicago are committed to supporting small businesses, arts and culture, and families with kids.

Early in the pandemic, my family took walks together up and down the tree-lined Wood Street, sometimes twice a day, through Morgan Park and Beverly. I’d think, “Wow, I’m so grateful we have a walkable neighborhood.” With my now-toddler in tow, we’d often take a detour from the route between Prospect Avenue and 95th Street to visit one of five parks: Prospect, Barnard, Graver, Hurley, or Ridge.

Recently, someone popped her head out of her apartment to greet me while I was on a rare solo walk. I didn’t immediately recognize my former coworker, who had just moved to Beverly with her kids. “It’s me!” she said as she stepped out of the front door. Although I was delighted to see a familiar face, I wasn’t too surprised—we often see people we know during walks. And I was definitely not surprised that she chose to relocate to the neighborhood.

Newcomers with kids regularly cite safety and good schools as reasons for choosing Beverly or Morgan Park. And people who lived in the area as youngsters and returned as adults will tell you the neighborhood is way more fun than it used to be. They might be referring to the live music at the newly relocated Afro Joe’s Coffee & Tea, steps from Wood St. on 99th, or to the numerous arts events that take place throughout the year, owing mainly to the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.

Down Wood St., you’ll also find two neighbors who have transformed their front yards into butterfly sanctuaries, complete with big rose mallow hibiscus blooms, bright fuschia bee balm, and purple blazing stars. People in this neighborhood care—about other people, and about the planet—and it shows. 

Our well-worn Wood St. path leads us near the Beverly Phono Mart, down the block from Givins Beverly Castle, and, on a longer Sunday morning jaunt, all the way to the 95th Street Farmer’s Market, each of which are highlighted in this issue.

Neighborhood captain Anna Carvlin is a public health advocate, yoga instructor, writer, and aspiring fiddler. She lives with her family in Morgan Park.

  • Best Real Castle: Givins Beverly Castle

    Many Southsiders don’t know that we have a real castle in Chicago. The Givins Beverly Castle has three stories, three turrets, and crenellations along the roof line. The Castle is located at 103rd and Longwood Drive, and serves the community in many ways. It’s home to Beverly Unitarian Church, yoga and meditation classes, community groups like Southsiders for Peace, community forums on important issues, the Beverly Castle Preschool, traditional holiday events like Christmas tree sales and breakfasts with Santa, and environmental projects such as hazardous waste and electronics collections. The Castle has also been the site for hundreds of weddings and family celebrations since the mid-twentieth century.

    Built in 1886 and 1887, the Givins Beverly Castle is an important part of Chicago’s Longwood Drive Historic District. The Castle benefitted from major renovations in 2020 and 2021 to restore the safety of the limestone turrets and parapets, and to ensure the preservation of this iconic structure. A successful grassroots fundraising campaign with a $1 million goal confirmed the significance of the Castle to the more than 200 individual donors from the city and suburbs, and the broader historic preservation community. That restoration project has been completed, and earned a “Chicago Landmark Award for Preservation Excellence” as a result. t. 

    There are many opportunities to visit the Givins Beverly Castle. Several thousand people toured the inside during Open House Chicago weekends in 2018 and 2019. During the pandemic, Open House Chicago visitors were restricted to the outside of the “Castle on the Hill,” but groups are once again meeting inside with COVID safety precautions in place, and it will part of this year’s Open House in October.. 

    Chicago’s Only Castle by Errol Magidson, available at Bookie’s on Western Ave., provides an extensive history of the families who called the Castle home, the girls’ school that occupied the building in the late nineteenth century, and the Unitarian Church whose members have been “Castle Keepers” since 1942. There are, of course, plenty of rumors of ghosts that have intrigued paranormal investigators—the book describes these tales as well. A second edition of Chicago’s Only Castle is expected this fall. (Jean Hardy Robinson)

    Givins Beverly Castle, 10255 S. Seeley Ave.

  • Best Vinyl Vendor: Beverly Phono Mart 

    Beverly Phono Mart—or BPM, as it’s cleverly referred to (sharing an acronym for “beats per minute”)—has become a beacon of light for an already culturally rich area of the city.

    “We want our customers to feel as they would hanging out in our home while they are here. The music, art, books and even the snacks that we offer are a reflection of the things we love and want to share,” says the wife and husband team of Mallory McClaire and Chantala Kommanivahn. The two have created just that: a home away from home. Between the bare brick and the art on the walls, the global snacks, the comfy couches, and the specially curated records, BPM feels like a cool universal space to listen to music and hang out. “In a community like Beverly that can be perceived as being a bit insular, we are proud to provide a space that fosters connections between all cultures, ages and walks of life.”

    I’ve known Chantala for close to two decades now, having been in the same scene and run into each other at many concerts, art shows, and various other creative events. He is also a full-time artist and DJ, so he has had his finger on the pulse for many years. Chantala and Mallory, a public programming and operational consultant, hit the ground running upon moving to Beverly.

    They believed and invested in themselves, and in turn, we as a neighborhood have gained so much more than just another business. We have gained a thoughtful, safe space where all walks of life are encouraged to just stop by.

    “We like to think that we’ve created a hub for interpersonal and cultural exchange,” said Chantala and Mallory. “A place for people to discover new music, be around art and to meet some cool people. We hope that our widespread and varied interests are reflected through the space in a way that signals that all are welcome here.”

    Beverly Phono Mart,1808 W. 103rd St. Wednesday–Friday, 12–6pm; Saturday 11am–6pm, and Sunday 11am–4pm. (773) 629-6089.

  • Best Cold Brew and Kids’ Corner Combination: Little Hoppers Café

    Parents of young kids revel in the rare and brief moments when they can let their kids run free without engaging in an obligatory safety chase. Little Hoppers Café, situated in Morgan Park near Mount Greenwood, provides the perfect venue for a quick breather. 

