2014 - Edgewater Beach Central

2014 Fall Tour of Homes
Edgewater Beach Central,
September 21, 2014

Welcome to the 26th 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 © 2014 Edgewater Historical Society.

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

Edgewater Beach Central

Today’s tour includes structures in portions of John Lewis Cochran’s 1st and 2nd additions to Edgewater. The first subdivision, recorded in December, 1885, extended from Broadway to what is now Sheridan, and from Foster to Bryn Mawr. The first addition (his second subdivision), recorded in October, 1887, extended from Bryn Mawr north to just a few lots south of Thorndale. His second addition (his third subdivision), recorded in December, 1888, extended his holdings north to Devon. Thus all the land east of Broadway, with the exception of the land on the lake from Foster to Bryn Mawr, was developed by Cochran.

John Lewis Cochran, who was born in California but raised in Philadelphia, came to Chicago as an agent for his half-brother’s tobacco company. He first speculated in real estate in Potter Palmer’s gold coast. He then persuaded his two half-brothers and a cousin to provide the financial backing for a larger vision – an upper-income development along the Lake further north. He appropriately named his development Edgewater, and can legitimately be considered Edgewater’s founder. He not only named the development, he named many of its streets too. Devon, Rosemont, Bryn Mawr, Berwyn, Balmoral and Wayne were all named by him. They were (and still are) names of towns outside of Philadelphia along the Pennsylvania Railroad’s main line.

Because he had financial backing back east, he was able to do things most other later developers in Edgewater were not able to do. He invested heavily in infrastructure – water mains, sewers, trees and sidewalks (some of which you can still see today). He also created his own electric generating company at a time when electric lighting was something new and not fully accepted. In addition, he had homes built for sale, and offered financing on good terms. Also going for him was the fact that he had a railroad nearby – the Evanston division of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul. It ran on the right-of-way of today’s “L” red line. He persuaded the railroad to add two stops – one at Bryn Mawr (Edgewater) in 1886, and a second at Granville (North Edgewater) in 1891 – and he built a depot at each location at his own expense.

Though there was no physical division among his three subdivisions, gradually the area became to be known as Edgewater and North Edgewater, centered around the two railroad stops.

Today’s East Edgewater looks nothing like it did when Cochran first developed it, unlike the residential areas west of Broadway where the original construction remains largely intact. Cochran’s original vision was a development of fashionable single family homes for the upper middle class and, for some 15 or so years, it remained that. The 1905 Sanborn fire map reproduced here demonstrates that well. In all of East Edgewater there were fewer than 32 apartment buildings, most constructed just a few years before that, and of those, 22 were south of Bryn Mawr. The 2nd addition had none.

What changed was the extension of the “L” over the St Paul right-of-way through Edgewater into Evanston in May 1908 – something that had been talked about for many years and anticipated for at least two years. Before the extension, the “L” terminated at Wilson Ave. The extension of the “L” (which initially was at ground level) transformed Edgewater from a suburban type community into part of the fabric of the city. Almost all the 3-flats, 6-flats and even some corner buildings, were built before the U.S. entry into WWI in April, 1917. For the most part they were built on vacant land, of which there was plenty. There was a short halt in construction during the war years, but it soon resumed, and with much larger impact.

The 1920s were a boom period, not only in Edgewater, but in all of Chicago and other cities as well. A harbinger of things to come was the opening of the 10-story Sovereign Hotel at the northwest corner of Granville and Kenmore, replacing at least two large single family homes in the process. Along Kenmore and Winthrop, courtyard and half-courtyard buildings were built, as well as some additional apartment buildings at the corners. But the 1920s also saw a new type of building constructed – the common corridor building. It was built lot line to lot line, except for a small space on the sides for light and air, and got its name from the fact that all the apartments were reached via a common corridor on each floor. Most of the apartments were studio, with a few one bedroom units at the front and back. The first such buildings were four stories but, as the 1920s advanced, taller buildings were built. Many of these buildings were advertised as furnished apartment hotels that included maid service. Some of the later ones even included a dining room. East Edgewater, along Kenmore and Winthrop, had at least 40 such buildings and, more than any other building type, they transformed the area from a family one to one that attracted young singles who worked downtown in clerical or sales jobs.

The Great Depression stopped any further construction, except for those buildings already underway when the Crash came. Nothing was built until after the war, and not much until the late 1960s, but then another new type of building came which had the same transformative effect as the common-corridor building, perhaps even more so. It was the “4 plus 1,” so named later because it consisted of four floors of frame construction on top of a concrete base. In many cases, it accommodated parking below grade level. Like the previously constructed common-corridor building, the “4 plus 1” appealed to young singles and couples without children who were just starting out in their careers and worked downtown. The configuration again was studio and 1-bedroom apartments, and the building again covered most of the lot or lots. The period of construction was short – from the late 1960s until the early 1970s, at which time the city, in response to community pressure, changed the building code to effectively prohibit further construction. The “4 plus 1” had an even greater impact on the built environment than the earlier common-corridor building. That’s because while many common-corridor buildings were constructed on vacant land, the “4 plus 1” building was almost always replacement housing. The building replaced not only single homes but 2-flats, 3-flats, 6-flats and even some larger apartments. It more often than not occupied two 50 ft lots. At least 79 “4 plus 1” buildings were constructed in East Edgewater – more than in any other Lake Shore community.

The last building phase to date occurred again in a short period of time 2002-2008, another housing building boom in Chicago. It was the 4- or 8-flat building built for condo occupancy. This building replaced mostly the already reduced stock of single-family homes.

Sheridan Road developed differently from Kenmore and Winthrop. For one, it developed more slowly. The 1905 Sanborn map shows only 25 homes on all of Sheridan Road. But construction of single-family homes continued well past the time that small apartment buildings had replaced single-family homes as the construction of choice along Kenmore and Winthrop. And single-family homes remained the dominant housing type for much longer than it did along Kenmore and Winthrop, even though after WWII many, if not most, were given over to institutional use. North of Bryn Mawr there were only three apartment buildings constructed during the 1920 boom period, and this section of Sheridan Road did not begin to change until the late 1950s when a few high rises were constructed. The 1960s and 1970s were the boom years for Sheridan Road, and the high rises, which were constructed mostly on the east side of the street, dramatically changed the character of the street and had a major impact on all of Edgewater. A few of the high rises were constructed as condominiums but, in the end, almost all of the rental highrises were converted to condos.

For more information on Cochran, the St. Paul railroad, the coming of the “L” and condos in Edgewater, visit our website and enter the desired word or phrase on the search page (the button at the top right). You might also want to open the “Local History” page.

Top (northern) half of 1905 Sanborn fire insurance map (Street names were enhanced for readability)

Bottom (southern) half of 1905 Sanborn fire insurance map (Street names were enhanced for readability)