The History of the Development of the Bryn Mawr, Ridge and Broadway Business District - Edgewater's First

Vol. XVIII No. 1 - SPRING 2007

Commercial development occurred slowly and in ways that were surprising in Edgewater’s first business district. Bryn Mawr east of Winthrop developed residentially at first. It was only in the late teens and 1920s that commercial development partially replaced the residential, and it was then primarily mixed use. This article will address only the section of Bryn Mawr west of Winthrop.

The first building built as a commercial structure was a two and a half story brick and shingle structure at the southwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Winthrop. Designed by architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee and built for Edgewater’s founder John Lewis Cochran in 1886, it was called the “Guild Hall” and was a multi-use structure; containing stores on the first floor and a hall on the second. It was built in 1886 along with the depot just to the west and the first ten houses in Cochran’s subdivision along Kenmore and Winthrop north of Catalpa.

The second commercial structure was built not on Bryn Mawr near the depot and not on Cochran’s land but in Cairnduff’s addition to Edgewater, at the northwest corner of Broadway and Ridge. It was a frame, two story building that Cairnduff described in a bit of hype as “one of the most attractive stores of its kind in Chicago.” It was built in 1890 (not 1889 as previously reported) and was the first structure on Broadway between Foster and Devon. Though the promised first tenant was suppose to be a meat market and grocer store, it became a saloon. Residents objected but the liquor license was issued nonetheless.

The third commercial structure was even more of a surprise: a substantial, brick, three story mixed use building, at the southwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Broadway in Cochran’s third addition (today’s Lakewood Balmoral). It was a speculative venture of local attorney John C. Scovel, who lived at what is now 5738 Winthrop. It was designed by Joseph Lyman Silsbee, by now himself also a local resident, and was his last design in Edgewater and the only one that has survived. It was built in 1892.

The fourth structure was built three years later, in 1895. It was a two story brick “flat iron” building at the northwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Ridge. It was built by Arthur Johnson. The architect is unknown.

Interestingly, and a bit surprising, of the five corners that comprised the Ridge, Broadway, Bryn Mawr intersection, it was the three on the west side of Broadway that were developed first.

The fifth structure was built on Bryn Mawr, on the north side of the street, across from the Guild Hall, at the northwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Winthrop. It was built in 1896, at what is now 1102 to 1110 Bryn Mawr and 5606 Winthrop, for John Fisher and constituted either six or eight one story brick store fronts.

The sixth structure to be built was in 1897 and was at the northeast corner of Bryn Mawr and Broadway. It was a brick two story building designed by architect J.A. Thain for Daniel Gawne. At the time of construction, Mr. Gawne lived on the south side; however, by 1914, he was an Edgewater resident, living at what is now 5423 Lakewood. The first tenant in the corner store was the A.B. Moore Drug Store. Mr. Moore lived with his family after 1901 in one of Edgewater’s first brick two-flats at what is now 1064 Berwyn and thus could walk to work.

In 1897 Mr. Fisher rebuilt part of his store block as a two story structure. It was the part at the northwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Winthrop. The corner store was Fischer’s Drug Store.

The seventh structure was built the following year [1898] at what is now 1140 Bryn Mawr. It was a one story brick structure just east of Daniel Gawne’s brick two story corner building. (In 1917 another story was added and the façade changed.)

The eighth structure was also built in 1898 at what is now 1130 Bryn Mawr. It was a brick two story building designed by local architect William Wallace Blair and built for Christian N. Michels. The store became the C.N. Michels Hardware – Edgewater’s first. Mr. Michels lived upstairs with his family.

The ninth structure, and the last built in the 19th century, was the largest: it was a three story yellow brick multi-use building at the southeast corner with stores on the ground level and offices and apartments on the second, and apartments on the third. It was designed by architect Niels Buck and built for local farmer turned real estate developer Conrad Bristle. At the time it was built in 1899, it was Edgewater’s largest building, other than the car-barn/power-house at Broadway near Ardmore. It also became the location of Edgewater’s first post office.

Thus, by 1900, commercial buildings had been built on all five corners of the Ridge, Broadway, Bryn Mawr intersection and four more had been built on Bryn Mawr east of Broadway. Counting the number of individual store fronts is more difficult, but we estimate the number as at least 25.

As shown on the accompanying 1905 fire map, the following parcels on Bryn Mawr, identified by their current addresses, were vacant: 1112-14, 1126, 1132-38 and 1125-31. Note that the street numbers on the map are the old, pre-October 1909 numbers.

In the fall of 1900, construction began on a brick three story mixed use structure at what is now 1118-24 Bryn Mawr for Ellen K. Ingal. It contained four stores. No commercial construction started in 1901, 1902 and 1903. However, in 1904, construction started on four buildings – all on Broadway. One was a substantial, three story brick building with stores on the first floor and apartments on the second and third stories at what is now 5550-52 Broadway. Designed by Clarence Hatzfeld (who earlier had worked for Edgewater architect Julius Huber), it was built, interestingly enough, for Christian N. Michels (who built the two story building at 1130 Bryn Mawr in 1898). He relocated his hardware store into the 5552 storefront and his family into one of the upstairs apartments. The other three buildings were on the east side of Broadway. One, a three story brick building with one store at the ground level and apartments on the second and third levels, was at 5549; it was designed by architect Robert C. Berlin for Harold J. Edlund, who used the store for his Edgewater upholstery business. Another building was a one story stone front building next door at 5545, designed by the architectural firm of Hill and Woltersdorf for August Saehn. It was built as the home of the North Shore Vault Depository and later became Edgewater’s first bank: the Edgewater State Bank. The final building was a one story structure containing two stores, just to south at what is now 5543-41. It was also built for August Saehn. However, this time the architect was C.M. Almquist.

