The portion of Edgewater on the east side of the L tracks is know for its historic buildings. From the early 20th century to the beginning of the mid-1920s, hotels and apartment buildings went up between Foster Avenue and Sheridan Road. It was a fashionable neighborhood that was close to the bustling Uptown, the elevated Northwest Line tracks and Lake Michigan.
In contrast to the more utilitarian apartment buildings that would come in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, these buildings used bold colors and fine details that draw attention even decades later. The Bryn Mawr Historic District over at the eponymous avenue is the best-known example of that form of architecture. But it’s not what your humble writer would like to talk about today.
Instead, let us turn our eyes a bit further north, to what the Edgewater Historic Society describes as North Edgewater Beach. Located between the L tracks, Thorndale Avenue, Lake Michigan, and the southern edge of Loyola University’s main campus, it hasn’t survived quite as well as the blocks further south.
The neighborhood always benefited from its proximity to Loyola University’s Lakeshore campus. The Sovereign Hotel welcomed a number of high-profile guests, including a man who would eventually take the British throne as King Edward VIII. But, like the rest of Edgewater, the area found itself grappling with the housing crisis. Many apartment buildings were subdivided into smaller apartments to accommodate growing demand for housing. To attract tenants, landlords lowered rents and weren’t particularly picky about things like background checks.
By the 1960s, absentee landlords weren’t uncommon. Many older buildings were torn down and replaced with newer, more utilitarian structures. The so-called Winthrop-Kenmore Corridor becoming known for a high concentration of senior housing facilities, cheap residential hotels and low-income apartments that, in many cases, weren’t well-maintained.
At the same time, like the rest of Edgewater, the area became a port of entry for immigrants and refugees from all over the world. Immigrants from African countries in particular settled there in significant numbers.
In the 1970s, the low rents and month-to-month leases started attracting Loyola students. At the same time, various Edgewater community organizations started working to improve housing conditions as part of the effort to improve the community as a whole. The 1980s saw more young professionals moving into the area – a trend that continued in the 1990s.
Today, the neighborhood finds itself in an interesting position. It’s still home to some of the most affordable housing in Edgewater, and its population is diverse, but rents have been rising. Many former apartment buildings have undergone condominium conversions. Loyola’s presence has been growing exponentially, with the university buying up building after building to either provide residential apartments for students, or outright covert them into dorms. It has established a security office near the Granville L station, and a local pizzeria accepts Loyola dining credits.
While many of the buildings that defined the neighborhood in the 1920s are gone, quite a few remain. And while their interiors have changed, in some cases multiple times, the exteriors are just as eye-catching as they were almost 90 years ago.
First, one can’t mention this part of Edgewater without talking about the Sovereign Apartments. This Beaux Arts building was originally one of the neighborhood’s most prestigious hotels. In more recent decades, it became a residential hotel with month-to-month rents. A few years ago, Loyola bought the building, rehabbed it, and started offering standard annual leases and 10-month leases for students.
The Grandeur apartment building is located right across the street.
Personally, I’ve always liked the distinctive trim above the first floor.
The Granville Condomiums building is located west of the Sovereign, near the intersection of Granville and Winthrop Avenues. While the building has a U-shaped layout similar to what you’d find in apartment buildings throughout Chicago, the ornamentation is anything but typical.
Moving a bit further south along Winthrop Avenue, we come across Winthrop Tower apartments.
Going further north on Winthrop, we find a building that was historically known as Winthrop Beach apartments. Since Loyola bought it, it was dubbed “Lakeside 6241,” which, if you ask your humble writer, is far less evocative.
Next, we come upon Coronado Apartments – one of the few buildings on that section of Winthrop Avenue not owned by Loyola in some way or another.
Next, we double back a bit northeast, toward Kenmore Avenue, where two buildings in particular can’t help but catch one’s attentions. First, there’s the Marquis Apartments. The basic design is similar to Winthrop Beach’s, except the colors are brighter.
And then, there are the Ambassador apartments.
This isn’t a complete list of all the interesting buildings in North Edgewater Beach, but this writer figures there are only so many photos one can include in one post. Besides – one must leave something for those who wish to explore this under-appreciated part of Edgewater for themselves.