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Thom Greene: Godfather of Edgewater and Preserver of Andersonville

 

 

ThomGreene_270x300.1Thom Greene has been affectionately referred to as the godfather of Edgewater. But that is just one way to describe him and doesn’t quite capture all that he has done for our community over the last 26 years he has lived here. He is an architect, a city tree-keeper for our streets, a local business owner, a neighborhood historian, a renovation artist, a dear friend, an advocate for historical landmarks, a visionary, a husband, a loyal engaged civilian and above all, a kind and loving man. If you have not run into him yet, chances are you have seen his work, or been impacted by the something he has done to beautify and preserve our neighborhood. From the designed Andersonville signs on Clark, to the trees planted on Edgewater, to the homes along Magnolia, Thom has had a hand and voice in just about every project related to the design and preservation of Edgewater and Andersonville.

I thought I knew a thing or two about my beloved Edgewater before I met Thom. After a few minutes of meeting with him I realized I didn’t know much at all. Here are just a few of the fun facts he taught me about the area we call home…

 

  • Edgewater was the first Chicago neighborhood to start the trend of tree-lined streets. Thom’s first project was planting 300 trees along the main Broadway corridor to green up the area.
  • Originally a suburb, Edgewater was purchased in pieces by John Cochran in the late 1800’s. Cochran had advertisements all around the city enticing city folk to ‘Come out to the Suburbs’ to encourage people to move up North.
  • Main streets Granville, Thorndale, and Glenlake were all named by Cochran after small towns outside of Philadelphia, where he is originally from.
  • What used to be St. Andrews pub (recently closed) was originally the Edinburgh Castle Pub- and the establishment still has an original piece of the Edinburgh Castle laid within the outside façade brought over from Scotland.
  • Our small used-to-be subdivision used to be filed with celery farms, as sandy landscapes are ideal for growing the vegetable.

Having put in over 13,000 community services hours in the last 20 years doing pro-bono work with the alderman, the city, preservation committees, on behalf of nonprofits, and many other partners, Thom believes in giving back. His many well known projects include the Lakewood Balmoral row houses, the Kickapoo Nature Conservancy, the Morse Theatre in Rogers Park, among many others. He is currently working on a plan at the north end of Lake Shore Drive surrounding the beaches to build out a more accessible pathway for pedestrians and cyclists. He does meaningful work to keep communities vibrant and thriving. An active civic warrior, he is constantly advocating for local businesses and buildings that have been deemed historic landmarks.

Andersonville-Sign

As a landlord and business owner, he knows firsthand about how challenging it can be to keep independent and local establishments open and running. While his architecture firm, Greene & Proppe Design Inc is his day job, he and his wife Nadine bought the building on the corner of Ashland and Balmoral 8 years ago in hopes of bringing it back to life. His wife now runs Green Sky, a unique boutique shop that sells recycled and repurposed items. They won a Painted Lady’s Award, given out by the city of Chicago, for building and color schemes. In the front space of the building is First Slice. A delicious nonprofit café that serves up amazing pies, salads and more, while serving close to 4,000 meals to the hungry each month.

Bryn_Mawr_dist

Bryn Mawr District in Edgewater

When asked why he feels so devout to Edgewater, he says “There is so much together-ness in our neighborhood.” There are pockets of people on every corner, and mom & pop stores on every other block. With so much history and such a dedicated passionate group of neighbors, there’s no where else he would rather be. People have been active about preserving the area, lining the streets with trees and making conscious effort to keep the neighborhood alive.


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