Edgewater's Five Corners

Vol. XVI No. 1 - SPRING 2005

By: LeRoy Blommaert

Edgewater has only one intersection that results in five corners. It is the intersection of Broadway, Ridge, and Bryn Mawr. Interestingly, with the exception of the old Guild Hall that stood east of the “L” tracks at the southwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Winthrop, it is Edgewater’s oldest commercial district. What is remarkable is that four of the five corners are occupied by the original structures. Even more remarkable is that all four date before 1900!

The structure at this intersection that is no longer with us was the first one built of the five structures and was the first commercial structure on Broadway between Foster and Devon. It was a wooden two story building on the northwest corner of Ridge and Broadway in Cairnduff’s Addition to Edgewater and was constructed in the first half of 1889. Cairnduff described it in one of his advertisements as “one of the most attractive stores of its kind in Chicago.” The estimated cost was $10,000.

While the first tenant was presented to the community as a meat market and grocery store, in short order the builder sold the building to a saloon keeper - to the consternation and condemnation of the community. It was probably Edgewater’s first protest, and it ended badly, at least for the protesters; the saloon keeper got his license. The structure remained into the 1930s looking much like it did when built. Sometime later, it was either torn down and a new structure erected or else it was extensively modified becoming a one story rather than a two story structure. Long-time residents remember it being the home of a Heinemann bakery; later it became the Golden Waffle. In 1998 it was torn down and is now a plaza in front of the “new” Walgreen’s.

Here in chronological order of their construction are the structures on the other four corners:

At the southwest corner of Broadway and Bryn Mawr is a three story red brick building constructed in 1892 for John C. Scovel, an Edgewater resident, attorney and, later, judge. It was the first brick building constructed on Broadway between Foster and Devon and the second commercial structure. The architect was Joseph Lyman Silsbee, Cochran’s first architect and, himself, an Edgewater resident. Among the more than 30 structures Silsbee designed for Cochran and others in Edgewater, it alone remains. Though somewhat altered from its original construction, it is essentially intact. Changes include the removal of the “witch’s hat” from the top of the round corner bay, the build-out of the storefront, the one-story extension along Bryn Mawr and the conversion of the original four apartments into eight.

At the northwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Ridge is a two-story red brick building, triangle-shaped to conform to the lot. The permit was issued in July 1895 to Arthur Johnston. The cost was estimated at $8,000. It was “modernized” in 1921. The presently-seen white terra-cotta cladding on the first story dates from this modernization. Interestingly, the small red brick house that is to the northwest of it on Ridge Avenue was originally on the site of this building, though not directly at the corner. It had to be moved to its present location. This explains why on the 1887 Rascher map its footprint is not shown as parallel to Ridge Avenue.

At the northeast corner of Broadway and Bryn Mawr is still another two-story red brick building, this one constructed in 1897 for Daniel Gawne. The architect was J.A. Thain. The original permit in August called for a one story structure but, a month later, an additional permit was issued for a second story. The total estimated cost on the two permits was $6,000.

At the southeast corner of Broadway and Bryn Mawr is a three-story yellow brick building known to many long-time residents as the Stoyas Building because the owner of the drug store on the corner was named Stoyas. It actually was constructed in 1899 for a local farmer turned developer named Conrad Bristle. The permit, issued in March, was for seven three story apartment tiers. The estimated cost was $35,000, a very large sum for the time and certainly for an Edgewater structure. At the time of its construction, it was the largest brick building and the largest apartment building in Edgewater. It kept that title into the early teens. It also had the distinction of housing Edgewater’s first branch post office until a new postal facility was built at 5501 N. Broadway, across the street from the present St. Ita Church. (That building, though altered beyond recognition on the exterior, was demolished recently to make way for the condo building that presently sits on the site.) The architect for the Bristle building was Niels Buck, who would later go on to become probably Edgewater’s most prolific architect as well as an Edgewater resident himself. Bristle did not keep the building very long, selling it later that year to prominent Chicago developer James Waller.

The buildings on the northeast and southeast corners of Broadway and Bryn Mawr are in the Bryn Mawr National Historic District. While such designation offers incentives for rehabilitation, it offers no protection against demolition or inappropriate exterior modifications.