Paul Schwartzlose

Edgewater District/J.L. Cochran’s Subdivisions

Paul Swartzlose Interview [Paul Schwartzlose]*

History of Uptown, Edgewater District/J.L. Cochran’s Subdivisions, Document #13

Source: Paul Swartzlose, 6159 North Clark. He was connected with Cochran since the first of the Edgewater subdivisions. At present he is a real estate man and does work for Henry P. Kransz. Informant is a man employed by J.L. Cochran from the time of the first subdividing in Edgewater until 1903. His knowledge of all the branches of the work is founded upon actual participation. Interviewed December, 1927.

My association with John Lewis Cochran began at the time of his first subdividing and last until 1903. I ran much of the practical work part of the business myself.

Cochran came to Chicago as the Chicago manager of the M.E. McDowell and Company tobacco firm. He began doing some clever advertising when he was at this firm. For a long time he had the word Police printed in the papers, then he added the word Chew and finally Tobacco. Police was the name of the tobacco sold by the company. When he stared his Edgewater subdividing he had the word alone printed for a long time and then published maps showing the Lincoln Park and Edgewater. The maps showed just how to get there. Then he posted streamers on the gutters with news about Edgewater on them until everyone knew what and where it was. His business in the Bellevue district was on the side of his tobacco work. Sometime after 1888 he did some subdividing on North Avenue and Hirsch.

The first partners of Cochran’s were Marcellus E. McDowell and Samuel H. Austin. McDowell has a son, Marcellus E. Junior, who may still be living. These two men provided a great deal of money and did some of the work, but Cochran did most of the planning and deserves the credit for the events which brought success. These two men, however, had titles to their land and when a subdivision was opened up, corner lots were selected for the three so that each would have a good corner as the other and the middle ones were divided in the same way. IN the case of the impossibility of this, lots were drawn and the first one chose which corner lots he wanted. Vanuxem came into the business later, when Austin sold out. He did not contribute financially to the first subdivisions. He used to be in business with Waller in the New York Life business.

The land in Edgewater was bought successively much as it was opened for sale. The names of the streets in Edgewater are almost all from the Philadelphia suburbs – Ardmore, Catalpa, Rosemont, Bryn Mawr.

During the first year of the first subdivision a court ruling was made that said that a house was commonly understood to be a place where people lived. Since Cochran did not want apartments, but private homes, he made his buyers sign regular warranty deeds saying that they contracted to build “a single private dwelling house.” This strictly prohibited flats and tenements.

In 1887 or when the first subdivision went on the market, Clark Street was practically without business life. There was Simon’s Grove in which anyone could hold a picnic by hiring the grove from the owner. Organizations or even private parties would rent it and announce a picnic, then admission was charged which paid for the amusements and food. There may be an old-fashioned picnic grove on Western and Belmont now. Clark Street was twenty feet wide and graveled. It wasn’t paved until 1890 or after. Penner had a real estate office on the southwest corner of Foster and Clark about 1890. There was an old frame drug store on the northwest corner of Foster. The other stores were here and there north of Foster on corners. But there was no business life like there is today.

The main feature about Edgewater in the first days of its growth was the Edgewater Light Company which provided electric light. It was organized and the plant built as much for advertisement as to give good lighting. It was quite the thing then to have electricity out in the country. It was built sometime in the first few years that Cochran subdivided. The power plant was built on Ardmore just west of the St. Paul tracks. The company provided street lighting as well as residential lighting. Incandescent lights were strung across the street on two poles at a decent interval apart and had big reflectors over them so that the streets were as well lighted as they are now. I don’t remember when it was sold, but it much have been after annexation. I know that the franchise or whatever agreement with Lake View that the company had did not hold when the residents wanted different service. The Company did not want to give it up for it was the only things on which they made a little money. There was no gas in houses until later. This must have come in after annexation. The electric light plant was sold to the Commonwealth Edison Company and I think the first gas company in the district was Sullivan’s and then the Peoples Gas Company.

The first store was in the Hall building. Here, too, was the first school room. Cochran employed and paid a teacher who had a good number of pupils. The school must have been started in 1887, but rather late in the year I imagine, for it wasn’t going very long when the city Board of Education took it over.

There were two stations on the St. Paul at North Edgewater or what is now Granville, and at Edgewater or Bryn Mawr. Later there was some fuss about putting an elevated station at Granville and it was found that they couldn’t put it further north as they wanted to, for in the right of way proceedings there was a statement that the station had to be retained at Granville. The St. Paul station up in North Edgewater was called Flaxon. I have no idea what the name stood for.

The street car line did not originate with Cochran but was proposed by D.H. Louderbach who had been working on some electric lines in the southern part of the state. He saw that a north side line would be a good thing and came to Cochran to get his co-operation. Cochran agreed to help him get the right of way. There was some trouble in that part of the work. In the south section of the line, on Broadway below Irving Park Boulevard, the people thought that electric lines were dangerous and wee afraid that many would be killed or injured. So the promoter had to get the line through to the car barns on some other street and worked on the people living on Halsted south of Irving Park Boulevard. They circulated all through that district and educated the people in believing that the line would not be harmful. Finally permission was given and the line went down Halsted. The length of it was then from the heart of Evanston through Rogers Park, down Broadway through to the limits barn. When the people on Broadway saw how much better the street car was for Halsted than for them, they wanted one too. The company who had secured the right of way was called the Chicago and Evanston Street Railway Company. They sold the line to Yerkes, who was head of the Chicago and North Shore Street Railway. [Editor’s note: The line that Yerkes controlled was the North Chicago Street Railway.  The incorporators changed the name of the street railway from the Chicago and Evanston Street Railway Company to the Chicago North Shore Street Railway.  It was this company that was sold to Yerkes.]

