2005 - Edgewater Beach

2005 Spring Tour of Homes
Edgewater Beach
May 15, 2005

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.

Images and text for this online “tour booklet” were copied from the printed booklet. Copyright © 2005 Edgewater Historical Society.

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

Cochran’s Edgewater

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 and in the same style, he built a large recreation and business building he called the “Guild Hall” 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 fifty 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.

Sheridan Road could not be built in the 1880s due to the irregular shape of the shoreline. Plat maps show an unpaved road named Sheffield, which explains why the first homes were on Kenmore and Winthrop. In 1889, Cochran donated the land at the corner of Berwyn and Winthrop to the Epworth Church. The home next to the property was built in the 1890s and was originally a single family residence.

He planned a suburb and at first attempted to restrict the buildings to single family homes. But, before the turn of the century, Cochran began to advertise the side-by-side townhouse. In 1901, the first two-flat was built on Berwyn. But the real change came in 1908 when 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 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. Shortly after 1910, the land east of Sheffield (now Sheridan Road) was solid enough to be built on. Corbett and Connery purchased the land and, after negotiating the move of the Saddle and Cycle club from a site at the end of Balmoral Avenue and the lake shore, they made plans for the construction of the world famous Edgewater Beach Hotel at Berwyn. The first building opened in 1916. With the construction of the Hotel, the adjacent Edgewater neighborhood changed forever.

Just a few years later, in the 1920s, some owners of single family homes with large yards began selling their side yards to builders of apartment hotels and the density of the area increased. Large apartment homes were built on some of the remaining empty lots. The units in these buildings had three to five bedrooms and maids 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.