Edgewater Home Search May 29, 2024
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Edgewater: A Vibrant Chicago Neighborhood by the Lake

Edgewater is a picturesque lakefront community situated on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois. Nestled just six miles north of the bustling Loop, Edgewater is the city's most recent addition to its roster of 77 official community areas. The neighborhood is geographically defined by Foster Avenue to the south, Devon Avenue to the north, Ravenswood Avenue to the west, and the serene shores of Lake Michigan to the east.

One of Edgewater's most cherished assets is its collection of beautiful beaches, which residents eagerly embrace during the late spring, summer, and early autumn months. Stretching southward from Edgewater is Lincoln Park, the largest park in Chicago, extending for a remarkable seven miles along the lakefront and almost reaching downtown.

Historically, Edgewater occupied the northeastern corner of Lake View Township, functioning as an independent suburb before being annexed by the city of Chicago in 1889. Today, its neighboring communities include Uptown to the south, Lincoln Square to the west, West Ridge to the northwest, and Rogers Park to the north.

Edgewater's Evolution: From Farms to Homes

The transformation of Edgewater began in the 1880s when developers started purchasing orchards and farms, clearing dense woodlands to pave the way for urban development. During this period, the population of the Lake View Township, where Edgewater was located, surged from 2,000 to an astounding 45,000 residents between 1870 and 1887. This explosive growth necessitated greater access to public services, leading to the annexation of Lake View by Chicago in 1889.

In 1885, John Lewis Cochran, a prominent developer, bestowed the name "Edgewater" upon the northeastern segment of Lake View. Cochran was a tobacco salesman from Philadelphia who carried elements of his hometown's culture and geography with him to Edgewater. He named the streets in the area after train stations along the Pennsylvania Railroad's Main Line, many of which still exist today. This unique naming tradition includes streets like Ardmore Avenue (named after Ardmore, PA), Thorndale Avenue (Thorndale, PA), Bryn Mawr Avenue (Bryn Mawr, PA), Berwyn Avenue (Berwyn, PA), Devon Avenue (Devon, PA), Rosemont Avenue (Rosemont, PA), and Wayne Avenue (Wayne, PA).

In the early 1900s, Edgewater had firmly established itself as one of Chicago's most prestigious communities. Mansions adorned the lakefront, while large single-family homes stretched inland to the former farming village known as Andersonville, also referred to as Somerdale at the time. A defining symbol of Edgewater's affluence and prime lakefront location was the Edgewater Beach Hotel, which welcomed its first guests in 1916 at 5349 N. Sheridan. This iconic "sunrise" yellow hotel met its end in 1970, but the "sunset" pink Edgewater Beach Apartments building still stands proudly at the northern tip of Lake Shore Drive. Edgewater's building boom reached its zenith in 1926, and property values reached their peak in 1928. As Edgewater expanded, the area known as Uptown emerged as its commercial heart, featuring a vibrant nightlife, entertainment, and tall commercial buildings.

Decline and Revival

In the 1950s, Uptown's affluence began to decline as Chicago's suburbs flourished, attracting middle and upper-class families from Uptown. As some residents departed, the neighborhood experienced disrepair and a rise in crime, eroding its status as one of the city's most affluent districts.

Simultaneously, the extension of Lake Shore Drive to Hollywood Ave. in the 1950s, continuing into the 1970s, marked the beginning of high-rise condominium developments along Edgewater's lakefront. Meanwhile, Andersonville sought to celebrate its unique heritage.

In 1980, the Chicago City Council, along with local businesses, initiated a revival of the Edgewater community. Edgewater was reestablished as a distinct community separate from Uptown, fostering the influx of new businesses, restoration of older buildings, and refurbishment of homes to recapture Edgewater's historical charm. Since 2000, various additions to the neighborhood, such as The Clarovista, Edgewater Glen, and Catalpa Gardens condominium developments, have enriched the area. Edgewater is also renowned for its antique shops, with the Broadway Antique Market and Brownstone Antiques calling the neighborhood home.

