2003 - Edgewater Beach Central

2003 Spring Tour of Homes
Edgewater Beach Central
May 4, 2003

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 © 2003 Edgewater Historical Society.

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

Edgewater Beach Central

In 1885, John Lewis Cochran, a tobacco salesman for the McDowell Tobacco Company of Philadelphia, began to purchase land along the lakeshore from Foster (then called 59th Street) in the township of Lakeview to Bryn Mawr, a street he named. His first purchase, the land west of what is now Sheridan Road, he named 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 have a stop at Bryn Mawr and he built a station of wood and stone in the Eastern architectural style called Shingle Style. At the same time, he built a large recreation and business building in the same style which he called the Guild Hall. He had engaged architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee to design this and some houses which were built on Kenmore and Winthrop Avenues.

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 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 through Edgewater would recognize it as an appealing place. The lots had 50 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.

In 1887, Cochran completed the purchase of land north of Bryn Mawr to a point in the middle of the block between Ardmore and Thorndale. Cochran had already named Berwyn, Balmoral and Claremont (now Catalpa). In his next addition in 1889, he added the land from the first addition north to Devon, with streets named Glenlake, Grand (now Granville) and Rosemont. After a short time working with Silsbee, he found that many buyers wanted more options in the designs of their homes. He fired Silsbee and hired George Washington Maher as lead architect. Although Maher worked in the area for many years, the homes he designed for Cochran did not have his name as architect because Cochran was the holder of the building permit.

Every lot that Cochran sold had a covenant on it with a restriction that only single-family homes could be built. The length of time for this restriction was 20 years. When homes were resold after 20 years, the restriction was lifted. This time limit on the restriction was the factor that changed Cochran’s beautiful suburb into the urban area it is today. Cochran himself lived to see this transformation which began in 1908 when the train tracks were elevated and Edgewater was connected by the “L” system to downtown Chicago. That connection created a pressure for more housing units and flats as more and more people moved to Chicago.

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. Years later, some owners began selling their side yards to builders of apartment hotels and the density of the area increased. On some of the remaining empty lots, large apartment homes were built. The units in these buildings had three to five bedrooms and maid’s 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.

This tour features John Lewis Cochran’s First Addition to Edgewater, which he developed in 1888. This area extends from Bryn Mawr Avenue on the south to midway between Ardmore and Thorndale Avenues on the north, and from Sheridan Road to Broadway.