Oral histories: Levi Z. Leiter


Levi Z. Leiter Memories of Lake View Township 1855-1860*
History of Uptown, Document #40
Source: Letter from H. I. Cleveland dated 25 January 1908 to J. Seymour Currey, archived with the J. S. Currrey files at the Evanston Historical Society; collected by University of Chicago graduate students in the late 1920s as part of assembling the data on which was based the division of Chicago into community areas.
I [H. I. Cleveland] wrote the life of Marshall Field for the System Magazine and in taking up his early career in this city – from 1855 to 1860 – discovered that he and L. Z. Leiter and another young man of the time, spent their Sundays at the old Waller Inn, Buena Vista, now Buena Park. Mr Leiter gave me the following description of the north shore before his death and I printed it in the Chicago Herald.
The North Shore was regarded by us young men as the welcoming wilderness to which we could go on the days when we were not at work. Holidays and Sundays we would take a light wagon or a carriage and drive out the Old Green Road to the Waller home; there we would have cooling drinks and a good dinner and sit about on the veranda and enjoy the fresh winds from the lake. The sand dunes were very picturesque and wild.
Small growths of timer and some large fall growths were to be found on the way from the main river to what is now Rogers Park. Little pools of water which we called lakes, laid between these dunes and many wild folwl found their way there. These we hunted with more or less bad success. Where the sand was not too plentiful many wild flowers and trailing vines grew.
No one in those days believed that Chicago would grow; inwardly my own belief was that the growth of the city would follow the line of the main river and the south branch of the river.
It was a good day’s journey to get from the old Potter Palmer store to what is now Montrose Avenue and then make the return trip, allowing some time for dinner and resting. The lake shore from where the Chicago pumping station now is to what is now Devon Avenue was much more rugged that it has been since. The winds had a freer sweep and the sand piled in around the small oaks and made hills and small moutons that disappeared rapidly after the fire of 1871. Mr. Field, Mr. Cooley, Mr. Wadsworth, Mr. Scammon, George Smith, the banker, myself and a score of others whom I might name, used to drive and tramp this region before we ever thought that there would be any considerable number of residence or business places north of Kinzie Street. The country south and west opened freer for settlement.


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.