Changing Demographics and Cultural Diversity

Edgewater's demographic landscape has evolved significantly in recent years. The neighborhood has witnessed an influx of immigrants from the Horn of Africa and the former Yugoslavia. Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian communities have established a strong presence, creating a diverse cultural tapestry. Edgewater is also home to Ethiopians, Eritreans, Somalis, and other residents from the Horn region. This multicultural blend coexists harmoniously in the neighborhood, reflecting Edgewater's tradition of welcoming new ethnic enclaves throughout its history.

Edgewater: A Dynamic and Inclusive Community

Today, Edgewater stands as a dynamic and inclusive neighborhood, boasting a rich tapestry of cultures, vibrant commercial districts, and an enduring connection to Lake Michigan's serene shores. Whether you're strolling along Broadway's diverse dining options, exploring historic mansions along Sheridan Road, or savoring the community's welcoming atmosphere, Edgewater offers a unique and captivating experience in the heart of Chicago.

Edgewater, Chicago - A Community by the Lake, Rich in History and Diversity.


The Landscape of Edgewater's Neighborhoods

Edgewater's diverse character is reflected in its various neighborhoods, each offering its own distinct charm and personality.

Andersonville: Located in western Edgewater/Uptown, Andersonville has a unique history as a former Swedish immigrant village. Today, it is celebrated for its diversity and still maintains a strong Swedish cultural presence, anchored by the Swedish American Museum. The neighborhood boasts a range of independent, locally-owned specialty shops, restaurants, and service providers. It is a thriving hub for the LGBTQ+ community, with a rich cultural tapestry that includes Middle Eastern businesses and a welcoming atmosphere.

Edgewater Glen: Nestled in the north-central part of Edgewater, Edgewater Glen derives its name from the intersecting streets of Glenwood Avenue and Glenlake Avenue. The Edgewater Glen Association, active since 1972, defines its boundaries as Granville to the north, Broadway to the east, Elmdale to the south, and Clark/Ashland to the west. This neighborhood is renowned for its beautiful single-family homes and a strong sense of community.

Broadway: Broadway is the primary commercial thoroughfare running through Edgewater, dividing the neighborhood into two distinct segments. To the east lies Edgewater Beach, characterized by high-rise apartment buildings and condominium complexes. To the west, you'll find Andersonville and Edgewater Glen, where single-family homes and smaller residential buildings dominate the landscape. Broadway is a bustling street with an array of dining options, including a diverse range of international cuisine, pubs, fast-food joints, and pizzerias.

Sheridan Road and Edgewater Beach: Sheridan Road runs along the lakefront in eastern Edgewater, serving as the main route connecting to/from Lake Shore Drive. This area, known as Edgewater Beach, is home to several beautiful lakefront parks, including Osterman (Hollywood) Beach, George Lane Park, Berger Park, and more. The northern part of Lincoln Park, Chicago's largest public park, extends into Edgewater Beach, offering abundant green spaces and recreational opportunities.

LGBT Community: Edgewater has a rich history as a welcoming neighborhood for the LGBTQ+ community. In the 1990s, the area saw a significant increase in lesbian couples, with the relocation of the feminist bookstore Women and Children First from Lakeview being a pivotal moment. While some businesses closed in the late 2000s due to rising rents, Edgewater continues to be a supportive community for LGBTQ+ residents. In fact, Edgewater was rated one of the "gayest" neighborhoods in America in 2012, with a thriving LGBTQ+ population.

International Community: Edgewater's proximity to Chicago's Lakefront and access to the Red Line elevated train has attracted a diverse range of residents over the past two decades. Immigrants from the Horn of Africa and the former Yugoslavia have found a welcoming home here. Bosnian, Serbian, Croat, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Somali communities have flourished in the neighborhood, contributing to its cultural richness.

A Community That Embraces Change: Edgewater has experienced changes over the years, from its early days as an affluent lakefront haven to its more recent revival as a diverse, inclusive community. It remains a vibrant and dynamic neighborhood that continues to evolve while preserving its unique character and history.

A Neighborhood for Everyone: Edgewater's rich history, diverse demographics, and welcoming atmosphere make it a neighborhood where people from all walks of life can find a place to call home. Whether you're exploring its commercial districts, enjoying the lakefront, or experiencing its cultural events, Edgewater offers a unique and vibrant living experience in the heart of Chicago.