In the next few years, new construction shifted to Bryn Mawr. In the fall of 1905, construction started on a small one and two story office and barn at what is now 1125 Bryn Mawr. It was designed by architect A.G. Lund for the firm of Gray, Tuthill and Hill. A year later (1906), a one story brick single store front was constructed at what is now 1128 Bryn Mawr. (In 1919, the façade was changed to the one that exists today.)

When, at long last, on May 16, 1908, the Northwestern Elevated Railroad finally opened an extension (at ground level) through Edgewater from Wilson Avenue to Davis Street in Evanston, Edgewater’s first business district west of Winthrop was largely complete. Thus, unlike the business districts that developed along Granville and Broadway or Thorndale and Broadway, Edgewater’s original business district owes its development to the steam railroad depot at Bryn Mawr and not to the elevated station.

Following the opening of the “L”, a few new commercial buildings were constructed. Less than a month later, in the year 1908, construction began on a brick three story at what is now 1134-36 Bryn Mawr. The owner was Daniel Gawne and the architect was J.A. Thain. In 1909, Mr. Gawne had architect J.A. Thain design another brick two story building for him immediately to the north of his first building (built in 1897). This new building, though largely built on the same lot, faced Broadway with an address of 5605-11. Daniel Gawne now owned four buildings.

Also in 1909, John Fisher had another two story brick commercial building constructed for him. This one was built just east of the tracks at what is now 1112-14 Bryn Mawr and was designed by the Doer Brothers. With the completion of this building, he owned all the buildings on the north side of Bryn Mawr, from Winthrop west to the tracks. For a long time, the second floor of this new building was a billiard parlor. Much later, it became the third office of the Edgewater Community Council. And in 1910, a one story commercial building was constructed just south of the Conrad Bristle block at what is now 5551-53 Broadway. All these buildings had been built on vacant land.

The construction of the next commercial building, in 1912, involved the first teardown of a previously built commercial building. The new building was an important one: the Bryn Mawr Theatre building, Edgewater’s first building constructed specifically as a theatre and one of the first theatre buildings designed by the architectural firm of C.W. and George L. Rapp, which would go on to design many of the grand movie palaces of the 1920s, such as the Chicago and Uptown theatres. It was built for the Dennis Collander Company. The buildings torn down were the one and two story office buildings and barn constructed just seven years earlier. The last open space on Bryn Mawr west of Winthrop was filled when, in 1923, a two story brick store and office building was constructed, just west of the Guild Hall, by the firm of Cochran and McClure for use as a branch office.

While the first teardown was of a small, insignificant building, the next was not. In 1926 or 1927, Edgewater’s first commercial building, the old “Guild Hall,” was demolished to enable the construction of a new three story brick recreational and store front building, designed by architect Raymond J. Gregori in a Venetian Late Gothic Revival style.

Sometime in the late 1920s or later, three of the earlier constructed multi-story buildings were torn down and replaced with one story structures. According to Dorothy McManus, daughter of early grocer James McManus, the 1897 two story structure in which he had his stores, at the northwest corner of Bryn Mawr and Winthrop, was destroyed by fire in 1934. The 1908 three story brick structure at 1132-38 was replaced by a modern one story structure. For many years it housed a five and dime store. And finally, the 1900 three story building just west of the tracks, at 1118-1124, was likewise torn down and replaced with a one story structure. Also, the block of two one story store fronts at 5541-43 Broadway, just south of the bank building, was either torn down or else incorporated into the Edgewater Laundry complex and given a new stone façade.

Edgewater’s first commercial district contained within itself a multitude of Edgewater firsts: Edgewater’s first commercial building, the first commercial building on Broadway, the first brick commercial/residential structure on Broadway, the first large commercial/residential building, the first grocer, the first meat market, the first drug store, the first candy store, the first post office, the first hardware and the first bank. Interestingly, the Broadway, Ridge, Bryn Mawr intersection has had a drug store on one of its corners from 1893 continuously until the present, except for one period beginning with the closing of Stoyas Drugs at the southeast corner of Broadway and Bryn Mawr in 1976 and ending with the opening of the “new” Walgreen’s at the northwest corner of Ridge and Broadway in January 1999. Few – if any – other Chicago intersections can match that record.

For additional information on some of the buildings in this district, please consult two previously published articles in the Edgewater Scrapbook: “Edgewater’s Five Corners” (Vol. XVI, No. 1, Spring 2005) and “A Stroll Down the Avenue” (Vol. VI, No. 1, Summer/Fall 1994). Both can be viewed on our website: