by Hank Morris
Confusion existed (and apparently still exists) about the location of the western boundary of Rogers Park. The original plat marked the boundary line at Ridge Avenue. And, Ridge Avenue was the western boundary on Monday, April 29, 1878, when the Village of Rogers Park was chartered by the State of Illinois. Note, it did NOT include the area that became known as West Ridge. Disputes between residents of these adjacent areas over local improvements and the legality of taverns within the 4-mile, alcohol-free limit established by the original charter of Northwestern University led to the incorporation of the Village of West Ridge on Friday, November 28, 1890. There was a scattering of farms west of Ridge Avenue. In 1885 there were 44 frame houses. Two-thirds of the 300 residents in 1891 were farmers. The people of West Ridge, even after incorporation, depended on Rogers Park for public transportation and for many commercial, business and social needs.
After their annexation to Chicago on Tuesday, April 4, 1893, the former separate and independent Villages of Rogers Park and West Ridge were simply treated as “Rogers Park”, but bitterness between the residents of the two sides remained. This developed into the political battles of the little-known “Cabbage War” (1896-97).
In 1895, a permit was approved in Springfield that allowed the Lincoln Park Park District to create and administer the proposed North Shore Park District, which was to include all territory along the lake shore from north of North Avenue to Northwestern University’s campus in Evanston. Rogers Parkers were, for the most part, in favor of such improvements.
Things didn’t gel and in July 1895, Evanstonians voted to establish their own lake shore park district. Rogers Parkers then formulated their own version of the North Shore Park District to occupy the lake shore from Devon Avenue to the Evanston City Limits.
West Ridgers saw this plan as nothing less than a nefarious scheme to siphon off West Ridge tax dollars to improve the lake front and Rogers Parkers’ properties. In retaliation, the West Ridgers sought, and received, from the Cook County Court a permit to create their own Ridge Avenue Park District encompassing the land west of the C&NW tracks. A referendum was slated for April 14, 1896 to decide whether West Ridge’s proposed Ridge Avenue Park District should be formed, or whether Rogers Park’s proposal for the North Shore Park District should be formed.
A bitter campaign followed. Accompanied by a brass band, Rogers Parkers paraded on the streets waving poles topped with cabbages and taunting the farmers of West Ridge with the chant, “Cabbageheads.” Come election time, the Cabbageheads prevailed and, in 1897, the first election of the Ridge Avenue Park Commission was held. Indian Boundary Park was created by this commission, among others.