Cairnduff's Addition - A Plus for Edgewater

Vol. II No. 1 - FALL 1989

By: LeRoy Blommaert

John Lewis Cochran is credited with being Edgewater’s founder. It is a title well deserved, for it was he who gave it its name, named several important east-west streets, platted and subdivided more land, sold more lots, built more homes and did it much longer than any other person.

And yet he was not alone. There was another developer in that very formative period in Edgewater’s history who deserves our attention. His name is William Henry Cairnduff.

In the spring of 1888, he subdivided approximately 38 acres of land bounded by what is today Broadway, Ridge, Glenwood and the alley north of Ardmore. He called his new subdivision "Cairnduff’s Addition to Edgewater;" today we call it Magnolia Glen. The summer was spent in creating the infrastructure: grading the streets, installing water and sewer mains, putting in sidewalks and planting trees.

Promotion began in July. By reviewing the real estate advertisements in each Sunday Chicago Tribune, we are able to obtain a good picture, not only of the enticements Mr. Cairnduff offered prospects, but of the progress at various points of time.

By naming his subdivision as an addition to Edgewater and promoting it as part of Edgewater, he cleverly piggy-backed on Cochran’s previous and concurrent promotional efforts.

Like Cochran, he spent heavily on advertisements and, like Cochran, he was a good wordsmith. He did some of the same things Cochran did in his ads: he stressed the quality of the improvements, the lakeside location and the convenient transportation. Like Cochran, he had an agent near the depot who would show prospects the lots and homes. He also offered free transportation on the steam trains to and from Edgewater.

Cairnduff stressed that all lots were within easy walking distance of the depot (on Bryn Mawr) and he did something that Cochran never did - he claimed that lots in his development were on the highest ground in Edgewater.

He offered lots on easy terms and loaned money to build homes on them. He offered ready-built homes and he offered to build homes to suit. With all lots came perfect title, warranty deed and certified abstract.

Mr. Cairnduff envisioned that Evanston Avenue (now Broadway) would be a boulevard - an extension of Sheridan Road. And he advertised it as such, charging more for the residential lots which faced the lake than for the other lots. (Note: The present Sheridan Road had not yet been built.)

Ridge Avenue he envisioned as a business street and priced lots bordering on it accordingly.

During the years 1888, 1889 and 1890, he advertised heavily. While Cochran often kept his classified ads the same for various periods of time, Cairnduff offered much more variety, sometimes changing them weekly. Like Cochran, he would occasionally run large display ads, which would often show a sketch of a house already built.

Progress came relatively quickly for Cairnduff, and, if we can believe a later ad, was beyond his initial expectations. By the end of 1888 - about six months after he offered lots for sale - he had sold 100 of his approximately 225 lots.

A March 30, 1889 ad indicated that 11 houses were under construction, to be available by May 1. An April 28, 1889 ad proclaimed that four out of eight houses had been sold before completion. About a year later, in a March 2, 1890 ad, he boasted that over 200 lots had been sold and that 30 homes had been built (both by him and lot purchasers), of which 27 had been sold and 25 already owner occupied.

On May 18 of the same year, he announced that a $10,000 business block on Ridge Avenue was nearing completion on a lot that he had sold. A week later he added that the building would house a family grocer, market and provisions store that would be "one of the most attractive stores of its kind in Chicago." The building stood on the corner of Ridge and Broadway where the Golden Waffle restaurant is now. In that same ad, he also claimed that "one half the population of Edgewater own homes and reside on lots sold by us."

Why did Cairnduff do so well so soon? One reason might be that he offered homes (and lots) at a lower cost than Cochran initially did. In fact, in a display ad in the March 31, 1889 issue of the Chicago Tribune, he made the claim: "The only low-cost houses in Edgewater are in ‘Cairnduff’s Addition’."

He offered 6-, 8- and 10-room houses from $2,750 to $5,500, where Cochran offered houses from $4,000 to $12,250, with most of the houses in the middle to higher ranges. Later, Cochran offered more moderately priced houses in what is now Lakewood-Balmoral, but he didn’t do it during this early period. Perhaps the fact that he had his own construction company, whereas Cochran did not, gave him a competitive edge.

One of the things he did, for which we are grateful as researchers of Edgewater’s history, is that he published the display ad, shown here. It includes a map of his development that shows the houses built as of May 11, 1890, the date of publication. A number of the houses have been identified by current address. And a few of them will be featured on the EHS fall house tour.

Thank you, W.H. Cairnduff, for being so considerate! Your ad and addition were wonderful pluses for Edgewater.

See list of the houses shown on this display ad.