“Down the Shore to Uptown” by Henry Justin Smith


Down the Shore to Uptown

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The Viceroy Hotel, Uptown, Chicago, 1926. Click to enlarge.

The Viceroy Hotel, Uptown, Chicago, 1926. In 2005 the owners of the building had most of the elaborate terra cotta trim stripped off. It is now a sheltered care facility for senior citizens. (Click to enlarge.) Image courtesy University of Minnesota Libraries, Manuscripts Division, Northwest Architectural Archives.

The city has pressed forward to the very border of Evanston; or rather, to Calvery Cemetery, the old Catholic burying ground which intervenes. People still young can remember when Rogers Park, Edgewater, and Buena Park itself were villages. Not long before, Lake View—now a mere place-name and a designation in tax books—had an identity, too. Until not so many years ago the region still possessed its town hall, which stood at Halsted and Addison streets and boasted an assembly room in which the village life, artistic and religious, centered. In the 1870s Lake View acquired the United States Marine Hospital, still a brave old build, whose gray-stone body and mansards survive quaintly amid structures given to smart apartments and shops. Its predecessor stood near where the Michigan Avenue Bridge now bestrides the river.

Rogers Park was originally a quarter-section of land which the government sold to a hard-working Irishman named Philip Rogers. As charcoal-burner and vegetable gardener, he saved and bought more land, which in 1869 passed to his widow and to Mrs. Patrick L. Touhy, wife of another energetic Irishman, who had married into the family. Touhy built a homestead that stood for many years. It had a square tower which, to quote an early writer, “gives a view of the lovely wood that surrounds the house, and covers an area of eighty acres running eastward to the lake.”

Then or later, horse-cars achieved a laborious progress to the suburbs; stub-end cars drawn by nags all skin and bone. Eugene Field, writing in the eighties, could not resist a quip about them. As he phrased it: “The oldest house in Chicago stands on the west side and was built in 1839 A.D. The oldest horse in Chicago works for the Lake View street-car company, and was present at the battle of Marathon, 490 B.C.”

Marine Hospital in Buena Park, Uptown. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

Vintage postcard of the Marine Hospital in Buena Park, Uptown. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

Sheridan Road was then mainly a hope, but down in a long diagonal, among the groves, ran the famous old highway North Clark Street. It was a section of the ancient Green Bay Road, which was a toll road, with a toll-gate house at the Indian boundary line. This line lost its historic designation when it took the name of Rogers Avenue. In pioneer days it had a string of taverns. When stage-coaches began to ply upon the highway they received such titles as “ten-mile house” (at Calvary Cemetery) and “seven-mile house” (at Rosehill Cemetery), indicating the distances of those places from the Chicago City Hall. The cemeteries, it will be seen, were landmarks. There may have been few living occupants of the land; but there were plenty of dead.

Just below Calvary was a strip called for a time “No Man’s Land,” but afterward invaded by Everyman and his wife. This is the Howard Street district, which became a bright-light area with amazing speed. Rogers Park, just south of it, hums with life and with wheels. It glows feverishly at one place, where stands a prodigious movie theatre, just back of which, in sharp contrast, lies a group of red-brick buildings clearly academic. This is the North Side headquarters of Loyola University, outgrowth of old St. Ignatius College. Since 1870 it has become an institution enrolling about six thousand. Only arts and sciences are taught on this North Shore campus, on whose border stands the sky-scaper building called Mundelein College. Other schools are downtown, and the high-ranking medical school is on the West Side. An unusual feature of the Loyola is an administrative council that includes non-Catholics. Another thing the average university cannot claim is that half of the faculty, being Jesuit fathers, teach without pay.

Loren Miller, Uptown, Chicago. (Click to enlarge.)

Loren Miller ran a very successful department store at Lawrence and Broadway and is credited with coining the name “Uptown.” The building was the original location of the Sheridan Trust Bank, before it moved across the street, and for many decades it was a Goldblatt’s store. The recently restored building now holds a Borders Books. (Click to enlarge.) Postcard courtesy CRCC collection.

It was a good while after Rogers Park was settled that there came the invasion of the forests—oak, elm, ash, and maple—which brought about the village of Edgewater. The first developers, in the eighties, were sparing of the trees, leveling only just enough to admit of streets. A few score houses went up, in a style rather favoring the Queen Anne and pseudo-Colonial types. Meanwhile, toward the west and farther south, Irving Park, also an ambitious village, was acquiring “beautiful residences.” Even in World’s Fair time it was Suburbia, with houses well apart from one another, and the city far away. “Many are the pleasures,” says our early chronicler, “which draw the Irving Parkite from his cozy fireside to the glowing grate of his neighbor.” Of course this is still true, though the grates may glow with electric flames, and the pleasures include contract bridge.

Argyle Park, in which region one may now marvel at several immense movie palaces and a monster dance-hall, had the energy of Samuel E. Gross to help it. There were gas, water, and macadamized streets in no time; also, a wonder even in the nineties, a “regular force of men to take out garbage and shovel snow.” On a westward area grew Ravenswood, whose earliest career dated back to 1868, but which had a setback in the seventies. The trouble was that an official of the Michigan Southern Railroad obligingly disposed of lots to many of his employees. When the railroad consolidated with the Lake Shore, the general offices were to Cleveland, and Ravenswood for some years was dead. It revived, however, as the city grew toward it, and became populous and eventually wholly urban.


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