1215 Norwood: Edgewater Glen's First Architect-Designed House

Vol. XVII No. 1 - SPRING 2006

By: LeRoy Blommaert

Edgewater’s Edgewater Glen neighborhood is comprised of several subdivisions – six to be exact. The area west of Glenwood was part of the Henry Kransz farm and was developed considerably later than the eastern half – in 1903 and 1905 and by Henry’s descendants. The area east of Glenwood was developed by four different developers. One of those was Edgewater’s founding father, John L. Cochran. His subdivision, which was his fourth [and last] addition to his original Edgewater subdivision, is bounded on the south by the north side of Elmdale and on the north by the alley north of Norwood. Glenwood is the western boundary and Broadway the eastern. This subdivision was recorded with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds on August 13, 1893.

The first building permit that was issued in this subdivision or any other Edgewater Glen subdivision was issued on November 2, 1893, to a H. Bjorncrants for a two-story brick dwelling at 1143 Norwood [renumbered 1215 in 1909], with the cost estimated at $3,000. A notation in the Economist on November 11, 1893, reveals that the architect was W.S. Smith. This permit was an exception to the permit experience in all of Cochran’s other subdivisions – when the first several permits were issued to Cochran himself for houses that he later sold to “seed” the development. For example, in Cochran’s third addition, Lakewood-Balmoral, no permits were issued to persons other than Cochran until September 1894, three years after the first permits were issued to Cochran for eight houses.

Hans Bjorncrants an artist – a painter of religious murals – lived in his Edgewater house for at least 26 years. The 1910 census gave his age as 60 and his wife Ida as 40. They had two daughters: Grendelyn, age 13 and Marjorie, age 10. He died after 1920. His widow Ida later moved, not far away, into an apartment at 5957 N. Lakewood.

The Bjorncrants house looks different from any other house in Edgewater; interestingly it looks older than it is [more early 1880s than early 1890s] and appears to be a transplant from Lincoln Park where it would seem to be more at home. Its all brick construction and its emphasis on the vertical gives it an inter-city look at variance with the suburban appearing homes that had been constructed east of the tracks in Cochran’s original subdivision and first two additions and that would also be constructed later in Lakewood Balmoral and Edgewater Glen.

Neglected for many years, it was rehabilitated for a condominium conversion in 2004/2005. It now houses four condominiums. Unfortunately, no early photos of it have been discovered.

Is this then the earliest residence constructed in Edgewater Glen? While 1215 Norwood is the first architect-designed house, it appears that another house has a better claim to this honor. That house is 1246 Glenlake, which has a front but no back yard. While quite different from 1215 Norwood, it shares with it a quality of uniqueness. Like 1215 Norwood, it is unlike any other house in Edgewater. No building permit has been found for it. What is intriguing about it is that a house having a similar footprint and being in the approximate same location is found in the 1887 Rascher fire map. It seems reasonable to conclude that 1246 Glenlake was a farm house that was left in place, or moved a short distance, when the land was platted.