A Stroll Down the Avenue
By: Everett Stetson
You can dress casually for this unique “walking” tour; in fact, a bathrobe and slippers will be just fine. Simply settle back in your favorite easy chair as you “stroll” down Bryn Mawr Avenue in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s from Paulina Avenue to the lake with your special guide, Everett Stetson. The numbers refer to points on the attached map.
As a boy I spent many happy years at my 1754 W. Bryn Mawr home, just west of Paulina. As I recollect…
- At the southeast corner of Bryn Mawr and Paulina stood a big, red brick church known as St. Gregory. When the present church opened in 1924 at Gregory and Paulina, it continued in service as the school until it was destroyed by fire in 1951. Father Klasen was St. Gregory’s original pastor.
- East of the red brick church on Bryn Mawr stood a white frame building. This was St. Gregory’s original church. later used as the convent and school.
- Across the street was Mr. Martenson’s grocery store, where my family bought wonderful rye bread. His clerk was Charley Carlson. Both men were Swedes. When Mr. Martenson heard we were going to visit Boston, he asked us to visit his son who was stationed there in the naval yard. My rich, socialite aunt assumed the son would be a seaman. When we boarded his ship, however, she was stunned to learn he commanded it and had attended the Naval Academy with a friend of hers. During the war, he was an admiral in charge of convoys going to England, but the strain of submarine warfare broke his health.
- Ashland was widened to double its original width in 1931. There has always been a saloon (tavern) at the northwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Ashland. It operated all during Prohibition. We used to call such establishments “blind pigs” in those days.
- An old two-story building housed a Greek fruit store on the northwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Clark, beautifully landscaped with stone benches and pool (not for swimming). Mrs. McMahon was the principal. The Peirce field house was built in 1937.
- On the northeast corner stood Walsh’s Drug Store, where we often enjoyed delicious 15-cent sodas. Upstairs was Dr. Maxwell’s dental office. (I wonder how many customers they had in common!)
- The building at the southwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Clark (now the Salvation Army resale store) was Faetz Bowling Alley. Faetz later sold to Hellgeth and opened the Faetz Niesen Bowling Lanes on Ridge west of Clark, which was the site of the first televised bowling competition.
- At the southeast corner of Bryn Mawr and Clark was an old fashioned dry goods store, Dettlebach’s. Next door to it was a hardware store.
- Helen C. Peirce School opened in 1915. In the 1920s, the schoolyard was beautifully landscaped with stone benches and pool (not for swimming). Mrs. McMahon was the principal. The Peirce field house was built in 1937.
- At the southwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Glenwood was Duva’s Delicatessen. Next door to the west was a very fine food store with a meat market. West of that was the Peirce School Store.
- East of Lakewood were tennis courts.
- On the south side of Bryn Mawr near Broadway was Pete Wernblad’s barber shop, where I had my first haircut. His daughter, Helga, was a classmate of mine at Peirce.
- On the triangle between Ridge and Bryn Mawr was the Senn Drug Store.
- Between Ridge and Broadway was a two-story frame building with a cupola. In the 1930s, Heinemann’s Bakery opened here. Later it became the Golden Waffle restaurant and the second floor was removed.
- On the east side of Broadway north of Bryn Mawr, Paul Cariota still operates Paul’s Barber Shop, which his father had taken over in 1922. At one time it was a 4-chair shop.
- At the northeast corner of Bryn Mawr and Broadway was Ahlborn’s Drug Store. He later moved to the southeast corner and the drug store was taken over by the Stoyas.
- Next door to the east of Ahlborn’s for many years was a men’s furnishings store.
- On the north side of Bryn Mawr just west of the “L”, the National Tea Company built the building that now houses a clothing store.
- After the “L” was constructed, coal trains with small electric engines served the coal companies (Lill, Best and Edgewater Coal Company). I can recall sitting in the Bryn Mawr Theater after dark and hearing the trains rumble by. The theater opened in 1915.
- Next door, on the south side of Bryn Mawr just west of the “L”, was Samuelson’s jewelry store, now owned by Gunther Marx. Mr. Samuelson, who was a neighbor of mine on the 1700 block of Bryn Mawr, walked home every day for lunch.
- In the 1950s, a Davidson Bakery was located under the Bryn Mawr “L”, on the south side of the street, but the space it occupied was lost when the station was rebuilt.
- The Lakeside Restaurant also operated under the Bryn Mawr “L”, on the south side, for many years before closing.
- Years later, to the east of the “L” on the south side of Bryn Mawr, the 1111 Club (1111 W. Bryn Mawr) was very popular.
- At the northwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Winthrop was Edgewater’s first grocery. The Edgewater Grocery Company, owned by the McManus family. After it burned in the early 1930s, the A&P built the structure that now stands.
- On the southwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Winthrop was the Guild Hall built by J.L. Cochran, founder of Edgewater. It was eventually torn down and replaced in 1927 by the present building, which used to house Leo A. Schueneman’s bowling alley and billiard parlor. Bowling was on the second and third floors.
