Between the late 1830s and his death in 1856 Irishman Phillip Rogers purchased approximately 1,600 acres of government land, part of which formed the basis of Rogers Park.
During the 1830s and 1840s German and Luxembourger farmers settled in the area and a small community known as Ridgevill (encompassing parts of Rogers Park and Evanston) grew up around the intersection of Ridge and Church Road. (Church Road was the original name of Devon Avenue before being renamed in the 1880s by Edgewater developer John Lewis Cochran who named it after 'Devon Station' on the Main Line north of Philadelphia.)
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 brought a wave of people to the Rogers Park area, looking for new homesteads. In 1872 Rogers' son-in-law, Patrick Touhy, subdivided part of Rogers Park and sold 225 acres of land east of Ridge to a group of businessmen.
The Chicago and North Western (CNW) Railroad's Milwaukee Line came through Rogers Park in 1873. The Rogers Park Building & Land Company was also organized the same year. The water works system, fire department, school and an active business district were located at Lunt Avenue and Market Street (now called Ravenswood Avenue) at the CNW Railroad station.
Several hundred people lived in the area, many still farming but many others were commuting to jobs in Chicago. Rogers Park extended west to the larger of two geological ridges running fairly parallel with Lake Michigan's shoreline. The smaller ridge is known today as Clark Street, while the larger is Ridge Boulevard. The village of Rogers Park was incorporated in 1878 by original members of Rogers Park Building & Land Company; John Villiers Farwell, Luther Greenleaf, Stephen Purrington Lunt, Charles H. Morse, and the brothers Paul Pratt and George Pratt, all of whom have a street named after them.
As early as 1886, some of the farms gave way to buildings and two story homes; others were to continue into the 1900's, with fields and greenhouses "neighboring" comfortably with newer brick buildings.
The number of Rogers Park residents increased steadily with the population reaching about 3,500 in 1890.
West of Rogers Park was unincorporated land. While considered an extension of Rogers Park, "North Town" really didn’t have an identity of its own and remained relatively rural throughtout the 19th century. St. Henry's Roman Catholic Church served as both the religious and social center of the community. West Ridge (inaccurately called "West Rogers Park" by some today; which is a neighborhood within the West Ridge community), as it's named, was home to Rosehill and St. Henry's cemeteries, and the Angel Guardian Orphanage. Truck farms, greenhouses, and the open prairie characterized much of the area. Disagreements with Rogers Park about taxes for local improvements led to the incorporation of West Ridge as a village in 1890.
Chicago annexed Rogers Park and West Ridge on April 4, 1893. Unlike in Rogers Park, annexation did not bring immediate growth to West Ridge. The number of residents remained under 500 until after 1900. No prominent business districts existed, as community members relied on either Rogers Park or Evanston for their goods and services.
In 1896 a bitter fight called the "Cabbage War" ensued, with the West Ridge farmers being called "cabbage heads." The West Ridge district won, and in 1897, Ridge Avenue Park District was born, thus Indian Boundary Park and Pottawatomie Park are in West Ridge.
|Rogers Park eastern area was a marshy birch forest, which is commemorated with the street named Birchwood Avenue.|
The pace of growth quickened in West Ridge after 1900. Brickyards formerly located along the North Branch of the Chicago River moved into the area of present-day Kedzie Avenue to take advantage of the sand and natural clay deposits. The construction of the North Shore Channel of the Sanitary District of Chicago in 1909 increased the amount of clay available. Scandinavian and German workers moved from other parts of Chicago to find jobs in the expanding brickyard operations, and workers' cottages appeared in the western part of the community. Real-estate interests began to market West Ridge both locally and nationally.
On May 5, 1915 Chicago annexed the area north of Howard Street, east of the “L” tracks, and south of Calvary Cemetery, known as "No Man's Land." The South Evanston area became known as 'Germania' and became home to well-off German and Jewish residents and brought Rogers Park and Chicago a new northern boundary. No Man's Land was identified by the United States Geological Survey as being a variant name of the Howard District.
Just after the "L" was extended, between 1910 and 1930, the demand for townhouses and apartment buildings skyrocketed. Rogers Park was able to stand as a neighborhood of its own as the "L" made nightlife activities easily accessible and the construction of theaters gave Rogers Park dwellers constant entertainment. Industry throughout the area meant workers could work close to home, and Catholic and Protestant churches and the Jewish synagogues accentuated the neighborhood with religious diversity.
The end of World War I triggered a real-estate boom in West Ridge. Brick bungalows and two-flats became the dominant residential structures in the neighborhood. Apartment buildings also appeared, but relatively poor transportation facilities in the area before 1930 limited the demand for large multiunit buildings. By the end of the 1920s Park Gables and a number of Tudor revival apartment buildings clustered around Indian Boundary Park. A tennis club built in the Tudor revival style opened at 1925 West Thome. A business district along Devon Avenue also developed during this period as the area's population swelled from about 7,500 in 1920 to almost 40,000 by 1930 and local residents looked to their own community for goods and services.
Unlike many Chicago communities, West Ridge grew steadily during the 1930s. Population growth and economic development, however, did not alter the overwhelming residential character of the community. The area possesses no manufacturing establishments and its economic base remains primarily commercial in orientation. Population growth necessitated more housing units and larger, multiunit structures appeared. One of the largest residential construction projects in Chicago during the 1930s, the Granville Garden Apartments in the 6200 block of Hoyne Avenue, was built in 1938 to help meet the need for housing.
A small part of West Ridge's, West Rogers Park neighborhood was known as the "Golden Ghetto." The boundaries were Pratt Boulevard to the north, Western Avenue to the east, Peterson Avenue to the south and Kedzie Avenue to the west. The name came from the thriving Jewish community from about 1930 to the mid-1970s, when migrating to the northern and northwestern suburbs in the mid-1960s became noticeable.
NOTE: Chicago NEVER referred to its communities or neighborhoods as "Parish" names.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.