Dr. Benjamin L. Hotchkin

Dr. [Benjamin L. Hotchkin] Interview*

History of Uptown, Edgewater District/J.L. Cochran’s Subdivisions, Document #14

Source: Dr. Hotchkin, 5522 North Kenmore Avenue. He came to Edgewater in 1887 and at present runs an apartment hotel there. Informant is a professional man who has lived in Edgewater since 1887, buying the second home built in Cochran’s first subdivision two years after it was erected. Interviewed in December, 1927.

I made Argyle my first stop on the north side, living there two years before moving to Edgewater. The house I bought at that time and the one I live in at present, was the second house that Cochran built in his first subdivision. Mr. Bartlett, the man from whom I bought the place, had lived in it two years previous to my purchase.

Cochran first built five houses on Winthrop and then five on Kenmore. He built ten houses a year for the first several years. These were not in a row, but separated. After he had done this for awhile he came back and filled in the empty lots. The majority of the homes in the first subdivision were laid out in the fall and winter of 1886 and 1887.

Our lighting facilities were the pride of the day then. It was pretty grand to have electric light up here when Argyle was still using kerosene lamps. The street lighting was good. Of course, the lights used to swing around some on windy nights, because they were just strung on wire between two poles, but it was good enough, I tell you. We paid about five dollars a month and could use the light we wanted to. I used to have forty-one lights in my house. The others had plenty of lights too, so that at night it was a well lighted district around here. When the plant was sold to the Commonwealth Edison Company the prices were increased and then things didn’t look so bright.

Transportation was pretty good on the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul. Then there was a horse car line that came from the city to the limits barn on Diversey. The Lake View High School was where it is now and there was a steam dummy line that ran a single track east on Irving Park Boulevard from Clark to Broadway. It went south to Broadway.

There were still some farmers around here when I came. Conrad Bristle who owned a farm of about eighty acres south of Bryn Mawr to the edge of the lot facing on Catalpa was an old friend of mine. After he sold his farm he went into the real estate business. The slough which used to run from Foster north to Granville between the St. Paul tracks to the sand ridge at Kenmore raised the finest celery I have ever seen. There was fine black soil in this strip. The truck gardens stayed as late as 1904 west of Broadway.

There were no houses on the land when Cochran bought it. Forty years ago there was no Sheridan Road either. Foster or North 59, and Bryn Mawr were the only cross streets to the lake when the first subdivision was laid out. All the land east of Broadway was a wilderness. Cochran put Sheridan road through about 1890. You have heard that the old name for it was Sheffield, I suppose. It was graded but not improved more than that until late. Kenmore was Cochran’s name for the street in Edgewater and after annexation the name was given to that section of the street south of Edgewater also. [Editor’s note: Godwin was Cochran’s name for the street that later was renamed Kenmore.] The Sheridan Road subdivision was not taken up until after Kenmore and Winthrop were fairly well built up to Devon. Apartments did not appear in this area until ten or fifteen years ago. Cochran always encouraged the building of comfortably-sized homes.

All the people in Edgewater used to work down town because there was no business here. It was purely a residential village. We were all English-speaking people. Many came from the west side of Chicago. Ashland Boulevard was good then, but the people who moved up here realized the advantages of owning homes near the lake and haven’t been sorry for the fresh air and quiet atmosphere of Edgewater.

I bought the old frame house on the northwest corner of Catalpa and Kenmore. It was built by George L. Phillips of the Chicago Telephone Company, what is now Illinois Bell Telephone Company. He built it in 1886 when he was president of the company and had just moved in when he died. I use it now as part of the apartment hotel I run. The other section of the building is north of it.

* Benjamin L. Hotchkin was born 1 September 1852 in Blue island, Illinois, to parents born in England. He married Lillie M. Windes in 1885 and graduated from the Chicago Homeopathic College in 1889. He died 15 March 1929 at his home at 5522 North Kenmore in Chicago.

Cover page citation: 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 from old residents and from existing documents. A final check of the data will appear in the volume of the Social History of Chicago.

Publication date: 1925-1930

Format: Photocopy of a typed manuscript without page numbers in the library of the Chicago History Museum.