Edgewater Teaser #15
In the Vol. XXII No. 1 issue of the Scrapbook, we asked Who or What is “C.N. Michels” on the top of the building at 1130 Bryn Mawr?
“Michels” stands for Christian N. Michels – one of Edgewater’s first merchants. He purchased the west half of lot 14, block 9, in Cochran’s first addition to Edgewater, April 8, 1898, and was the first purchaser of the property from the Cochran syndicate. [Interestingly, it remained unsold for more than 10 years.] On May 28, 1898, he took out a permit for the construction of the small flat and store building that stands to this day on the land he bought.. The architect was William W. Blair (an Edgewater resident )and the estimated cost was $3,500. The City Directory for 1899 shows C.N. Michels Hardware at 1218 Bryn Mawr [the pre-1909 street number], but no home address. Presumably he and his family followed a common practice and lived in the flat upstairs.
Before moving to Edgewater Christian Michels had a hardware store on the near north side at 735 Larrabee (today 2154 Larrabee). The first City Directory listing for him is 1893. The 1898 directory shows his home address as 735 Larrabee, but the name of the business was “N & J.S. Michels.” It appears he sold the business to two relatives, and the hardware store at that location continued to be listed under the same names for several years afterwards.
The City Directories of 1902, 1903, and 1904 show a change in type of business at the Bryn Mawr address. Instead of hardware store it showed, “plumber,” “plumbing and steam heating,” and “plumbing” respectively.
Business must have been good, because just a few years after establishing his business on Bryn Mawr, he purchased additional property and the following year had another building constructed. This time it was on the west side of Broadway, in Cochran’s 3rd addition to Edgewater. Specifically, the purchase, made February 19, 1903, was for lots 3 and 4 [a full 50 feet], in block 1. On September 3, 1904, he took out a permit for the construction of his new building – a combination of two store-fronts and two stories of flats above. The architect was Clarence Hatzfeld and the estimated cost was $20,000, a substantial sum for the time. The building was originally numbered 2573-75, but is now 5552-54, and still stands, only slightly changed at the top. This time he did not have the building show his name. Styles must have changed.
He must have moved into the new building sometime before June 1905 because the 1905 city directory shows the hardware store at the 2573 Evanston Avenue, under the title “C.N. Michels Co.” [The 1905 Sanborn fire map shows the Bryn Mawr building being used as a laundry.] The 1907 City Directory shows “C.N. Michels Co., Christian N. Michels, Pres. and Jos. P. Oliver. Sec. This listing continued through 1910.
The 1913 City Directory shows Christian N. Michels back at 1130 Bryn Mawr, but with a business classified as “real estate.” The 1914 and 1915 directories show his home address as 1130 Bryn Mawr but no business reference. He is not listed at all in 1916, but in 1917 his home address is listed as 4953 Monticello and there is no listing for him in 1923 directory (the next one following 1917). Christian N. Michels died January 18, 1928, in Cook County.
The 1910 census shows Christian Michels as age 42 living at 5552 Evanston Avenue with his wife and nine children. Records in the Cook County Recorder of Deeds show that he sold his Evanston Ave (Broadway) building in February 1913, and his Bryn Mawr building in June 1915.
Christian N. Michels was one of Edgewater’s first merchants and the proprietor of its first hardware store. He was probably its first plumber as well. The building he had built at 1130 Bryn Mawr in 1898 was the eighth commercial building built in the Bryn Mawr-Broadway-Ridge commercial district and it is one of less than a dozen Edgewater commercial buildings built before 1900 that survive today. It has “housed” a number of different businesses over it’s long life: laundry (1905), grocer (A. J. Todd 1915-1923 minimum; Jewel Foods 1935-1942 minimum), launderette (1962) and dollar store (2011). And, remarkably, it still bears his name!
On May 16, 2011, Edgewater resident Harry Osterman was sworn in as alderman of the 48th ward. He followed his mother, Kathy Osterman (1987-1989) to that position. What other Edgewater resident succeeded one of his parents as alderman?