Andersonville and Edgewater

Vol. XIV No. 3 - SUMMER 2003

The name Andersonville came from the name of a farmer and landholder, John Anderson who, in the late 1840s acquired the land south of Foster and west of Ashland. The land became known as the Anderson subdivision, and then as early as 1850, Andersonville.

In 1853 the township of Ridgeville extended north from Graceland (Irving Park Road) to Central in Evanston and from the lake to Western Avenue. In 1855 John Anderson was elected highway commissioner of Ridgeville. The north section of Ridgeville took the name of Evanston in 1857. What had been Ridgeville, south of Devon, was organized as Lakeview Township by its citizens that same year, at a meeting in a four-room schoolhouse at Foster and Clark. That old school house was known as the Andersonville school. The replacement building, the Trumbull School at 5200 N. Ashland, was completed and opened in 1908.

In 1865 Lakeview Township gained official status from the State as a town. The population grew gradually as the farmland exchanged hands and was subdivided. Irish, Swedes, Germans and Luxembourgers settled in the area. Some worked truck farms, others tended bar or managed bars and restaurants. The first buildings were wooden with stove heat and no electricity. The Anderson name appeared on several neighborhood businesses including Anderson Lumber just west of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad tracks, and later the Anderson Monument Company at Rosehill and Ravenswood. Many of the Swedish settlers were involved in the trades and the construction of substantial buildings began in earnest after 1900.

In 1887, Lakeview organized a government with seven wards. The 7th ward included the area north of Foster. It was sparsely settled with only 300 registered voters. At this same time John Lewis Cochran began subdividing the land from Foster to Bryn Mawr from Sheridan west to Broadway. He planned a suburb which he named Edgewater. In 1889 the Town of Lakeview voted to become part of the great city of Chicago. Only the 7th ward voted against it. These two parts of Lakeview, Andersonville and Edgewater, never organized as separate towns were then closely integrated into the development of Chicago.

The names identifying adjacent settlements became intertwined as the Swedish settlement grew along Clark Street. Owners of property north of Foster sold and resold the land even before subdivision. William Henry first planned a subdivision in 1858. William Henry was speculating in land and later sold off land he decided not to develop. One parcel, the area from Foster to Balmoral, and Glenwood to Clark, was purchased by Zero Marx, a developer who named it Zero Park in 1890. But the Andersonville name stuck. Other developers, in a bow to Cochran, announced various subdivisions using Cochran’s name Edgewater. But most of the building dates from after 1900, with two outstanding exceptions at 1434 W. Foster and 1450 Summerdale.

Transportation was crucial to this development. The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad originally had stops at Summerdale, (located at Berwyn Avenue) Rosehill Drive and just south of Granville. The trains ran on the ground level but beginning in 1892 as traffic increased, the train embankments were built to make travel safer on the roads intersecting with the tracks. By 1900 the Clark Street trolley ran north to Devon and south to 111th Street thus creating an important link across the city. This Clark Street trolley line was one of the last to be withdrawn from service.

In the late 1950s. Grant Johnson, a businessman on Clark Street, suggested that the district reestablish the name Andersonville for the area. In the early 1960s the Clark Street Businessmen’s Association changed its name to the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce. In 1972 the East Andersonville Residents Council was formed to include the area.

In the last 40 years, many ethnic groups have settled in the Andersonville area, including Mexican, Korean, Greek, Persian, Japanese, South American, Vietnamese and Thai. Each of them contributes to the strong, unique identity that the Andersonville name retains today.