High Ridge, Edgewater

Vol. XII No. 2 - SUMMER 2001

Long before the European settlement along the western shores of Lake Michigan the land was known as the Ridge. This elevated sand dune ran along the shoreline a mile from the water’s edge. It was the sandy remnant of the receding glacier lake known as Lake Chicago ( Lake Michigan) One part of the ridge became a trail leading to Green Bay and was eventually named Clark Street. Another section of the ridge leading northwest became a trail known as the Ridge trial. This trail is now known as Ridge Avenue. Where these two trails intersected became an important crossroads. The land just north of the crossroads was really land between two ridges and it sloped in both directions.

When the U.S. Government bought the land along Lake Michigan from the local native tribes the government opened the territory and put some of the land up for sale.

There is little today to indicate what the land really looked like when the first investors bought tracts from the government. Most of these people were from "back east" and they never saw their land. By 1836 the City of Chicago was incorporated and the trading in land expanded beyond the limits of the city. The plan put forth from the beginning was to make Chicago the connecting point between the eastern watershed and the Mississippi watershed with a canal financed in part by the sale of the land. Delays in the financing coupled with the invention of the steam locomotive would change the plan.

In 1848 the canal was completed. However, the trains reached to Chicago first and development increased by leaps and bounds. Chicago became a railroad center and a greater crossroads than ever imagined by the canal investors.

The earliest train was along the Chicago to Galena route. One of the most well known investors was William Ogden, the City’s first Mayor. The group quickly bought up land for the right of way for that railroad in 1850 and for the Chicago Northwestern shortly thereafter. The Chicago Northwestern laid track along the western edge of today’s Edgewater in 1855. Ogden was also part of an investment group that purchased the highest land along that rail line for a cemetery in 1859. They named it Rose Hill and by 1864 had contracted with W.W. Boyington to create the remarkable east entrance gate. But the company purchased more land than the current boundary of the cemetery. This additional land extended north to what we call Granville from Clark Street west to Paulina Avenue in 1860. This section of land extended south to the private cemetery road now called Rosehill Drive. What were the plans for this land we can only guess.

It is remarkable to note that they set aside land for a school in this section and one was eventually built there 125’ north of Peterson Avenue where it intersects Clark/Ashland. It was called the Rosehill School. However, there are indications on some early maps that this location once held a school called the Baer School. It is Mr. Baer who purchased the land surrounding the school from the Rosehill Company.

In 1856 the high ridge area from Ridge and Peterson, Clark to the train tracks became a part of the town of Lakeview. Between 1888 and 1903 the Rosehill Company divested itself of this high ridge land and sold it to developers. The first plot of land set up for subdivision was to the north and west. It was owned by the Angel Guardian German American Catholic Orphan Society of Chicago which was incorporated in 1872. In 1886 the Society determined to sell the plot which was bounded by Peterson on the south (west of the RR tracks) and ran north to Devon Avenue (known at the time as Church St.) At this same time the road we know as Granville ( formerly Grand Avenue was put through the land.) The western boundary of this plot was Damen Avenue. The eastern section of this land was much smaller extending from Granville to Devon, Clark/Ashland to the railroad tracks. One section of the area was excluded from the development since it already held St. Henry’s Church and cemetery. Apparently the Orphanage changed their minds about development and later sought to vacate some of the streets west of the tracks to expand their own facility.

The company to step forward to purchase this land was the B.F. Weber Company. The documents regarding the sale list those representing the Society as Peter Fischer, President, and L. Beihle, Secretary. A third person signing the sale document was Anne Weber, wife of Bernard Weber. She was also the daughter of Nicholas Kransz and her brother, Henry Kransz was the notary public of the town of Lakeview where the land was located. Bernard Weber was serving as an alderman of this area of Lakeview when the subdivision began. The B.F. Weber Company then proceeded to subdivide the land and sell lots.

They named the area High Ridge and advertised the benefits of living on this high ground, the highest elevation in Lakeview - 20 to 40 feet above the lakeshore. Among other amenities were the train station at High Ridge with connections to downtown Chicago.

The ad also notes that "the Clark Street Cable Car and Horse Car Line will be completed in two years and will run cars every 15 minutes from this property to the Board of Trade in Chicago." The Chicago, Evanston and Lake Superior Railroad (near where the "L" is located today) was intending to build a station at Granville just east of the subdivision.

