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Article of Secession




Dear editor:

I found Ted Kleine's article "Down on Uptown" (April 3, 1998) well written, amusing, and generally accurate on details; however, there is one item that needs correction, and that is his treatment of Edgewater. He writes: "In the 70s home owners north of Foster decided that the lowlifes around Wilson and Broadway were giving Uptown a bad name, so they lobbied the Planning Department for their own community area. Edgewater seceded in 1980, and though remnants of the old name live on...Uptown has continued to shrink on Chicagoans' psychic maps."

While it is true that Edgewaterites lobbied for their own community area, they did not do so for the reasons ascribed. They sought their own community area because they believed that they deserved one based on the historical record. It had long been the policy of the Edgewater Community Council that Edgewater was a community in its own right, separate and distinct from, though related to, Rogers Park on the north and Uptown on the south, and not something called "South Rogers Park" or "North Uptown." That position, adopted by resolution by the council, was and still is well supported by the historical record.

The name Edgewater, like the names Argyle Park, Buena Park, and Sheridan Park, was the original name. It was the name given to the area in 1886 by its founder, John Lewis Cochran, who (surprise, surprise!) was a real estate developer. Only the western boundary of present day Edgewater (Ravenswood) is open to question as to whether it is historically accurate. The name Edgewater predated the name Uptown by over 30 years!

Uptown was the name given by Loren Miller in about 1915 to his department store on Broadway between Lawrence and Wilson. Soon the name Uptown was used by other businessmen to identify their shopping district centered on Broadway, Lawrence, and Wilson. It caught on rapidly, and in only a few short years in the early 1920s Uptown stood not only for the first or second most successful shopping district in the city outside of the Loop (the other being 63rd and Halsted), but also for a glamorous entertainment district as well. The Uptown Businessmen's Association had achieved a remarkable marketing success. In time the name Uptown came to be recognized citywide and by its residents to include not only the business strip but the residential area of present-day south-of-Foster Uptown.

While the name Uptown eclipsed the earlier developer-given names of Argyle Park, Buena Park, and Sheridan Park so completely that in the 50s, 60s, and 70s few residents had any knowledge of them, the same was not true in Edgewater. The name continued in use: a number of businesses included Edgewater in their name, the Edgewater Beach Hotel and the Edgewater Beach Apartments did not change their names, the telephone company continued to recognize Edgewater, there was an Edgewater News, and in the 1950s efforts began to organize a community council for Edgewater. Thus, while statisticians and city planners did not recognize Edgewater as a distinct community area, its residents did. When the city finally gave Edgewater recognition as a distinct Chicago community, the action was viewed by Edgewaterites not as secession from Uptown but as the correcting of an error made many years earlier by a University of Chicago sociologist without any residential input. Since Edgewater never joined Uptown in the first place, it could not secede from it.

LeRoy Blommaert


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