Andersonville Chamber of Commerce: Beginnings


The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce is reported to be the oldest continuously operated chamber of commerce in the City of Chicago. It began as the Uptown-Clark Business Association sometime in the 1920s. The first Chicago Tribune mention of it was on December 30, 1928. I operated under this name until 1964 or 1965, when it renamed itself the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce.
By the 1960s the once vibrant commercial strip was a lot less vibrant and empty store fronts had become more prevalent. Merchants were looking for something that would give their commercial strip some unique character. The name ‘Uptown” which in the 1920s was one of vibrancy—and even glamor—was now known for its problems. They thought they needed a new name, and came up with the name Andersonville to capitalize on the Swedish heritage of the area. Even though it was less Swedish than it was in the previous decades, there were still many Swedish businesses long the strip.
A June 20, 1969, Chicago Tribune article by Mary Daniels gives the credit for the naming to chamber president Dr. Grant Johnson, who got the idea from the name of the old school that once stood at the southwest corner of Clark and Foster. A bronze plaque on the building that replaced the school commemorates that school and the Lake View township organizing meeting that was held there in 1857. The plaque was placed there in 1937 by Chicago’s Charter Jubilee Committee as part of a celebration and commemoration of the centennial of Chicago’s obtaining a city charter. The name of the school on the plaque is Andersonville, and it is undoubtedly the plaque rather than any historical knowledge on Dr. Johnson’s part that led him to suggest the name for the commercial district. It is interesting to speculate on the course of local history in the last 50 plus years had the plaque not been affixed.
The area was officially dedicated as Andersonville on October 17, 1964, with a parade and speeches by Governor Kerner, Senator Charles Percy, and Mayor Daley.