Lakewood Balmoral Historic District: How it came about

The area of Edgewater known as Lakewood Balmoral was nominated in December 1998 for placement on the National Register of Historic Places by the State of Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The process of designation has taken more than two years since it was first proposed in the Spring of 1996 after an investigation by an LBRC committee.

With the approval of the neighborhood residents at a Lakewood Balmoral Residents Council General Meeting the committee moved forward with the application. They first sought the assistance of Professor Ted Karamanski of the History Department of Loyola University. Professor Karamanski reviewed the proposed district with Ann Swallow, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s coordinator of the Survey and National Register. She encouraged further investigation of the history of the area. Professor Karamanski agreed to have the students in his Historic Preservation class participate in the project and work on a draft of the nomination.

Kathy Gemperle, president of Edgewater Historical Society and a Lakewood Balmoral resident, met with the Loyola students and presented a slide program about the area which included a delineation of John Lewis Cochran’s Third Addition to Edgewater: Foster to Bryn Mawr, Broadway to Glenwood. EHS also made other historical information available. The Edgewater Community Council supplied additional photographs and information. Thom Greene of Greene & Proppe Design gave the students a walking tour of the neighborhood and contributed other architectural information. When the class ended in May 1997, Professor Karamanski presented the committee with a draft application that had been written by a number of students.

As the summer of 1997 began, the Historic District Committee decided it would need someone to edit the draft and complete the application. The first person hired was Brian Coffey, a Loyola grad student who was not available until August. In August, he found that he was unable to do the work. The committee turned to Professor Karamanski for another recommendation. The second person hired for the editing and the completion of the project was Jim Ashley, also a graduate student at Loyola. Jim produced a second draft which was sent to Ann Swallow on Feb. 2, 1998.

This draft contained some rewritten sections of the original draft and all of the original research. It did not include the east side of Glenwood, which is part of Cochran’s Third Addition to Edgewater but not a part of what is now known as the Lakewood Balmoral area. The problem involved Cochran’s covenants that did not allow apartment buildings to be built. This prohibition apparently changed sometime after 1905 for some unknown reason. Since it was not possible to find a reason for the change, the committee decided not to include Glenwood. However, Ann Swallow saw it differently. She observed that the difference in the housing type on Glenwood just showed the change in Cochran’s plan for the Third Addition. The value of the district is that it is the last remaining example of Cochran’s Edgewater. This Third Addition shows the changes and adjustments he made to his plan sometime between 1890 and 1905.

Following the advice of Ann Swallow, the Historic District Committee revised the application to include Glenwood. This involved notifying all the property owners on the east side of Glenwood of their inclusion in the District. This the committee did by hand delivering a brochure about the benefits of an historic district. Luckily, the Loyola students had included Glenwood in their research.

The draft application presented further complications that required additional surveying and research. Every building in the district had to be shown on a map with an accompanying list of dates of construction and an indication of whether the building was contributing or non-contributing to the historic district. When comparing the map to the list, it was found that some buildings had no date of construction, and some addresses had no garage instead of a non-contributing garage (after 1930). Over several weekends, Lori Lynch and Kathy Gemperle walked the streets and alleys with clipboards and research notes to fill in the missing information. Lori Lynch noted, “This was the most visible part of the work. People seemed to know what we were doing but they would stop and ask questions just to be sure.” Meanwhile, back at the computer, Marge Britton continued to work on editing the third draft. Marge and Hal Britton were also able to contribute a copy of an original Cochran deed. It gave the exact wording of his original covenant which stated “That neither said second party (purchaser) or his heirs … shall erect any fence or enclosure or obstruction to view … on said lots within 25 feet of the front street line.” It is agreed that … no building known as a “flat or tenement building” be built “hereby covenanting to erect thereon only a single private dwelling house.” This covenant was to be in force for 20 years.

The third draft was sent to Ann Swallow the first week of May. It included the new survey information, photos and a rewritten text. A week or so later, Ann Swallow sought another draft with a clarification on the architecture of the area. In order to apply as an architecturally significant district, the committee would have to provide research on each architectural style featured in the district. The other option, the one chosen by the committee, was to claim the historical significance of Cochran’s development. Because Cochran sold his development by offering a variety of architectural styles, several paragraphs were added about the styles he chose to feature in a book he published, “A Home by the Lake.” At this point Jim Ashley was not available to produce the last draft, and Marge, Lori and Kathy completed it on June 8th and sent it off to the State Historic Preservation Agency in Springfield.

The next step in the process was a presentation of a slide program on July 23rd at North Shore Baptist Church. The committee asked Kathy Gemperle to create the slide program and make the presentation to the community. Ann Swallow would be present for the program and would explain the benefits of the Historic District. Kathy compiled a presentation of some 60 slides, including maps, that told the story of the development of the Third Addition to Edgewater. One day before the presentation, a building owner on Glenwood called to say she objected to the inclusion of Glenwood in the District.

On July 23rd, Kathy made the presentation to a packed house in North Shore Baptist’s Howell Hall. After the presentation, some neighbors from Glenwood declared their reasons for wanting to be removed from the district. Those reasons were: the east side of Glenwood pays higher taxes because of its inclusion in Cochran’s Third Addition; and the architecture of Glenwood is different from Lakewood Balmoral because it is mostly two flats and three flats. These reasons were noted and a series of meetings were scheduled to determine the will of the other property owners on Glenwood. At the first meeting of the property owners, an advisory vote was taken with a majority wanting to be removed from the District. This was reported to the East Andersonville Residents Council Board of Directors who then voted to seek the removal of Glenwood from the Lakewood Balmoral Historic District application. The Lakewood Balmoral Historic District Committee agreed and sent a letter to every property owner on Glenwood notifying them of the change. Then they began the editing of the “last draft” of the application with Marge producing the latest “final draft.” This also included changes in the slide program and photos sent with the application.

At the beginning of September, the slide program was presented to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, which approved the application and sent a letter to the State agency. Next, the Historic District committee went to the September 17th meeting of the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council to explain the reason for the change in the application and to request permission to submit a revised application in December. They provided new maps of the district and an explanation of the reason for the change.

The December 11th presentation in Springfield went smoothly. Kathy Gemperle, EHS president, gave the presentation of the slides and rationale for the district. Also attending the meeting were Lori Lynch, Marge Britton, Beth White and Pam Ball from the committee. After the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council voted to approve the application and send it to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Lakewood Balmoral Historic District Committee celebrated with lunch and a visit to the Dana Thomas House.

–The above is a slightly revised version of an article written by Kathy Gemperle that appeared in the Winter 1999 issue of the EHS Edgewater Scrapbook.