by Hank Morris
Howard Street was the northern city limits for Chicago, east from the shores of Lake Michigan, all the way west. That changed on Monday, February 8, 1915, when a tiny panhandle was added to Chicago’s northern border when the city annexed the area known as “Germania” (so called because of its association with German immigrants who settled in the area). Prior to this annexation, Germania was an area of Evanston geographically isolated by the “L” tracks to the west, Calvary Cemetery to the north and Lake Michigan to the east. As demand grew for electicity and sewer services, the residents of Germania, being physically cut off fronm Evanston, were firtually forced to fend for themselves. Hence Germania’s unofficial nickname, “No Man’s Land.”
Although Germania was geographicaly isolated from Evanston, it was completely connected to Chicago along the common border of Howard Street. The logical conclusion was to secede from Evanston and join Chicago.
Under Illinois state law in effect at that time, a section of one city could separate from the city and merge with an adjoining city with two-thirds approval of the City Councils of both cities. The separation of Germania was approved first by the City of Evanston and on Monday, February 8, 1915, by Chicago’s City Council. Mayor Carter Henry Harrison, Jr.’s signature made the annexation official. It’s population at that time was approximately 900 people.
In the early 1900s, Gemania was subdivided, and it rapidly built up after the annexation to Chicago brought the much-needed city services. The area east of Sheridan Road and north of Howard, once known as “Fisher’s Grove,” was subdivided in 1910 by developer Ben Lowenmeyer. The extension of the “L” to Howard Street brought further residents and interest in the area. By 1922, a local newspaper described Germania as the “busiest spot in the city from abuilding viewpoint.”
Much of the original housing stock still exists in the form of many low-rise apartments, six-flats, and single-family homes. Germania’s residential makeup has always been diverse, has drawn waves of immigrants over the decades, and remains today a highly diverse community.