In Harold Henderson's piece about Uptown history ["The High Ground," March 30]:
"'As late as 1870 much of the land south of Wilson Avenue and east of Ravenswood was covered by a large pond,' we're told by Chicago's 1938 Local Community Fact Book, 'along the shores of which were always a number of row boats for the convenience of those who wanted to reach the opposite shore.'"
I have never heard of this "pond" before. I'll bet that you don't have any primary source for it. Can't imagine why the Fact Book would make it up, but it wouldn't be the last time that Uptown history lost a little in the retelling.
I have spent many hours in the Ravenswood collection at Sulzer Library, but never heard of this pond. Why would there be a nursery in this part of Ravenswood? In all the material about the Sunnyside Inn (which was at approximately 4441 N. Clark) there is never any mention of rowboats.
Ossian Simonds, who was the landscape architect for Graceland Cemetery and for Sheridan Park, lived near Broadway and Montrose, but I haven't seen anything about a pond near his house. And I have gone over the survey data from pre-Chicago Chicago. The little pond in the southeast corner of Rosehill Cemetery is on the survey, but nothing in the location you describe.
Actually I hope that Harold is right, because it would be a good story. But I don't think so.
Martin C. Tangora
University of Illinois at Chicago
Those who sought a separate community area designation for Edgewater (and I was among them) sought it not in revulsion toward an Uptown that was undergoing some difficult times ["The High Ground," March 30], but rather as a righting of a wrong that was committed by University of Chicago sociologists in merging Edgewater into Uptown in the 1920s and eliminating its name and identity. The name Edgewater dates to 1885 when it was given that name by John Lewis Cochran to his new development along the lake. The effort was always to obtain official recognition of Edgewater's identity as a separate community, which it undeniably was and is. Cochran did not favor mansions near the lake and apartments west of Broadway. His vision was for an upper-middle-class community of single-family homes throughout. It was development by others, beginning in 1905, that ended that vision.
The Clark streetcars came a few years earlier than 1896. The first tracks were that of the horse car extension from a point just south of Diversey called "Limits" to Lawrence Avenue. It opened in 1887. In either late 1889 or early 1890, tracks were extended from Lawrence to Devon. It wasn't until October 1894 that the line was electrified from "Limits" to Lawrence and horse cars retired on this extension. Streetcar operations from the Loop weren't electrified until 1906. Before then cable cars operated south of "Limits," where patrons had to transfer for the journey downtown. Of course, it was the el that really caused the development of Uptown.
Harold Henderson replies:
A longer story would include the information Professor Tangora and Mr. Blommaert have kindly provided. For the existence of the now-dubious pond, I did indeed rely on the 1938 Fact Book; perhaps I was misled by its customary sobriety. For the effect of Cochran's development work and the story of the Edgewater-Uptown split, I relied on Amanda Seligman writing in the Encyclopedia of Chicago. I especially appreciate Mr. Blommaert's account of how transit came to the area. In reality these things happen in fits and starts, then get cleaned up and smoothed out after the fact by us summarizers.