    Customers walking toward the entrance of the corner spot, tucked in next to a handful of thriving local businesses, will be met with wafts of sweet barbecue aromas from a new firemen-owned takeout nearby. Beth Gavin, brand new proprietor of the combination playroom and coffee shop, describes the surrounding area as a “neighborhood with strong community.’

    While Little Hoppers opened in 2020, the business was sold this past May. Gavin, a mom whose background is in education, is clearly excited to share her detailed vision for this new endeavor. In addition to open play time, she wants to host more activities that “facilitate growth and happiness for the whole family,” such as yoga and storytime with local authors. She also wants to expand the coffee shop element with additional seating, and to implement more consistent business hours. Mainly, she said, she wants to “keep it simple.”

    And it is! As I paid for admission at the counter, my two-year-old was eager to go climb the castle, wind a wooden train around its track, and stack Legos. I sipped a latte while she busied herself with a pretend kitchen.

    Parks have their time and place for the littlest among us, but parents or caregivers still need a quiet but sociable and safe spot bound by four walls when the rain won’t go away. Libraries are nice too, but they don’t serve a sometimes-necessary pick-me-up while your toddler knocks over a bin of plastic bananas for the eighth time.

    Little Hoppers Café, 2760 W.111th St.. Monday–Saturday, 9am–1pm. (773) 366-3774,

  • Best Neighborhood Festival to Learn to Footwork After a Picnic in the Park: Juneteenth Family Festival

    What better place to celebrate Juneteenth—a quintessentially American, and now federally designated holiday marking the end of slavery—than in one of the oldest Black communities in Chicago? This past June, local organizers hosted the third annual Juneteenth Family Festival in the heart of Morgan Park, complete with African dance workshops, djembe lessons, kids’ activities, storytelling, and lively music performances. 

    I spent an hour volunteering that morning, setting up a badminton net in the kids’ area while soundchecks boomed from the stage. Local Black-owned business vendors lined the sidewalk alongside several community resource booths and food trucks. The festival crosses from Bohn Park over to the Morgan Park Presbyterian and Morgan Park United Methodist church lots, making for a truly collaborative and community-centered event. 

    That the gathering spans from the east to the west side of Longwood Drive carries a lot of “symbolism and significance,” according to lead organizer Shanya Gray, because the street “has been traditionally a dividing line: Black on one side and white on the other side.” Celebrating the Juneteenth holiday, especially in a neighborhood known for its St. Patrick’s Day parade, fills a need to center and celebrate the Black experience for Black people. But one of the organizers’ key goals is to educate everyone within the community about Black history in the United States, including emancipation from slavery, since as Gray asserts, the “American education system has not always done justice when it comes to these historical matters.” Gray believes Juneteenth festivals should be a “combination of looking back and looking forward…celebrating emancipation but also celebrating African American culture.” 

    I returned to the festival several hours later to find the badminton net destroyed—a sign the kids had a blast, I’m sure, and not that I fumbled the setup. Organizers have managed to keep the event free since garnering significant sponsorship. Families will enjoy bringing a picnic to the park or visiting a food truck.

    The Juneteenth Family Festival takes place on or around June 19 each year. or email for more information.

  • Best Spot for Groovy Green Juice, Centerpiece Bouquets, and Tonight’s Dinner: 95th Street Farmers’ Market

    Sundays from May to October resonate for me as the season for the 95th Street Farmers Market! I moved to Beverly nearly thirty years ago from Oak Park, with its long-standing market. My mother taught me the ins and outs of market shopping: don’t start buying as soon as you walk in, instead, walk around the entire market and check it all out first. Who has asparagus this week? When is the corn coming? Tomatoes? Once you have completed your browsing you can start shopping in a more educated fashion.

    With this history, I was more than delighted when the first version of the 95th Street Farmers Market opened in Beverly about twenty years ago. I remember taking my little boy there and teaching him about the seasons for vegetables and fruits. The market has remained in the same spot, the parking lot near the 95th Street Rock Island station, all these many years later.

    But why do I keep going week after week? Why is my Sunday not complete without a visit there? Friendship, in addition to fruits and vegetables! Over the years, I have come to know many of the vendors—and they know me, and my constant canine companion. It is kind of like Cheers, “Where everyone knows your name.”

    Plus, the 95th Street Farmers Market isn’t just produce. There’s coffee, nuts, pastries, cakes, cookies, bagels, and the best cheese. Try the horseradish chive, the nettle (my husband’s favorite), and the brie with layers of blue enriching it. That cheese alone is worth a trip! There are also tacos and sometimes crepes or gumbo—plenty to get you through to lunch. Flowers are also available in abundance. Many of the non-produce vendors also have shops in the neighborhood, so it is another venue for those who like to shop locally.

    Besides offering the chance to see friends and people watch, there’s sometimes live music, along with face painting for children. The Beverly branch of the Chicago Public Library often has an outreach table for children’s activities;  I just got a kit for my granddaughter to make a Harry Potter bookmark. 

    The market has a different feel at different times of the day. We often go first thing in the morning when it is less crowded, so great for shopping, but less so for seeing friends, canine or human. Once the morning gets buzzing, so does the market. The music starts, the coffee is poured, friends are spotted, and shopping and conversation get underway.

    Last night our entire dinner came from the market: grilled fish and potatoes, corn and squash, even the cheese before dinner. Tonight, we’ll be having a caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Fruit, vegetables, cheese, fish, meat, and flowers. Friends and music … How could I pass up a Sunday morning at the 95th Street Farmers Market? I simply can’t.

    95th Street Farmers’ Market, 1835 W. 95th Street. Sundays, 8am–1pm. Contact or, for more.

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