The Raschers in Andersonville

Vol. X No. 3 - FALL 1999

By: Kathy Gemperle

The street still bears the name Rascher but the family, one of the longest in residence in West Andersonville, is gone. In May 1998, Charles Rascher III died, leaving behind some photos and a family history that went back to the 1880’s in our community. His grandfather, Charles Rascher, a.k.a. Carl von Rascher, came to Chicago in the post fire era as a surveyor from Germany. He first established a surveying business sometime after the Chicago Fire in 1871. He partnered in this business with Robert Dobson. They located their offices on LaSalle Street. By the 1880’s he had developed the company into a map making company and published maps of the developing city. Rascher’s Map of Chicago and other parts of the Midwest were published between 1880 and 1892. They are valuable research tools for Chicago historians and for the other communities they mapped. In the 1880’s Rascher took on a new partner. William Sternberg. Raster’s company was eventually sold to the Sanborn company which became the standard in mapping nationwide. The Sanborn company was located in New York. It began acquiring smaller map companies in the 1880’s.

By 1890, Rascher had expanded his interests to development in what was originally Louis Henry’s Summerdale Park; this included the blocks from Balmoral to Catalpa (Claremont) between Ashland and Ravenswood. In 1896 Rascher expanded his development to Edgewater Heights, the area from Catalpa to Bryn Mawr between Ashland and Ravenswood.

In the Summerdale area, Charles Rascher built a large brick home at the corner of Rascher and Paulina. He married Anna Kurtz and they raised two children there, Charles II and Lotte. The home was a large and distinctive Queen Anne with open porches and decorative arches and decorative wooden spindles. In his first development Rascher sold many of the lots to other Germans who had come to settle the area. His maps are filled with names like Unger, Blatz. Schrader, Freudenberg. Kiessling and Schotte and Kurtz. Some of the families owned separate sets of lots. Rascher took out permits and built several buildings in the area near his own home. One of them is the building at the northeast corner of Paulina and Balmoral. Others include a house at 1736 W. Rascher and its twin at 5450 N. Paulina. The Sternberg family lived in the home at 1644 W. Balmoral.

As a partner in the Rascher Map Company William Sternberg must have been involved in this move to Andersonville. However, when the company was sold to Sanborn, William Sternberg continued to work for the map company under Sanborn.

In 1896, Charles Rascher added to his development a section to the north of Summerdale Park (Catalpa to Bryn Mawr, Ashland to Ravenswood) which he named Edgewater Heights. This was done two years after John Lewis Cochran developed his fourth addition to Edgewater and Rascher’s sales map shows Cochran’s influence. Rascher describes his development as located “in the midst of one of the most beautiful residence districts in Lake View, one half mile west of Lake Michigan and Sheridan Road. the finest pleasure drive in the world, and lies twenty six feet above the level of the lake, on the heights directly west of Edgewater, the choicest suburb within the city limits, 6 l/2 miles north of City Hall.” Among the amenities Rascher offered were water, gas, sewer, cement walks, boulevard lamps and cedar block pavement (streets). Note that electricity is not offered. In keeping with the Summerdale Park development the setback for all buildings is 20 feet.

Because of the distance from downtown, transportation was an important factor in sales. Rascher addressed this with a list of options, the first being “the Clark Street electric car which passes one block east of the area.” At the time of the development the Chicago Northwestern Railroad tracks were being elevated. “There were 50 trains daily and the travel time to downtown was 18 minutes” from the Summerdale stop. The Evanston Avenue electric cars (operated by Cochran) and the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul RR are within easy walking distance with the Edgewater Depot within 1/2 mile (on the ground at Bryn Mawr). The most interesting information however, is the mention of the North Western Elevated RR which was “in the course of construction and will also run near this Property”. The North Western Elevated RR is known as the “L” today. It did not open in Edgewater until 1908.

Although the plan for the development was great it was not completed under Charles Rascher who died on November 8, 1900. It was perhaps a sudden death since what followed was a sheriff’s sale of the land. It was purchased back by Marguerite Mann for $93,500. What is meant by “back” is that the Mann family owned the land originally and sold it to Rascher in 1896 for $108,000. The Mann family used it as pasture land. Their greenhouses were located between Clark and Ashland where Catalpa Street is now located. The Mann farm house was located just north of the street at what was once the site of the Lain Funeral Chapel. When the Mann family got the land back they held it for a while and then gave some of it to the newly founded St. Gregory Parish (1905). It is presumed that the rest of it was sold for home construction over the next 30 years.

Charles Rascher’s son, Charles II, did not follow in his father’s footsteps but chose instead to become a chemist. He did create his own business, Rascher and Betzold, which expanded into chemical supplies and was located at 5510 N. Damen. The Rascher home on Rascher Ave. stood at the site well into the 1960’s.

When Charles Rascher II died, his children made the decision to demolish the home. It was replaced by an apartment building. In the hallway of that building one of the original stained glass windows from the old home was installed. Recently, this too has disappeared. Charles Rascher III lived in the building his grandfather built at the corner of Paulina and Balmoral. He took over his father’s company and was the president when he died in 1998.