2007 - West Andersonville

2007 Fall Tour of Homes
West Andersonville
September 16, 2007

Welcome to the 19th 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 © 2007 Edgewater Historical Society.

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

West Andersonville

The community known as West Andersonville today lies directly north of the original 1850s settlement called Andersonville. It encompasses an area north of Foster Avenue and west of Ashland Avenue, extending to Bryn Mawr on the north and the Chicago and Northwestern tracks on the west. It was subdivided and developed in various stages.

The first development was called Mount Pleasant in 1859. It extended over just four blocks from Foster on the south to Berwyn on the north. At that time, Ashland was called Eastern Avenue, Paulina was called Wright and Farragut was called Pine. Although named as a subdivision of the township of Lakeview, very few people settled there.

Much later, in 1886, Louis Henry named the area from Berwyn Avenue to Balmoral (four more blocks) Summerdale Park, an expansion of his Summerdale subdivision. The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, which ran on ground level, created a stop at Summerdale. Few homes were built in this area until Charles Rascher, a surveyor and publisher, moved there and began promoting lot sales. He expanded the Summerdale Park development north to Catalpa in 1891. In order to make the area more attractive to buyers, he had several homes built by A. E. Norman, a builder who later became an architect. He also built the home at Paulina and Balmoral and his family home, which once stood at 5425 N. Paulina. It was demolished in the 1970s.

In 1896, Charles Rascher completed the purchase of the remaining farmland south of Bryn Mawr and named it Edgewater Heights. He created promotional maps that listed the benefits of building and living in Edgewater Heights, the high ground of Edgewater. This sales technique was based on sales of Edgewater homes to the east by John Lewis Cochran, which began in 1885.

Rascher’s development was barely underway when he died on November 8, 1900. As part of the settlement of the estate, the land was sold in a sheriff’s sale. The Nicholas Mann family, which had owned the farmland, bought it back. In 1905, the Manns donated a portion of it to the newly founded St. Gregory Parish for the construction of a church. In subsequent years, the land was sold for the construction of homes and apartment buildings.

Transportation was crucial to the growth of West Andersonville. In the earliest days, local truck farmers used Green Bay Road (now Clark Street) to drive to the Water Street market in horse drawn wagons. Stables dotted the area and a few residents owned horses and carriages. Deliveries, even groceries, were by horse drawn wagons. The advent of the bicycle made some local transportation possible, such as the delivery of newspapers.

The first major advance in public transportation affecting West Andersonville was the construction of the “Summerdale” depot just north of Foster on the Chicago and North Western Railroad’s Milwaukee division in early 1875. Prior to that, West Andersonville residents would have to walk to the Rosehill depot at Cemetery Drive or to the Ravenswood depot at Wilson for a train.

Trains ran at ground level until sometime in the late 1890s when the tracks were elevated to just north of Balmoral. In 1908-09 they were elevated through to Evanston. By 1894, 44 weekday trains stopped at Summerdale. Travel time ranged from 20 to 30 minutes – not bad even by today’s standards. The stop was eliminated in 1958 in a modernization effort that resulted in several stops within Chicago and two in Evanston being eliminated, including all three Edgewater stops. Prior to the modernization, steam engines were used on the commuter trains.

The next advance was the streetcar line along Clark Street. It began in 1889 or 1890 as a horse car shuttle between Lawrence and Devon. To travel to the downtown business district, patrons would board the horse car and then transfer to another horse car at Lawrence for the journey south to Diversey, where they would transfer again to the cable car for the final leg of the journey to downtown. And they had to pay two nickel fares for the privilege. It was cheaper by half to walk to Lawrence. The transfer to the cable car lasted until the fall of 1906 when the journey could be made without transfer and on an electric powered streetcar. Buses replaced streetcars on Clark Street in the late 1950s.

Most of the development of West Andersonville and Clark Street followed after 1905. Clark Street developed into a Swedish business district with bakeries, a newspaper, jewelry, clothing and grocery stores, which were built alongside the original pubs and pharmacies. Eventually, the Clark Street Businessmen’s Association was formed.

In the late 1950s, Grant Johnson, one of these businessmen, suggested that the district reestablish the name Andersonville for the street. In the early 1960s, the organization changed its name to the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce. Closely following this change, many neighborhood residents began to organize and work together for community improvement. In the 1970s, they organized the West Andersonville Neighbors Together (W.A.N.T.) community organization.