Arcades (shopping)

Edgewater’s Shopping Arcades

By Taylor Haran*

Edgewater had two shopping arcades, both close to each other in its northeast corner. One was at 1120-1126 Granville (the Granville Arcade); the other at the southeast corner of Broadway and Sheridan with a 6351-6359 Broadway address (the Woodruff Arcade).

The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives three definitions of an arcade. The first is a row of arches that are supported by columns: the second is an arched or covered passageway with many shops: and the third is a place with many games that can be played by putting coins in them. The first two are used most often to describe shopping arcades, with the word arcades being seemingly interchangeable with mall in recent years.

Arcades date to ancient times and are frequently found in European monasteries and convents. Shopping arcades however date only to the 19th century. In Europe, they have become particularly common, with major shopping arcades in many large cities in Europe, including The Galeries Lafayette in Paris and The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. In the United States, there are also several noteworthy shopping arcades including the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania, the Mall of America in Minnesota, and the Aventura Mall in Florida. In Chicago, other notable arcades were the Pullman Arcade and the Market Arcade.

Edgewater’s two shopping arcades however were considerably more modest in scale, though they were a special part of the community. EHS Director LeRoy Blommaert remembers going to the Woodruff Arcade with his mother and thinking it really neat to have stores off an inside ‘street’. This was likely a common experience for children at the time, as the arcade was a convenient way to visit multiple stores in one stop.

The permit for the Woodruff Arcade was issued on March 13th, 1922 to W.J. Woodruff. The architect was Herbert H. Green, and it was estimated to cost about $90,000. Green worked in in Illinois, Arizona, and California, and was commissioned for three other buildings in Edgewater after 1912. The final inspection of the arcade was completed on January 21st, 1923, so it likely opened during 1923. As it was a large building, there were often open storefronts advertised in the Chicago Tribune. There was some variability in what stores occupied the arcade at a given time, but it was a good place to stop for food and some shopping. The arcade also housed Broadway National Bank – one of four banks in Edgewater at the time – and a post office. Both of these locations would have contributed to increased foot traffic to the arcade. Today, this building is largely a Planned Parenthood complex, along with a few other businesses such as a dentist office and a Bank of America ATM. The building still stands, and while it is not commonly known as an “arcade building” now, the Bank of America website mentions that the ATM is in the arcade building on Broadway.

The Granville Arcade was constructed in 1922, though it is not known who the owner or the architect were. The building was located near the red line Granville "L" station. In a way similar to the Woodruff Arcade, the Granville Arcade had some variability in the stores that were housed and empty space was often advertised in the Chicago Tribune. In the building were seventeen stores and shops, five offices, and one studio. In 1923 there was a tea room and a gown shop as well, though it is unclear how long they remained there. The building no longer stands, having been replaced by a hi-rise apartment buiilding. 

Shopping arcades in the 1920s were a useful place for citizens to come together and shop or eat. They were able to go to one location in order to accomplish a number of different goals, making these arcade buildings particularly popular at the time. They were an important predecessor to shopping malls, and their advantages can be seen by looking at popular malls today. The most famous in Chicago is probably the Water Tower Place shopping mall downtown, and it is through this lens that the significance of shopping arcades can be seen. While those in Edgewater were not as famous or as large, they were an integral part of the community, and a convenient stop for the inhabitants of the neighborhood.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, 1928 Sanborn fire insurance map

*Taylor Haran was a Loyola University senior who did an internship with the Edgewater Hisorical Society in the spring of 2016.