The Dutch Mill candy store was located in the bowling alley building just to the east of the stairway. Later Dutch Mill opened a restaurant in the building just to the west at the alley. My mother and I had many good meals there.
- In the early days, before the “L”, the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad ran on the ground from the old Union Station in downtown Chicago, past Cubs Park, to Davis Street in Evanston. The Bryn Mawr station was on Winthrop, south of the Guild Hall.
- The Edgewater Coal Company, owned by the Quinlan brothers, was where the Toyota dealership is today on Broadway, just north of Bryn Mawr. The Quinlan kids kept riding horses in the company stable and rode them through the neighborhood. When Bryn Mawr was widened a celebration was held. One of the attractions was boxing, in which young Perry (Buddy) Quinlan participated.
- On the east side of Winthrop at Bryn Mawr, both corners boasted very nice six-apartment buildings similar to the one still standing north of the Belle Shore Hotel. In 1936, the Walgreen’s building, by architect I.H. Brann, replaced the apartments on the southeast corner.
- At the southwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Kenmore stood a beautiful stone church, Edgewater Presbyterian. I went to Sunday school in the basement. Rev. Ferry was the pastor. After the congregation built the present Community House on the opposite corner, the old church was torn down and replaced by the existing 12-story Bryn Mawr Hotel. The present Community House was not intended as a church; the plan was to build the church on the corner of Bryn Mawr and Sheridan. However, the Great Depression intervened and the congregation barely avoided losing the present building.
In the late 1920s and the ’30s, the famous Cross Class Sunday School for men over 16 years old was alive and well. It was founded and sponsored by a very wealthy oilman, Henry Cross. His Sunday School class met weekly and for special events in the Community House. Its membership numbered in the thousands, most of whom were either Catholic or Jewish. They were attracted by the many dances and athletic events. Mr. Cross spent money lavishly.
- Across the street, on the southeast corner of Bryn Mawr and Kenmore, still stands the majestic apartment building by J.E.O. Pridmore, often referred to as the Manor House. A false rumor says it was built as the British Consulate. Sidney Smith, the creator of the Andy Gump cartoon strip, lived there until the ’30s when he was killed in an auto accident on the way to his summer home in Lake Geneva, WI. That town subsequently honored Mr. Smith with a statue of Andy Gump.
- On the southwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Sheridan, where the gas station is now, was a mansion which once housed a very delightful Italian restaurant called Milano’s. Louis Milano’s French dressing was sold nationwide.
- Across the street, on the northwest corner, some very fine stone stores were built after the Bryn Mawr exit from Lake Shore Drive was completed in 1954. They never did well, however, so they were torn down and replaced by the present highrise.
- The southeast corner of Bryn Mawr and Sheridan was an empty lot with the transmitter of radio station WEBH on part of it. On summer nights, we would come down to listen to the beautiful music being broadcast from the Boardwalk at the Edgewater Beach Hotel.
Prior to 1928 we enjoyed a beautiful beach on the lake to the south of Bryn Mawr. But, when the pink Edgewater Beach Apartments building opened in September of 1928, built on the old site of the WEBH transmitter, a wire fence went up at Bryn Mawr and the beach became private.
At the foot of Bryn Mawr (the strip alongside the Edgewater Beach Apartments) is a remaining piece of the old sea wall which extended south almost to the Edgewater Beach Hotel and is now buried. It must have been at least 20 feet deep and was terraced so that one could walk along it. South of Catalpa, a little bronze plaque on the sea wall was inscribed with a date, but I can’t recall whether it was 1906 or 1907.
Before 1928, the beach south of Bryn Mawr had three old piers or groins filled with rock. The EHS has a picture of me and my father sitting on the end of one of them. In 1929, the lake level was so high the water came up to the sea wall but, by the middle ’30s, a nice beach had built up and extended all the way north to Hollywood past the many mansions. The owners evidently did not have riparian rights because the public was allowed to use the beach north of Bryn Mawr.
- There was a particularly beautiful mansion and garden at the northeast corner of Bryn Mawr and Sheridan, but they were demolished when the Bryn Mawr exit from Lake Shore Drive was constructed. The Drive was extended between 1951 and 1954.
In the 1920s, we would walk from my house at 1754 W. Bryn Mawr to the beach wearing our bathrobes, stopping in front of the “L” station for fresh popcorn.
In 1994, I can still walk to the beach from my house, but it’s not nearly as far away as it once was. My current residence, the Edgewater Beach Apartments at the southeast corner of Bryn Mawr and Sheridan Road, is 66 years old and its stucco is still pink. It is the sole survivor of the elegant, world famous Edgewater Beach Hotel complex. Lake Michigan no longer comes close to the building’s edge.
Considered the largest co-op building in Chicago (co-op since the late 1940s), its architect was Benjamin Marshall, who also designed the Blackstone, Drake and Edgewater Beach Hotels. Because of its architecture, the National Park Service recently added it to its prestigious National Register of Historic Places. Were pretty proud of that.
It was nice of you to stroll down Bryn Mawr Avenue with me. Thanks for walking me home!