I believe this was the first electric line to have an overhead trolley in Chicago. The Chicago and North Shore Street Railway Company built the power plant and car barn on the east side of Broadway at the corner of Ardmore Street. The Edgewater Electric plant was not large enough to supply the electricity for the street cars. The car barn is still used for that purpose but the power plant no longer gives the electricity. Cochran was a silent partner and never had much publicity out of it.

The first streets laid out in the subdivision were in a square bounded by Bryn Mawr, Balmoral, the St. Paul railroad and the lake. These were Kenmore and Winthrop. Or rather, the land owned by Cochran south of Bryn Mawr did not go to the lake but to the line on which Sheridan Road is now. His lake shore land was north of Bryn Mawr. The prices you see listed with the advertisements were always for the house and the lot.

Cochran did not use native trees because there were only white birches and scrub oaks. Elms were imported and planted. John R. Leesley did the planting. The firm still exists but the man who did Cochran’s work is not alive.

There were four of us who did the work in the first subdivision. Besides Cochran and myself there was William J. Quinlan and Robert Dick. We ran the business, the power house, the stables, built houses, took care of the sale of wood and the street cleaning, and sold a million dollars worth of property in the year before the World’s Fair. Houses were sold at nearly cost to encourage sales.

The only person living on the land when Cochran bought his first subdivision was a man who had built a hut at Granville between Broadway and the lake. He lived there to keep people from cutting the birch trees and stealing sand from the beach. A farmer named Johnson lived on Ridge Boulevard.

Cochran bought the station at Granville on the St. Paul and spent $1,200 remodeling. It was an old frame building and he faced it with stone and put living quarters in it for rental. The stables were built so that private owners would not have to build places for their horses. They faced south on Catalpa just went of the St. Paul tracks.

Sheridan Road had been paved to Montrose about 1887 and the section north to about Foster had evidently been paved too but was in a bad state of disrepair. Cochran wanted a good drive from the city to Edgewater so he and some of the land owners north of Montrose agreed to keep it up. The road entered Edgewater about where it does now at Foster, but instead of going directly north it circled to the west and came out about two blocks west of is starting point at Balmoral and then west north from there on. This section in Edgewater was a cinder road. Later when Sheridan Road went along the beach north of Foster it came so near to the shore where the lake curves at Bryn Mawr, that it had to be filled in several times. There was an east and west dive on Bryn Mawr from Clark to the lake. This came out over the lake, for the sewer emptied into the lake at Bryn Mawr. Cochran had built the road over this place where the sewer emptied and had a small garden out over the lake. You could drive up Clark to Bryn Mawr and then to the end of this road at the lake. Then you turned around at the end and drove out the same way you came. A special easement had been made for the Bryn Mawr sewer and the farmers as far over as Clark Street were supposed to contribute, but Cochran stood most of the expense.

We knew that we were in Lake View about the time of the annexation. There were arguments for and against the move. Jim Pease was “king of Lake View” about that time. The district managers were boys who had grown up in the sections they represented and everyone took an interest in politics. We were divided into two wards when we were annexed.

The reason the third addition did not develop as rapidly as the others was that altogether it was the least attractive. It did not have so good transportation as the other until the elevated was opened. That helped it a lot. Lower-priced homes were built in the third addition but this did not mean that they were cheaper houses. They were simply more moderately sized. The third and fourth additions differed from the others in that there were three semi-detached homes in them and there were flats on Wayne and Glenwood.

The fourth addition had no north and south street because there had been other subdivisions started before Cochran’s which had none. Norwood was opened several years before Elmdale Avenue. While Norwood was for homes only, Elmdale was entirely in flats. Rosedale, which is south of Elmdale, went into apartments and was built later than the fourth addition. James Hedenberg did the subdividing for the owners on Rosedale.

It is true that Edgewater had the reputation for being a high-priced district and during the panic years of 1896 and 97 the idea was combated by talk and advertisement of moderately priced houses.

The North Edgewater Community was somewhat different form the Edgewater sections because there were more gorgeous homes up north, particularly on Sheridan Road. One man had a swimming pool and an underground passage connecting it with his home which was on another lot. Cochran also built some very expensive homes, spending $90,000 on three homes at once.

Mr. Cochran deserves all the credit that can be given him for his development. He sweat blood over Edgewater. He came here when wise and influential men told him not to. He was a hard man to work for because things had to be done no matter whether you ate or slept. But he worked as hard as any of us to get things through and done right. I tell you people don’t work like that we did in those days. His ideas were new for his time in many cases although others soon followed him. But what he did, he did on a large scale.

* Paul Schwartzlose was born 12 February 1867 in Chicago to parents born in Prussia. He married Hermine Jacob in 1895. In 1900 he lived with his wife and daughter Inez at 1819 North Spaulding in the 27th Ward of Chicago. In 1920 he was a widower living at 4052 North Greenview with Inez and in 1930 he lived in Edgewater at 1511 West Norwood with his daughter and son-in-law Frank Thomas. He died 10 December 1938. In a 2 March 1893 Chicago Tribune article he is listed as one of the five incorporators of the planned Chicago North Side Elevated Company, the financial backers of which were not divulged. His participation in this venture was apparently on behalf of his employer J.L. Cochran. In the end, it was not this company that came to build the north side “L”; rather it was the Northwestern Elevated Railroad that was incorporated in the fall of the same year. It had a different set of incorporators. 

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.