Roy E. Knauer, Edgewater Glen Builder

Vol. XVII No. 2 - SUMMER 2006

By: LeRoy Blommaert

If you own a home in the 1200 or 1300 block of Glenlake, there is a good chance that it was built by Roy Edmund Knauer.

In the seven year period beginning in 1905 and ending in 1911, Roy Knauer built some 36 homes, all but six on Glenlake east of Glenwood. [He built two on Hood and four on Norwood.] Mr. Knauer was apparently almost unique as a builder of Edgewater homes. Unlike other builders of Edgewater homes, such as J.L. Cochran, W.H. Cairnduff, and the Kransz family, he was not a subdivider. Rather, he was someone who bought land from a subdivider and then built homes on the land to sell. He did not buy all the land at one time, either. He bought some lots, built houses on them, sold some of them, then bought more lots and repeated the process – and did so several times. On Glenlake, he bought, built and sold on the north side of the street before turning to the south side. Also, almost alone among the builders of Edgewater houses, he actually lived in one of his Edgewater houses, and did so for over a decade. [The other major builder, Niels Buck, also lived in Edgewater but he lived in a house he designed for himself; J.L. Cochran lived in one of his creations, but only for a year.] The City Directories show Roy Knauer living at 1239 Glenlake from 1911 to at least 1923. The 1930 census shows him having moved to Kenilworth and living at 166 Abingdon Avenue.

Interesting, but also discouraging, he apparently did not use an architect for any of his homes. None is listed on any of his permits. His first ad in the Chicago Tribune was in 1907. It was a simple classified which read:

$5000, EASY TERMS.

Dozens like it followed it in the months and years afterwards.

His first Edgewater real estate office was at what is today 6140 Broadway, at the southwest corner of Hood. [The building no longer exists.] The 1923 directory shows his office at 6168 Broadway. [That building also no longer exists]. By 1928, when he was no longer an Edgewater resident, he had moved his office to 2344 Devon in Rogers Park, where it remained.

Roy Knauer was born September 23, 1883, the only son and second child of Edmund and Mary Simon Troost Knauer. His father, who was listed as one of the incorporators of the Grand Central Elevated Railway Company [which never realized its aims] and who was also involved in real estate, died in the last half of 1894 or the first half of 1895, when Roy was only 11 or 12. He lived with his mother at 2919 N. Clark [old number 1474] for several years. He was only 23 when he purchased his first lots and built his first houses. Three years later he married Eleanor Lange. They had three sons [Roy E. Jr., Robert and Warren], and one daughter. He died on August 16, 1943, in Evanston hospital.

In one of those “it’s a small world” events, his paternal uncle Bruno, who was in real estate partnership with his father, married Marguerite Weber of Rosehill. Marguerite’s brother Bernard married Mary Kransz of the pioneer Kransz family that later developed the west half of Edgewater Glen. In a second “it’s a small world” event, Roy’s cousin [Bruno’s son] Bernard [born 1875] built a house at the north east corner of Paulina and Thome in 1900 and then later moved to 1315 Norwood, a house that interestingly was not built by Roy. They lived just a block from each other.

Roy’s namesake son also went on to establish a career in real estate. Like his father, Roy Jr. was very involved in professional real estate organizations. He died in 2001 at the age of 89, thus bringing to a close three generations in the Chicago area real estate market. The only survivors listed in his obituary were a niece or nephew. Either he and his wife had no children or they did but their children predeceased them. A trustee led the funeral arrangements.

Few early Edgewater home builders built as many homes in such a small area as Roy E. Knauer, Sr.; the only others were S.E. Gross, who built most of the homes on Highland Avenue, Niels Buck, who built 36 cottages in the area of Bryn Mawr, Ravenswood, Olive and Hermitage and, of course, the B.F. Weber Co, the Weber-Kransz Company and members of the Kransz family that built many of the homes on Granville, Hood, Glenlake and Norwood west of Glenwood.

Edgewater Glen is unique among Edgewater neighborhoods in having a significant number of its homes built by two major home builders.

The following is a list of homes built by Roy E. Knauer:

Glenlake - north side: 1218, 1224, 1308, 1310, 1314, 1318, 1334 and 1336

Glenlake - south side: 1219, 1225, 1229, 1233, 1235, 1239, 1241, 1245, 1249, 1253, 1265, 1303, 1305, 1309, 1311, 1315, 1319, 1321, 1325, 1333 or 1337, 1349 and 1353

Hood - 1306, 1310, 1314 and 1329

Norwood - 1253 and 1343