2004 - Edgewater Beach

2004 Spring Tour of Homes
The Edgewater Beach Neighborhood
May 2, 2004

Editor’s note: To respect the privacy of the homeowners while making the historical information available for research, most names and street addresses have been removed from the online version of the "tour booklet." The original printed booklets are all available at the Edgewater Historical Society Museum.

Text and some images for this online “tour booklet” were copied from the printed booklet. Copyright © 2004 Edgewater Historical Society.

For individual home descriptions, select an address at the left.

The Edgewater Beach Neighborhood

In 1885, John Lewis Cochran, a tobacco salesman for the McDowell Tobacco Company of Philadelphia, began to purchase land along the lakeshore from what was once called 59th Street in the township of Lakeview to Bryn Mawr, a street he named. He named his first purchase of the land west of what is now Sheridan Road, Edgewater. He had a vision of a suburb much like the suburbs of Philadelphia that extended out from that city along a railroad called the Main Line. The train line that ran through Edgewater was the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul line, which had tracks at ground level. Cochran persuaded the railroad to open a station at Bryn Mawr which he had built of wood and stone in the Eastern architectural style called Shingle Style. At the same time, he built a large recreation and business building he called the Guild Hall in the same style at the corner of Winthrop and Bryn Mawr. He had engaged an architect, Joseph Lyman Silsbee, to design this and some houses which were built on Kenmore and Winthrop.

Cochran subdivided the land and improved the area with sewers, stone sidewalks, macadam streets and electric power. He offered no-interest loans and advertised this community in the newspapers. He maintained an office in the Loop and one at the Guild Hall. Although he had persuaded the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad to stop at Bryn Mawr, there were only a few trains each day. He began by building homes along Winthrop and providing electricity to them so that those riding by the community on the train would recognize it as an appealing place. The lots were 50 feet of frontage along the streets and many of those attracted to the area bought at least two lots - some purchased as many as four.

In 1887, Cochran completed the purchase of land north of Bryn Mawr to a point in the middle of the block between Ardmore and Thorndale. Cochran named these streets as well as Berwyn, Balmoral and Claremont (now Catalpa). In his next addition in 1889, he added the land from the first addition north to Devon with streets named Glenlake, Grand and Rosemont. After a short time working with Silsbee, he found that many buyers wanted more options in the designs of their homes. He parted ways with Silsbee, who lived at Hollywood and Kenmore, and hired George Washington Maher as lead architect. Maher worked in the area for many years, though any homes he designed for Cochran did not have his name as architect. Cochran was the holder of the building permit.

Cochran planned a suburb and attempted to restrict the buildings to single family homes at first. But before the turn of the century Cochran began to advertise the side-by-side townhouse. In 1901 the first two-flat was built. But the real change came when, in 1908, the train tracks were elevated and Edgewater was connected by the "L" system to downtown Chicago. That connection created pressure for more housing units and flats as more and more people moved to Chicago. [Editor’s note: the L came in 1908 but the track elevation was not completed until 1921-22.]

Even as some builders were building flat buildings, others were building large single family homes along the newly opened section of Sheridan Road south of Bryn Mawr. Years later some owners began selling their side yards to builders of apartment hotels and the density of the area increased. In 1915, the construction of the Edgewater Beach Hotel put Edgewater on the map. It attracted many visitors to the area and provided a place for entertainment for people throughout the city. In the late 1920s, large buildings like the Bryn Mawr Hotel and The Belle Shore Hotel were built on Bryn Mawr. On some of the remaining empty lots, large apartment homes were built. The units in these buildings had three to five bedrooms and maid’s quarters. By the 1920s, the variety of housing in the area ranged from large single family homes and two-flats to large apartment homes and apartment hotels. Cochran’s suburb of Edgewater became an urban neighborhood.