by Hank Morris
The history of West Ridge is so intertwined with that of Rogers Park that, at times, the two seem inseparable.
When Rogers Park was incorporated in 1878, it extended west to the larger of two geological ridges running fairly parallel with the shore line of Lake Michigan. The smaller ridge is known today as Clark Street, while the larger is, of course, Ridge Boulevard.
Beyond this was unincorporated land. While considered an extension of Rogers Park, it really didn’t have an identity of its own until it was incorporated as the Village of West Ridge.
Irish immigrant Philip McGregor Rogers (August 15, 1812 – December 13, 1856), the man for whom Rogers Park was named, purchased land on both sides of Ridge, thus setting the stage for the confusion about names that lives to this day. Many call West Ridge: West Rogers Park, or Nortown. Most simply call it “home.”
Captain Patrick Leonard Touhy (1839-1911), another Irish immigrant came to Chicago after the Civil War. He had escaped from Andersonville (the Confederate prisoner of war camp in Georgia). He opened a grocery store and eventually married Philip Rogers’ daughter Catherine.
After his death in 1856, 800 acres of Philip McGregor Rogers’ land passed into the hands of his daughter Catherine. Husband Patrick continued the lucrative real estate speculation that ran in his wife’s family by dividing portions of her inheritance. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 brought a wave of people to the Rogers Park area, looking for new homesteads.
Touhy sold 225 acres of the land east of Ridge to a group of businessmen in 1872. The early settlers he helped included John Villiers Farwell (1825-1908), Luther Greenleaf, Stephen P. Lunt [brother of Orrington Lunt—responsible for selecting site of Northwestern University and for whom Orrington Street in Evanston is named—also founder of Chicago Board of Trade], Charles H. Morse and brothers Paul and George Pratt. In 1873, the five men formed the Rogers Park Building and Land Company, putting down a sector of 48 blocks and naming several streets after members of the company.
Generally, the residents in the region west of Ridge were considered, although not actually, to be Rogers Parkers. In 1890, after long, protracted, and ignored complaints about taxes being levied on them for local improvements that only occurred in Rogers Park, they incorporated as the Village of West Ridge.
The village lasted just three years. On April 4, 1893, West Ridge was annexed to the City of Chicago, along with Rogers Park.