Edgewater Diversity on the Lake

Occupying the lakefront some seven miles from the Loop on Chicago's North Side, Edgewater is one of the city's oldest and most enduring neighborhoods. Bounded by Foster Avenue on the south side, Ravenswood Avenue on the west, Devon Avenue to the north, and Lake Michigan on the east, Edgewater is surrounded by Uptown on its south side, Lincoln Square to the west, and West Ridge and Rogers Park to the northwest and north side, respectively. Today, Edgewater contains the smaller neighborhoods of Andersonville and Edgewater Glen.

A Little History

Edgewater was first developed around the 1880s as a summer retreat for wealthy Chicagoans looking to escape the city for more peaceful surroundings. To address the demand for estates, developers bought out local farmers and cleared the existing woods around Lake View Township (of which Edgewater was a part) in the 1880s to make way for future development. From 1870 to 1887, the population of the area grew from 2,000 to nearly 50,000. In 1885, prominent real estate developer John Lewis Cochran renamed the northeastern section of Lake View Township: Edgewater. In 1889, the city of Chicago annexed Edgewater and began providing municipal services to its residents, including electricity.

With the amenities came more and more wealthy families, and by the early 20th century, Edgewater had been transformed from a rural farming community to one of the most fashionable addresses in Chicago, and its borders had expanded to include the land that would eventually be known as Uptown. Mansions and gracious homes spread inland from the lakefront, interspersed with luxury hotels and other commercial real estate catering to wealthy vacationers.

The prosperous times culminated in the late 1920s when the Edgewater building boom peaked and the area was designated an official Community Area as part of the larger Uptown neighborhood. After that, the expansion of more distant suburban areas—particularly in the immediate postwar era—began to siphon off younger families and resulted in a dulling of Edgewater's appeal. Crime and urban blight took a toll on the neighborhood's formerly-grand homes and eroded property values.

The slump didn't last, however. Residential development along the waterfront in the 1970s eventually stopped the slide and began to positively impact the blocks further inland. Further help came in the form of the city's efforts to revitalize the area by encouraging new business ventures and capitalizing on the neighborhood's unique history. In 1980, Edgewater separated from Uptown and was once again its own separate Community Area. A new wave of residents began to move into the neighborhood, rehabbing the remaining old homes and establishing businesses to both serve the community and attract visitors.

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