It was also noted that the lake shore was only 1/2 of a mile away. The High Ridge subdivision advertising printed in 1887 mentions the infrastructure "improvements to the land including water mains, sewers and durable concrete walks, ornamental shade trees" and "the erection of an attractive and commodious Station Building" which is pictured in some ads. Perhaps the most interesting information gleaned from the fragments of the old ad was the notation that "We offer 500 fine lots in this subdivision for 90 days only at the Present Prices. Lots having a frontage of 50 feet for $650 and upward."

The time limit on the sale at these prices may of course be an advertising technique. However, since the town of Lakeview became a part of the city of Chicago in the summer of 1889 it is also possible that there was discussion of this change and the developer sought to sell quickly before the requirements of the larger city changed the cost of doing business.

Other owners of land got into the action during the next decade. First, the Weber and Kransz Company (a company formed by Weber and the Kransz family) sought to sell 50 ft. lots on the south side of Granville in 1888. These were the blocks between Paulina and the train tracks. This land extended about 120 ft south of the alley behind the Granville lots belonging to Weber/Kransz so additional lots were created facing Paulina, Hermitage and Ravenswood.

In 1891 Kemper purchased land from the Rosehill Company. It extended from Ridge on the south to just south of the Weber and Kransz property from Paulina to the train tracks. Both of these developments continued to use the High Ridge name. But the Kemper addition sold lots with only 25’ frontage and in many places a depth of 167’. Narrow but thin lots with plenty of room for a big garden.

Also in 1891 the road called Peterson was extended east from the train tracks to Clark Street. This may be the reason that Bairstow and Kelly decided to subdivide the land they owned between Peterson and Ridge in 1892. After all the road cut right through it. John Bairstow also owned land west of the tracks which he had sold to Weber in 1887. He had a business hauling sand and gravel. There was plenty of sand to be removed from this area just to level the land in order to prepare the lots for construction.

Also in 1892 a group called the Columbia Land Association purchased for subdivision the lots along Clark Street from Devon south to Highland (formerly Edgewater Place) This section was sold again in 1902. was re-divided by A.L. Williams and L.R. Priest in 1909. Other development continued along Clark Street in the first decade of the twentieth century. Perhaps the most notable was the reconfiguration of the Kemper land along Clark from Granville to Glenlake in 1903. It occurred because the lots were so deep. Alleys were created and vacated to allow for more residential housing. In reviewing the changes along Clark Street it is important to remember that Clark Street was a narrow road at this time, as was Ashland a short quarter block east of Clark. It was not until the 1920’s that the two roads were made into one wide expanse.

In 1895 Mr. Baer subdivide a portion of the Rosehill cemetery land which was intersected by the extension of Peterson Ave. His land was split in half just like Bairstow’s. Mr. Baer was an early settler in the area. He built a roadhouse at the northwest corner of the intersection of Ridge and Clark directly across from the Kransz farm house at the northeast corner of the intersection. To add to the confusion, both buildings were sometimes called the seven-mile house.

The configuration of most of the High Ridge development was set by 1910 and no further subdivisions occurred until 1920 when a developer built four bungalows at the north east corner of Hermitage and Granville. Then in the 1950’s with open land still available Mr. Murray sought to develop land between Ravenswood and Hermitage along Thome. In 1954 this area was named Murray Manor. The homes are townhouses.

While it may be difficult to follow all this development it is interesting to note that the High Ridge area retained its name through most of the additions and subdivisions. All the street names were changed in this fifty year process but the area is still called High Ridge. It is kind of a misnomer since the highest part of the ridge is west of the train tracks. Those tracks were raised to the embankment around 1908. Because of the wider use of High Ridge (like the High Ridge YMCA) we prefer the name, The Highlands of Edgewater. Some call it Northwest Edgewater. Whatever you may call it, the area has a long and fascinating history which you can see in the many housing types. These include the 1890’s Queen Anne’s and the 1950’s town homes, the Kransz Weber homes on Granville and the Bungalows on Paulina and Hermitage, the early cottages on Paulina to the two flats sprinkled throughout the area. The history of Chicago housing is here to observe just by walking the street.

Here is a list of the High Ridge street name changes.

  • Ravenswood was Park or Front
  • Devon was Church
  • Highland was Hecker, Fisher and then Edgewater Place
  • Thome was Weber
  • Granville was Grand
  • Peterson was Secur or Seeker
  • Paulina was Forest
  • Hermitage was Meadow Lane
  • The only street name that was never changed was apparently Glenlake.