2011 - Lakewood Balmoral

2011 Fall Tour of Homes
Lakewood Balmoral
September 18, 2011

Welcome to the 23rd Annual Edgewater Historical Society Home Tour

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 © 2011 Edgewater Historical Society.

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

Lakewood Balmoral

All of what we now call the Lakewood Balmoral neighborhood is included in only one subdivision: J.L. Cochran’s 3rd addition to Edgewater. This is unlike most other modern Edgewater neighborhoods west of Broadway, which include several subdivisions developed by different individuals. Only the west side of Broadway and the east side of Glenwood that are part of Cochran’s third addition are not in Lakewood Balmoral. The east side of Glenwood is now part of the East Andersonville neighborhood. Both these neighborhood names date to the second half of the 20th century.

Because Lakewood Balmoral’s early development is so intrinsically linked to J.L. Cochran, it is important to give a short overview of his early developments:

In 1885, John Lewis Cochran, a tobacco agent from Philadelphia, purchased a plot of land bordered by Sheridan Road on the east, Foster (West 59th Street) on the south, Bryn Mawr on the north and Broadway (Evanston Avenue) on the west. He then announced the development of a new suburb he called Edgewater. Over the next five years he made additions to this development and extended it eventually north to Devon. As he added blocks to his development, he named the streets for the Main Line train stops of suburbs outside of Philadelphia where he was from: Berwyn, Balmoral, Claremont (now Catalpa), Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Thorndale and Rosemont. Besides putting in streets, alleys, stone sidewalks, landscaped parkways with trees and sewer and water connections, Cochran also brought in such modern developments as electricity.

He advertised his development extensively in the Chicago newspapers. In order to provide easy access to the downtown business district, he built a railway station for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Ry. at Bryn Mawr. (The trains were pulled by steam engines and ran at ground level; the station was called Edgewater.) His would-be customers were urged to take the train to Edgewater and see his beautiful suburb. Additional buildings were built to accommodate the needs of his residents, including the Guild Hall at the south-west corner of Winthrop and Bryn Mawr (where he had an office) and the stables at Catalpa (Claremont) by the train tracks. With this development, he left his mark on the City of Chicago and the community known as Edgewater. In 1889, Edgewater, as part of the City of Lake View, was annexed to the city. However, he was not finished.

In 1890, Cochran purchased land owned by E. Kellogg Beach, which extended along Broadway (Evanston) from Foster to Bryn Mawr and west to Glenwood (Southport). It became the third addition to his original subdivision. He determined early on that this 3rd addition would be a little different from the original subdivision and the first two additions. The lots were smaller (25 by 123 feet rather than the 50 by 150 feet) and thus cheaper. He understood that there were limits to the sales of homes to the wealthy who were building along the shoreline and also that there was a growing middle class looking to build homes in Chicago. His strategy was to market to that middle class by building some homes and offering plans for others. He even created several double houses (side-by-side three-story town homes) to attract those who wanted to invest in real estate by purchasing a building to live in one side and rent out the other (see Figure 1 below).

Transportation was key to the development of his subdivisions. By 1888 there were 33 trains during the week between Edgewater and Chicago’s Union station (42 by 1893), which was fairly frequent service for the time. However, Cochran sought an alternative and, in 1891, he along with a few other investors incorporated what became the north side’s first electrically powered street car line (or trolley), the Chicago North Shore Street Railway (prior to this the streetcars were horse drawn or cable). It ran on Broadway in Edgewater and today’s Uptown (and on Clark Street in Rogers Park) and began operations in June, 1893. By the end of the year, it connected downtown Evanston to the “limits” cable car barn at Diversey in Chicago. From there, patrons had to transfer to the cable car line to take them to downtown Chicago. Travel wasn’t nearly as fast as on the steam trains, but there was much greater frequency, more stops and it was generally cheaper.

While by modern standards, growth in the 3rd addition was slow, by the standards of the day, it was remarkably steady. The 1905 Sanborn fire insurance map, reproduced here (see Figure 2), gives a snapshot of the development in the 3rd addition. The first thing one might notice is that there were no structures on the east side of Glenwood (then called Southport). Development would come later and be in the form of brick two- and three-flats for the most part. The second thing one notices is that there were far fewer structures on Wayne than on Magnolia and Lakewood. That’s because Wayne Avenue was developed last. The first homes were constructed in 1899 vs. 1891 for Magnolia and 1893 for Lakewood. One of the early residents on Wayne recalled in an interview that she couldn’t sleep during the fall because of the smell of rotting cabbages in the fields west of her.

