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Edgewater 101: The True Story On How The Community Came To Be

Most Chicagoans are likely familiar with the above neighborhood map of Chicago. Various iterations of the map displaying the city’s 77 community areas are ubiquitous throughout Chicago homes and businesses. Upon close examination, an Edgewater resident may notice that the eastern far north side community areas are all assigned the numbers 1-4, except for Edgewater. To understand why Edgewater is number 77 of Chicago’s 77 community areas, it is first important to know both the history of Edgewater and the history of the community area map. Edgewater_Chicago_Map

In 1885, John Lewis Cochran purchased vacant land to build a subdivision called Edgewater. Bounded by Broadway, Bryn Mawr, and Foster, the area was actually the northeastern corner of Lakeview, then a suburb known as Lake View Township. The Edgewater subdivision, which featured paved streets, a drainage system, and electric lighting, was designed to cater to the wealthy. After Lakeview was annexed by Chicago in 1889, Edgewater quickly developed a reputation as being one of Chicago’s most prestigious and desirable neighborhoods.

During the turn of the twentieth century, the demand for housing and commercial services from Edgewater’s affluent population increased. Developers responded by expanding Edgewater and naming the area south of Foster Uptown. By 1920, Uptown had become the commercial hub of the area.

In 1929, sociologists at the University of Chicago began compiling a list of Chicago’s official community areas. By this time, Uptown was home to a world-class commercial district and entertainment scene whereas Edgewater was largely residential. This led the Chicago sociologists, somewhat arbitrarily, to declare Edgewater to be a neighborhood within Uptown rather than its own community area. At the completion of the project, the Social Science Research Committee had defined a list and the locations of 75 community areas. O’Hare and Edgewater were the only two current community areas that were not included in this original list.

The affluence of Uptown and Edgewater began to decline in the late 1950s with the flight of many of its residents to the suburbs. In 1980, the Chicago City Council and local business owners orchestrated a revival for the Edgewater community. As part of the initiative, Edgewater was officially separated from the Uptown community area, becoming Chicago community area number 77.

While many of Edgewater’s residents may be surprised to learn that they are older than the officially designated Edgewater community area, the roots of our vibrant and unique community date back over 125 years.


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