Andersonville Historic District Exhibit

Vol. XXII No. 1 - SPRING 2011

The Andersonville commercial street, Clark Street, that is featured in this historic district, developed over many years. Originally called Green Bay Road, it was a trail to Fort Howard in Green Bay Wisconsin. Before the railroad connected Chicago and Milwaukee, it was a stage coach route. Today’s Andersonville get its name from a subdivision that extended from Clark Street west to Ravenswood and from Foster (then 59th Street) south to Winnemac. The Andersenville/Andersonville School was built on this land with the entrance facing Foster. In 1857, Lakeview Township held its first election at the school.

After the Chicago Fire of 1871, Swedish immigrants began moving into Andersonville when their early settlement burned to the ground. They worked to build the community in and around Andersonville and attract more Swedes to the area. They gathered to form churches and pray together. Among the residents of the area was Reverend Paul Andersen Norland, who was known for his leadership and work among the immigrants. Some say that the school was named for him, which would explain the difference in spelling. It is known that he lived in the vicinity of Clark and Foster.

In 1865, Lakeview was recognized as a town by the state of Illinois. In 1889, it became a part of the City of Chicago. Prior to 1890, there was limited commercial development along Clark Street because there was limited transportation. In 1890, Clark was paved with gravel and, beginning in 1889, there was a horse car shuttle from Lawrence to Devon. In 1896, this section was replaced by electric streetcars (trolleys) that made the trip all the way to the limits car barn just south of Diversey, where transfer was made to the cable cars for the trip to downtown. Many settlers who came were skilled in building, design and finance. This historic district is a tribute to the enterprising and talented people who built the community of Andersonville during the period of significance, 1894-1940.

During this time many Swedish carpenters, architects, builders and engineers worked to build this commercial district. As the 1905 Sanborn map shows, there were few buildings built before that date. The oldest buildings in the district include the Gethsemane Garden Center Shop at 5739 Clark, the gray stone building once known as the Round Table restaurant just south of it and the Sofo Bar at Argyle and Clark. Another old building of note, just off Clark, is the GreenSky building at 5357 N. Ashland. The architectural styles of the buildings exhibit elements of Neoclassicism, Revivalism and Art Deco, but are classified as early 20th Century commercial architecture.

By 1900, the Andersonville School was overcrowded and residents sought a new school. There was empty land at the opposite corner and the Chicago Board of Education built the Trumbull School, which opened in 1909. The Andersonville School stood on its site for several years before it was demolished. The Board of Education retained ownership of the land and the Hagelin Company built the building known as the Hagelin Block in 1925. In 1927, the Nelson Funeral Home opened in the building on the Ashland Avenue side. It is still family owned and operated.

The photos in the exhibit were taken during the past year by local architect Thom Greene. The photos show the full view of the buildings that are often ignored by busy shoppers. They are representative of the best designs of many Swedish architects who are recognized in Chicago. The most prolific architects include Carl Almquist and Edward Benson, along with Andrew E. Norman and Oscar Johnson. Other well known architects include Dwight Perkins, John Nyden, Niels Buck, Raymond Gregori, H.L. Newhouse, Eric E. Hall and Charles Strandel.

During the years from 1900 to 1960, the Clark Street shopping area was referred to by neighbors as “Swede Town.” There were drug stores, storefront groceries, banks, bakeries, cleaners, bars and restaurants. One, Simon’s Tavern, opened in 1934 and is still in operation. In the 1960s, the Uptown Clark Street Business Association, which had been an organization for all the small businesses along the street, sought the City of Chicago’s support to rename the area Andersonville. In 1964, a great celebration was held to reaffirm the historic name of the area. Adding to the improvement of the street, the Chamber instituted the ringing of a bell to remind the store owners to clean up and sweep up in front of their storefronts.

The architect and date of construction only tell part of the story, as the buildings changed hands and changed functions. The well known Lind Hardware store has become the Swedish American Museum. The Walgreen’s Drug store at Berwyn and Clark is now a Starbucks. The Swedish Merchant’s Bank is now Hamburger Mary’s. What was once an F.W. Woolworth is now Acre restaurant and Capital Savings Bank is now the Philadelphia Church. The street started with many small locally owned businesses and has continued in that vein. Residents of the area support these businesses. To celebrate the history of Andersonville, identifying banners were hung in 2002 and streetscaping, including designs in the sidewalk with the bells and the date of the Andersonville School, were installed.

The first application for this district was developed in 2004 by students of the Preservation Program at the School of the Art Institute. In 2006, it was revisited by Thom Greene, who worked with Kristy Menas to make the presentation to the State Historic Preservation Agency. As part of that process, it was presented to the community at the Swedish Museum in May of 2007. The State Historic Preservation Agency offered ideas and expanded the number of buildings and the area. It was approved at the State level and placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Department of the Interior in March of 2010. Thanks to Thom Greene and Ellen Shepherd, Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and Greene and Proppe Design for their work in supporting this designation and making it happen.

The Edgewater Historical Society would like to thank LeRoy Blommaert, Morry Matson, Thom Greene, Greene and Proppe Design, David Gemperle and Kathy Gemperle for their work on this exhibit.

Don’t miss it!