!!EXTRA !! EXTRA!! Annexation Approved
Chicago #2 In Nation!
By: Karen Donnelly and LeRoy Blommaert
The summer of ‘89 was an important season for Edgewater. For the first time, its residents could say they were citizens of Chicago.
Of course, this was the summer of 1889. And it was during this season that Edgewater, as part of the City of Lakeview, was annexed to the City of Chicago.
Though touted by J.L. Cochran and others as a suburb - even a town - Edgewater was never either in the legal sense. It never had its own form of government, official or unofficial. For approximately two years before the summer of ‘89, it was legally a part of the City of Lakeview. (Local property owners see a holdover of this on their tax bills each year, which lists Edgewater addresses as being within Lakeview Township.)
The land that comprised the City of Lakeview essentially included the current communities of Lakeview, Uptown, Ravenswood and Edgewater. The boundaries were Devon on the north, Lake Michigan on the east, Western on the west and Diversey on the south, where it abutted the northern limits of the City of Chicago.
In July of 1889, approximately 52,000 people lived in the City of Lakeview, most of them clustered at the southern end near the border with Chicago. The northern end, which included Edgewater, was sparsely settled at the time.
The 1889 annexation, as it was called, was a momentous day for the City of Chicago. In one action the City quadrupled its area and added over 200,000 people, becoming the country’s “Second City,” with only New York ahead of it.
For it was not only the city of Lakeview that was annexed. Joining her were the village of Jefferson (west of Lakeview), a small part of the town of Cicero adjacent to Chicago on the west, the village of Hyde Park (at that time covering from 39th Street to the state line) and the town of Lake which today includes much of Chicago’s southwest side.
Thus, 1989 marks the centennial of Edgewater’s annexation to Chicago. City officials approved the annexation on June 29, 1889, and it became effective July 15 of the same year.
The annexation came about as a result of a popular vote in favor of the action by both the voters of the City of Chicago and by the voters in each of the areas that were annexed.
The Chicago newspapers - the Chicago Tribune in particular - waged a crusade in favor of annexation, proclaiming that it would do wonderful things for the city. Within the city itself there was little, if any, controversy and Chicago voters approved annexation by an overwhelming majority.
In the areas to be annexed, it was a different story: there was controversy, more in some communities than in others. And, while a majority of voters in each of the areas voted in favor of annexation, the majorities, while healthy, were not exactly landslides. The vote in Lakeview was the closest: 2,508 (about 56%) in favor; 1,999 against.
The number of voters may seem low considering the population was 52,000. However, we have to remember two things: women did not yet have suffrage and the rules for the foreign-born to become citizens were much stricter then than now. A number of Lakeview residents were foreign-born immigrants and not yet citizens of the United States.
Strange as it may appear to us today, the arguments in favor of annexation in Lakeview, as well as in other areas, stressed that being part of the City of Chicago would have benefits for the residents in matters of police and fire protection, sanitation, water supply, and education. Pro-annexation forces argued residents would get more services and pay less in taxes than they would under local home rule.
Which way did Edgewater vote? The answer is that we simply do not know. The city of Lakeview was divided into seven wards, each having from two to four precincts. We know the results of the election in each ward and precinct; however, no ward map or description of ward boundaries has come to light.
There is some slight reason to believe that Edgewater might have been included in the 7th Ward which was designated as Ravenswood. Each of the ward’s three precincts voted against. The total vote tally for the ward was 177 for and 471 against. In any case, there were probably not more than 75 households in Edgewater then; it was in its infancy.
“Some pretty big ‘names’ were involved with the question of annexation,” says Chicago historian Richard Bjorklund. Bjorklund, who has researched this era in anticipation of the centennial, offered a few examples:
For instance, some Lakeview aldermen who were opposed to the annexation were said to have offered $3,000 to the Mayor of Chicago in order to drop the proposal. Later, those aldermen were advised that they couldn’t offer what amounted to a bribe on this issue. Lakeview officials also tried to prevent the newly-annexed Jefferson community from tapping their water from Lake Michigan.
Other groups opposed the annexation, Bjorklund said, because “they wanted to keep their fiefdoms.” George Pullman, of the railroad car company, fought the annexation of his south-side, corporation-based, experimental community.
“There isn’t a lot of information on the annexation in books,” Bjorklund said. “In researching the event, one has to go back to newspapers of the time, and to state archives. There was a lot of litigation involved in this,” which goes to show that using such means to settle civic affairs is not a new invention.
One hundred years later, however, Lakeview, Jefferson and the other annexed lands coexist in relative peace and harmony as communities of Chicago. To celebrate the anniversary, people of Edgewater, Ravenswood and Lakeview have formed an Annexation Centennial Committee, co-chaired by Richard Bjorkland and Rev. George Rice.
“We’re hoping to have parades, publish a booklet on the Lakeview annexation and maybe try to look for the oldest resident and the oldest building in the area,” Bjorklund stated. “We’re still planning, though. The events probably won’t start until October, when the kids will be in school and people will be back from vacation.”
The Committee will hold a special kick-off reception at the Conrad Sulzer Regional Library on the morning of July 15, the actual annexation anniversary date. The affair (breakfast, presentation, exhibit and balloon release) will be by invitation only, due to limited room, BUT Edgewater residents interested in serving on the committee are encouraged to call archivist Becky Haglund at the Sulzer Library, 728-8652.