The Landmarks Commission of the City of Chicago has researched and photographed the remaining single family homes in John Lewis Cochran’s Edgewater development of 1887 and 1889, which is north of Hollywood Avenue from Sheridan Road to Broadway. Where there was once a neighborhood of single family homes and two flats, a number of important homes remain. Many of them were rated orange on the Chicago Resources Survey of the early 1980s. Some are well known because they are owned by institutions, like the two homes at Berger Park and the beautiful home at 6200 N. Sheridan which Sacred Heart Schools is in the process of restoring. Others are known to our members because their owners have participated in one of our Home Tours of the area. But, since the year 2000, seven homes have been demolished in this area.
These remaining homes should be preserved from demolition. The streets of Kenmore, Winthrop and Sheridan Road have an overabundance of housing units and limited parking. Because of a zoning change in 1957, this neighborhood was allowed to become dense. The construction of the four plus ones, which were built lot line to lot line, changed the density dramatically. These buildings were outlawed in the early 1960s, but not before they had caused the demolition of single family homes, two-flats and six-flats. A single lot went from housing 6-15 people to housing 50.
Since the 1960s, the community has struggled to preserve the housing stock, which includes a broad range of options that foster economic diversity. The neighborhood is cosmopolitan in style and these landmark quality homes contribute to the diversity.
By preserving these high quality homes, the community would be preserving a part of community history – the earliest part. Without the earliest part, all sense of the community development that was initiated by John Lewis Cochran would be lost. Without this earliest part of community history, the later stages of development will always seem disconnected.
Since 1999, the Edgewater Historical Society has called for the preservation of these remaining homes. Yet, one by one, important homes have been demolished. Now that the City of Chicago is looking at the community history that they represent, it is time to stand up and support the preservation of these historic buildings. Landmarking is Constitutional and has proven effective in legally preventing demolition or disfiguring of designated homes. We believe the community should support the use of this important tool now that it is being offered for the first time.