The Greenmap Project
New East Side/Streeterville
Julius Carvira, Aimee Chan, Casey Droege, Alicia Escott, Dominice Gilbert, Ryan Goldstein, Rachel Hallas, Jae Kim, Sheena Kim, Roopa Kosuri, Pinar Kul, Yu Hin Lam, Marc LeBlanc, Erin Long, Heather Lyon, Ben Russell, Jose Saenz, Stephanie Schultze, Matt Thiesen
On the Northeast side of Chicago between streets Foster, Ravenswood and Devon and Lake Michigan lies the community of Edgewater with a population of 62,000 people. Today Edgewater is home to Assyrian, Middle Eastern, Lebanese, Swedish, Mexican and Korean Americans. The coexistence of these people, their native foods, cultures and religious practices make Edgewater a dynamic and diverse neighborhood within the city of Chicago.
Edgewater was settled in 1885 when a Philidelphian named John Lewis Cochran bought 76 acres between Bryn Mawr and Foster for residential development. At this time both were considered suburbs on the outskirts of Chicago. In 1886 Cochran established Bryn Mawr as the town center and erected Guild Hall to serve as the commercial and community center. A year after Edgewater became a part of Chicago, Cochran expanded north to Thorndale and onto Devon and west of Glenwood to Ashland Avenue. Bryn Mawr, however, remained the heart of Edgewater through the 1960s. The community has the first theater (Rapp and Rapp, 1899-1935) and in 1908 the Northwest Elevated train to the loop began operation. Edgewater residents (then numbering 300) voted against the train but Cochran managed to get the plans passed. Cochran built and sold single-family homes with varied architectural styles, with no two alike. He named and paved the streets, planted ash trees and installed electric lights and stone sidewalks. He also provided street cleaning and tree trimming when the city would not.
Andersonville is a distinct section within Edgewater. In the 1850s it was once known as Swede and still holds its Swedish heritage, though now, like greater Edgewater, it is home to several ethnic populations. Andersonville had its own benefactor, Per Samuel Peterson (1830-1903). After the Chicago fire, he planted trees and shrubbery along the singed streets of Andersonville. It is estimated that he planted 60% of the city's foliage by 1901. By 1930 the Swedish immigration slowed greatly and there was a new influx of the varied cultures we see now in Edgewater and Andersonville. The cherry orchards and celery farms gave way to the now complex and diverse neighborhood of Edgewater/Andersonville. The charm of the community is its eclectic nature with apartment buildings down the road from single-family homes while cute boutique-like shops and art venues face strips of auto shops and dollar stores. The area has held onto its history as Andersonville still celebrates the festivals of Sweden such as Midsommersfest, Lucia Day and Leif Erickson day. Seeing the Granville and Ridge Community Garden where community spirit manifests itself through vegetable gardens alongside murals next to an auto shop and sixties-style motel attests further to the eclectic feel.
Many of the shops in the area are family owned and cater to the neighborhood. Breakfast diners offer warm faces and surprisingly good jukeboxes. Newer coffee shops tended by college students offer fresh and exotic roasts. Don't worry, you won't be hard pressed to find a Dunkin' Donuts either.
Look on the map for a catalog of the numerous and diverse religious institutions and cultural centers which are open to the public. On Saturday mornings the local bell ringer, making his or her weekly rounds of the neighborhood, are often accompanied by Swedes in traditional costumes of Lucias, Vikings, Maypole dancers and Lapplanders.
It is easy not to have a car in Edgewater because public transportation is everywhere, either by elevated train or bus. There is also a plethora of taxis, which add to the traffic congestion and air pollution in the city.
Vegetarian Cafes and Ethnic Restaurants
If you are looking for a strictly vegetarian or otherwise organic cafe on the streets of Edgewater you will instead find ethnic establishments who cater to the American palate while still offering ample native vegetarian choices. Middle Eastern bakeries, Swedish cheese, homemade Mexican tamales and fresh falafel abounds in Edgewater.
Edgewater is home to many community murals, art galleries and museums. This accessible public art is exemplified in the murals found on underpasses along the Metra line. Throughout Edgewater are also many resale and thrift shops as well as GAIA drop-off locations. You can find used cars, clothes, furniture, bicycles, books, antiques and electronics. When in need of special services several ethnic community centers offer help in finding housing, jobs or health care.