J.L. Cochran Real Estate Company “Scrapbook” Excerpts
History of Uptown, Edgewater District/J.L. Cochran’s Subdivisions, Document #11
Source: Extracts taken from a booklet telling of the development of the Cochran and McCleur Company, entitled “Behind the Scenes Where Bonds are Made,” published in 1925.
Mr. John Lewis Cochran, a resident of Philadelphia, came to Chicago in 1881. The great overgrown village of 600,000 population, sprawling along the shore of the lake, impressed him, then in his early twenties, with its marvelous possibilities.
The optimistic spirit of this energetic, hustling city seized the young man, but the conservatism, bred in him by Eastern tradition, served as a balance wheel. It was his far-seeing vision, his keen perception of values coupled with his Eastern training, that founded the business which as record of 100% safe since 1881.
Mr. Cochran, seeing the charm of the North Shore and its possibilities for a residential district, embarked in the real estate business in 1881. In all his operations he carried out the idea of following the North Shore. In those days the North side extended little further than Oak and Elm Streets. Fullerton was out in the country. But Mr. Cochran, with unbounded faith in the growth of Chicago and the constituent needs of more homes, extended his operations even further north. He bought 380 acres, which he named Edgewater, laid it out in city lots and developed it. Today Edgewater is one of Chicago’s most desirable and select residence sections, as well as one of the largest.
This development of Edgewater was a tremendous undertaking and might have daunted a man less sure of his judgments and less resourceful than Mr. Cochran. Evanston Avenue (now Broadway, north of Bryn Mawr was all sod. There were no street cars, no gas or electric light systems. The young man from the East solved the lighting problem by building an electric light plant in Edgewater and operating it. This was later sold to the Commonwealth Edison Company.
Transportation was an absolute necessity. There was only a horse car line on Evanston Avenue from the “limits barn,” as it was called, north one and half miles to Irving Park Boulevard. Mr. Yerkes did not believe that the North Shore justified such a venture and refused to undertake it. Then Mr. Cochran conceived the Chicago and Evanston Electric connecting with the horse car line.
The executing of this particular plan was, as he always said, the hardest task he ever undertook. With untiring energy, he secured all the frontage consents himself and, armed with this, built the line, with the assistance of Marshall Field, Sr., John J. Mitchell, Samuel Insull and Charles L. Hutchinson, who had confidence in his energy and business foresight.
The line was seven and one-half miles one – equivalent to fifteen miles of single track. Subsequently it was sold to the North Chicago Streetcar Company in consideration of the fact that Mr. Yerkes agreed to extend the electric line to connect with the cable limits barn. The conducting of the real estate business naturally made Mr. Cochran a keen judge of real estate values. He also appreciated the needs of Chicagoans for suitable homes. Consequently, when a man had a good piece of property and wanted to build a home, either to live in himself, or to rent, he could readily obtain the money from Mr. Cochran by putting property as first mortgage security.
Thus it was that the business, which Mr. Cochran founded as a real estate business, operated also as a First Mortgage Investment business.
Cover page: Documents: History of the Uptown Community, Chicago. Prepared for the Chicago Historical Society and the Local Community Research Committee, University of Chicago. Research under the direction of Vivien M. Palmer; staff investigators Marion Lindner and Beatrice Nesbit. These documents contain data just as it was secured form old residents and from existing documents. A final check of the data will appear in the volume of the Social History of Chicago.
Format: Photocopy of a typescript without page numbers in the Chicago History Museum library; volume 2 of a 6-volume set containing documentary information on 20 Chicago community districts/areas.
Publication date: 1925-1930.