John L. Cochran, Jr.

J.L. Cochran, Jr., Interview*

History of Uptown, Edgewater District/J.L. Cochran’s Subdivisions, Document #15

Source: J.L. Cochran, Jr., 40 North Dearborn. He is the son of the subdivider in Edgewater and at present vice-president in the firm of Cochran and McCleur. Informant is a close relative of J.L. Cochran, who while without personal knowledge of the early subdividing done by Mr. Cochran, knew of Mr. Cochran’s life. Interviewed in November, 1927.

We date the firm from the time of the first real estate transaction made by Mr. Cochran. This was in 1881. At this time he bought and sold some lots in what was then the north side society section, around Bellevue and Oak Streets. In 1900 he took McCleur as his junior partner. Mr. McCleur was formerly in the firm of Connell and McCleur. The firm of Cochran and McCleur became incorporated in 1922 with Cochran as president. Mr. Cochran died in 1923 at the age of 68.

Mr. Cochran came to Chicago from Philadelphia. He had been in Chicago many times while acting as a salesman for a Philadelphia tobacco company. Realizing the rapid growth of the city, be began his real estate business, although before this date he had no experience in the field. The north side was not the very best residential district then for the south side was still good and Washington Boulevard was the best residential district in the city. Edgewater was a wilderness, but he had the idea of Chicago’s growth and was confident and optimistic. His main idea which is one of the chief ideas of our firm at the present time, was to stick to the lake shore. Mr. Cochran went out to John G. Mitchell, Clarence Buckingham and others for encouragement, but they did not approve of the venture. He did not give the idea up, however, but bought land and not only laid out streets and put in sewerage, but laid sidewalks and provided lighting for his subdivision. He put up twelve houses I have heard the story that these were lighted each night when the theater train on the St. Paul went through Edgewater to get the idea of occupancy before the public.

Edgewater was his own conception of a fit name for the subdivision. The names of the streets are largely from his memory of Philadelphia. Now, some of the street names have changed. Goodwin is now Kenmore and Claremont is Catalpa. The name Edgewater is no localized now, although it stuck to the first subdivision. Other subdivisions went by local names for a short time.

The land was purchased from people and not from the government directly. Conrad Bristle sold his farm at Bryn Mawr and Broadway. Much of the land of the third addition was bought form a man named E. Kellogg Beach.

Transportation was a problem in the early days of the subdividing of Edgewater. The Chicago and Evanston railroad had four trains daily in 1885. A street car company was organized called the Chicago Evanston Electric Company, but as soon as they had their right of way, it was sold to Yerkes and ran under another name.

Some restrictions were made upon the subdivisions. The liquor restriction is permanent. Apartments were prohibited for twenty years after the date of sale. This restriction began to seem undesirable before Mr. Cochran died, but none were removed until after his heirs took the step after his death. The restriction has only been removed in cases where the character of the district had already changed from single dwellings into apartments. Others will expire in the next year or two and then undoubtedly the section will go into apartments and hotels. In 1884 and from some time after that apartments were not considered first class residential quarters. The original idea of the subdivider had been for a district of private homes.

The lots on Sheridan Road were held for the highest prices and therefore sold last. Mr. Cochran realized that his shore lots were his best and so demanded a good price for them. He built some of the large homes on the Road with his own finances. The building of homes in this district was restricted to certain minimum prices. The people who bought on Sheridan Road were never of the highest class of society, but were conservative, well-to-do, home-loving people. The restrictions against apartments will expire soon and then the Road will probably go into large apartments.

One of the main beliefs of Mr. Cochran was that the value of land increased greatly with improvements and he followed this out in building wherever he opened up lots. He also encouraged the formation of social groups and organization of churches. I believe he was the first president of the Saddle and Cycle Club. He gave the land to the club which is a pretty keen indication of his interest in such a group. The membership came from all over the city. This was organized at a time when the social set of the city was small enough so that everyone knew everyone else. It did not matter whether one lived on the south side or north or in the Washington Boulevard district, they all met at the same social gatherings. I know that at the time of its origin, the Saddle and Cycle was considered to be far out in the country. He also helped organize the Tennis Club. I never heard him mention the Yachting Club and I imagine if reference was made to it in the advertising of the early periods, advantage was taken of the fact that the Saddle and Cycle Club had a dock. As for the Edgewater Golf Club, I cannot say how he was connected.

* John Lewis Cochran, Jr., was born 6 December 1896 in Chicago, the second child of John Lewis Cochran, Sr., and Alice Vanuxem. He was the only one of his parents three children living at the time of the interview in November, 1927, his older sister Alice died in early childhood in 1899 and his younger brother Louis Vanuxem Cochran having died in October, 1927, while a student at Princeton. In June, 1921, J.L. Cochran, Jr., graduated from Princeton, married Eleanor Peabody Brush, and joined Cochran and McCleur as a vice-president, which by then was a purely a real estate sales and mortgage brokerage company. He died 31 August 1979 at his home at 1422 North State Parkway in Chicago. He retired from business in 1951 when the firm of Cochran and McCleur was dissolved.

Document #15

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.