Berger Park History

Berger Park honors Albert E. Berger (1900-1950), a native Chicagoan and Edgewater resident. Berger, who lived with his family in one of the large homes that lined Sheridan Road before 1950, was a tax consultant and real estate developer, and a member of numerous philanthropic and civic groups. He was also an early proponent of developing street-end beaches on Chicago’s north side. Such beaches met the summertime recreational needs of Edgewater residents who lived beyond easy reach of the Lincoln Park beaches. By 1937, the city’s Bureau of Parks and Recreation was operating 27 street-end beaches, including one at the end of Edgewater’s Granville Avenue, near Berger’s home. The city transferred Granville Beach and Park to the Chicago Park District in 1959. By this time, many of Edgewater’s fashionable Sheridan Road homes had given way to modern highrises. In an attempt to address the recreational needs of the many apartment dwellers, the city in 1976 constructed a playground along the northern right-of-way of Granville Avenue, leasing it to the Park District.

Residents of crowded Edgewater needed still more park land, however, and the park district purchased three additional lakeshore acres from the Viatorian Fathers in 1981. The property included two of the few remaining Sheridan Road mansions – the south one designed by William Carbys Zimmerman, and the north one by Myron H. Church. In 1988, the park district rehabilitated one of the homes and planned to demolish the second home, but the activists at the Edgewater Community Council protested and began fundraising to “Save the Mansion.” This culminated in the opening of the North Lakeside Cultural Center in the north mansion. For 25 years, a community not for profit ran the building and produced musical programs, art exhibits, art fairs and art classes. It has been closed for repairs for two years and is opening in October. The north mansion’s original coach house is now the location of a neighborhood cafe. The south coach house also still stands. Berger Park now offers many activities, including senior aerobics, computer, jewelry making and writing classes, and theater and music programs for children and adults.