The third thing one notices is that there were quite a few homes on both Lakewood and Magnolia. Today there are 105 residential structures on Lakewood and 105 on Magnolia. In 1905, there were 75 and 66 respectively. Thus, by 1905, Lakewood was 71% developed and Magnolia 63%. Even including late-to-develop Wayne, Lakewood Balmoral was 52% developed in 1905 as compared to today. A fourth thing one might notice is that there were few residences on the corner lots. Lakewood Balmoral has 48 corners; in 1905, only eight had residential structures on them. The apparent reason for this is that the corner lots were considered more desirable and thus more expensive. Interestingly, Cochran never built a home on a corner in Lakewood Balmoral. When the remaining corners were developed later, the structures were for the most part of brick construction and many were two-flats rather than single family homes. Of the homes on our tour today, four are on corner lots.

The next “snapshot” of growth was September 1909 (four to five years later), when most of the city was converted to the current street numbering system. The official address conversion table showed that 104 residential structures were added in Lakewood Balmoral in the years since the 1905 Sanborn fire insurance map. That’s 30% of today’s 340 residential structures. As one would expect, Wayne Avenue being the least developed in 1905 would see the greatest number of additional residential structures (55 vs. only 18 for Lakewood and 31 for Magnolia. The number of residential structures on Wayne more than doubled. By September 1909, there were 284 residential structures in Lakewood Balmoral representing 83% of the number that exist today.

With the possible exception of Cairnduff’s addition to Edgewater (today’s BARGE neighborhood) and the south half of today’s West Andersonville neighborhood, Lakewood Balmoral was the most developed neighborhood west of Broadway in Edgewater in 1905. Why was that? The answer has to be that its developer was Cochran. In 1893, the country experienced a deep recession. All of the other Edgewater sub-dividers during the 1890s were under-capitalized and few built homes for re-sale. They sold lots only. Cochran had Eastern money behind him (namely his two half-brothers and cousin), so he kept on building. In fact, through 1899 the overwhelming majority of the homes constructed in Lakewood-Balmoral were built by Cochran for resale.

Of the five subdivisions Cochran developed, the Lakewood Balmoral portion of his third addition today most reflects his original vision of a suburb of single family homes. His subdivisions east of Broadway have been altered beyond recognition from their original development of quality single family homes for the upper middle class (there are precious few left) and his fourth addition, which today is just a small sliver of land divided between the EPIC and Edgewater Glen neighborhoods, was never developed in a robust way. With the exception of seven multi-family buildings on its northern and southern ends that were constructed in the 1920s, Lakewood Balmoral is predominately composed of single family homes and two-flats. There is also one three-flat, one four-flat and one nine-flat.

It is interesting to speculate why Lakewood Balmoral has been so well preserved. Certainly one reason is that it achieved a critical mass of single family homes (at least on Magnolia and Lakewood) quite early; when the “L” was extended through Edgewater in May 1908, and the apartment boom started in earnest, there were fewer lots that were available for building. Another is that Cochran sold many of the lots with a restriction that prohibited the construction of flat buildings for 20 years from the date of sale. A third reason is that when Chicago’s first (and rather rudimentary) zoning ordinance became effective in the early 1920s, the Lakewood Balmoral neighborhood, being predominately single family, was zoned as residential. Finally, efforts to change the zoning to permit greater density were fought by Lakewood Balmoral residents. The precursor to today’s Lakewood Balmoral Residents Council, the Lakewood Balmoral Zonal Center, was formed after WWII to preserve the area’s low density zoning.

Of course, two-flats represent a significant proportion of the residential structures – nearly 30%. One might ask: How did this happen if Cochran prohibited the building of flat buildings? Two-flats are flat buildings, are they not? The answer is that Cochran relented. As best we can determine, the first two-flat in Lakewood Balmoral was constructed in 1901. In a document relating to that property which was filed with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Cochran stipulated: “the building you are now erecting for two families is satisfactory provided it has one entrance in front, rear stairway to be enclosed, and the building to have a sloping or gable roof to avoid the appearance of a flat building.” The 1905 map showed only eight two-flat buildings. However, by 1909, 48 had been erected or planned. Presumably, at some point after 1905, Cochran sold the remaining lots without the “no flats” restriction, or with a modification that allowed two-flats. Interestingly enough, at least 10 of the two-flat buildings have been converted in recent years to use as single family homes.