2012 - Highlands of Edgewater

2012 Fall Tour of Homes
Highlands of Edgewater,
September 16, 2012

Welcome to the 24th 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 © 2012 Edgewater Historical Society.

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

Highlands of Edgewater

Our tour today is focused on the area between two sandy ridges. One ridge follows Clark Street, once known as Green Bay Road. The other to the west of a railroad embankment is on even higher ground and became known as Ridge Avenue. This area just north of where these two trails intersect was once called High Ridge.

There is little today to indicate what the land really looked like when the first investors bought tracts from the government. Most of these people were from “back east” and they never saw their land. By 1836, the City of Chicago was incorporated and the trading in land expanded beyond the limits of the city.

One of the original owners of land in this area was the Rosehill Cemetery Company, which purchased land all the way up to Granville from Rosehill Drive west of Clark. It is remarkable to note that they set aside land for a school in this section and one was eventually built there, 125 feet north of Peterson Avenue where it intersects Clark/Ashland. It was called the Rosehill School, but on some earlier maps it was called the Baer School.

In 1856, the High Ridge area became a part of the town of Lakeview. Between 1888 and 1903, the Rosehill Company divested itself of this high ridge land and sold it to developers. But the first plot of land set up for subdivision was to the north and west. It was owned in part by the Angel Guardian German American Catholic Orphan Society of Chicago, which was incorporated in 1872. In 1886, the Society determined to sell the plot which was bound by Peterson on the south (west of the RR tracks) and ran north to Devon Avenue (known at the time as Church Street). At this same time the road we know as Granville (formerly Grand Avenue) was put through the land. The eastern section of this land was much smaller, extending from Granville to Devon, Clark/Ashland and the railroad tracks.

The company which stepped forward to purchase this land was the B.F. Weber Company. Bernard Weber was serving as an alderman of this area of Lakeview when the subdivision began. The B.F. Weber Company then proceeded to subdivide the land and sell lots.

The company named the area High Ridge and advertised the benefits of living on this high ground, the highest elevation in Lakeview – 20 to 40 feet above the lakeshore. Among other amenities were the train station at High Ridge, with connections to downtown Chicago. The ad also notes that “the Clark Street Cable Car and Horse Car Line will be completed in two years and will run cars every 15 minutes from this property to the Board of Trade in Chicago.” The Chicago, Evanston and Lake Superior Railroad (near where the “L” is located today) was intending to build a station at Granville, just east of the subdivision. It was also noted that the lake shore was only 1/4 of a mile away. The High Ridge subdivision advertising printed in 1887 mentions “improvements to the land including water mains, sewers and durable concrete walks, ornamental shade trees” and “the erection of an attractive and commodious Station Building,” which is pictured in some ads. The ad continues: “We offer 500 fine lots in this subdivision for 90 days only at the Present Prices. Lots having a frontage of 50 feet for $650 and upward.” The time limit on the sale at these prices may, of course, be an advertising technique. However, since the town of Lakeview became a part of the city of Chicago in the summer of 1889, it is also possible that there was discussion of this change and the developer sought to sell quickly before the requirements of the larger city changed the cost of doing business.

Other owners of land got into the action during the next decade. First, the Weber and Kransz Company (a company formed by Weber and the Kransz family) sought to sell 50 foot lots on the south side of Granville in 1888.

In 1891, a man by the name of Kemper purchased land from the Rosehill Company. It extended from Ridge on the south to just south of the Weber and Kransz property, from Paulina to the train tracks. Both of these developments continued to use the High Ridge name. But the Kemper addition sold lots with only 25’ frontage and, in many places, a depth of 167 feet. Narrow but thin lots with plenty of room for a big garden.

Also, in 1891, the road called Peterson was extended east from the train tracks to Clark Street. This may be the reason that Bairstow and Kelly decided to subdivide the land they owned between Peterson and Ridge in 1892. After all, the road cut right through it. John Bairstow had a business hauling sand gravel. There was plenty of sand to be removed from this area just to level the land in order to prepare the lots for construction.

Development continued along Clark Street in the first decade of the twentieth century. In reviewing the changes along Clark Street, it is important to remember that the street was a narrow road at this time, as was Ashland, a short quarter block east of Clark. It was not until the 1920s that the two roads were made into one wide expanse.

In 1895, Baer subdivided a portion of the Rosehill cemetery land that he owned, which was intersected by the extension of Peterson Avenue. Baer was an early settler in the area. He built a roadhouse at the northwest corner of the intersection of Ridge and Clark, directly across from the Kransz farmhouse at the northeast corner of the intersection. To add to the confusion of some, both buildings were sometimes called the seven mile house or inn.

The train embankment was built around 1908. The configuration of most of the High Ridge development was set by 1910. Then, in the 1950s, with open land still available, a Mr. Murray sought to develop land between Ravenswood and Hermitage along Thome. In 1954, this area was named Murray Manor. The homes are townhouses – some 72 in 14 structures.

While most of the subdivisions were recorded relatively early in Edgewater’s history, for a number of years these subdivisions were just lines on a map. Nothing happened. Development was slow – very slow. Even though the High Ridge subdivision was recorded in 1887 (less than two years after Cochran’s first subdivision) no lots were sold before 1892 – in the Edgewater portion anyway (that’s the section east of the railroad tracks). The 1905 Sanborn fire map tells the story. As you can see there were quite a few undeveloped lots. In the High Ridge development – 18 years after it was recorded – there were just 32 residential structures. (see fig. 1a) And of these, 11 were houses constructed along the north side of Granville by the B.F. Weber Company in 1903. In the subdivisions south of the original High Ridge, development was greater but still slow – 61 residential structures, of which 12 were houses constructed by the Weber-Kransz Company on the south side of Granville in 1903. (see fig. 1b) The total for the two “halves” of the area was 93. This compares with the current number of 295 residential structures. Thus the area was only 32% developed by 1905.

The next snapshot of development came in September 1909 when the north side changed its numbering system and a cross-reference guide was published that showed the new numbers for structures already built. For High Ridge, the number had increased to 60, and the area south of it to 104, for a total of 164. While the increase of 71 residential structures in four to five years represented a dramatic 76 percent increase, it still left the area just 56% developed.

Because so much vacant land was still available after almost all new residential construction stopped with the Great Depression, the Highlands has more “new,” post WWII residential construction than any other Edgewater neighborhood west of Broadway. The most obvious are the Murray townhouses; however, the Highlands, particularly north of Granville, has a number of apartment buildings of various configurations built in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and even later.

Because of the wider use of High Ridge (like the High Ridge YMCA), we prefer the name the Highlands of Edgewater. Some call it Northwest Edgewater. Whatever you may call it, the area has a long and fascinating history, which you can see in the many housing types. These include the 1890s Queen Annes and the 1950s townhomes, the Kransz-Weber homes on Granville and the bungalows on Paulina and Hermitage, the early cottages on Paulina to the two-flats sprinkled throughout the area. The Highlands also has what must be considered Edgewater’s most beautiful court yard building – the Patio Apartments, which are really two buildings facing each other across a court yard that extend between two streets, Granville and Thome. The history of Chicago housing is here to observe just by walking along the streets.

Fig. 1a

Fig. 1b