An Early History of Birchwood Beach
(Also known as the Birchwood District)
This area was featured in the 2000 Annual Fall House Tour.
As late as the 1870s, the area now known as Birchwood Beach, along Lake Michigan from Touhy Avenue to Birchwood Avenue, had no paved streets and was a sandbank filled with birch and oak trees. Samuel B. Chase, a developer of Rogers Park, named the area after his farm in the Lake View section of Chicago rising and falling Lake Michigan waters usually affected the area, yet, it was an attractive district. When Sheridan Road was laid out, people began seeing it as a lakefront route between Chicago and the towns further north and a movement began to develop the area.
Birchwood Beach Neighborhood
In 1899, William Hatterman moved to the Birchwood area from the near north side of Chicago and built his house just south and east of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway tracks (now the CTA Red Line ), between Rogers Avenue and Howard Avenue. All of the surrounding area was farmland. John Ure's farm extended east of the Ridge from Rogers Avenue to Howard Street and east of Clark Street (Howard Avenue was named for John Ure's son, Howard.). There was a part of Evanston north of Howard known as "No Man's Land" (or Germania ) and this section would, by 1915, be annexed as a part of Chicago. There were so few residents in the Birchwood area in the 1880s that there was no water or sewerage service, so two windmills were constructed to provide the water supply. A friend of Mr. Hatterman came from Philadelphia and set up a dynamo that was attached to one of the windmills, providing electricity to Birchwood residents some five years before wires were extended by the Commonwealth Edison Company to Rogers Park.
By 1892, Rogers Park was being aggressively developed and builders were continuing to subdivide their properties for houses and streets. The numbers of residents in Birchwood Beach was expanding and the firm of Reeves and Beebe Real Estate Company, one of the developers of the area, agreed to set aside 40 feet along Lake Michigan between Chase Avenue and Sherwin Avenue to be used for neighborhood recreation. A group of residents opened the Birchwood Country Club on Wednesday, July 4, 1906, with membership initially limited to 100 individuals living in the Birchwood Beach area.
In 1915, the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, designed a new home for Emil Bach at what is now 7415 N. Sheridan Road. Emil Bach was a co-owner of the Bach Brick Company, Inc. in Chicago. After Otto Bach, Emil's brother, purchased Wright's 1908 Oscar M. Steffens residence at 7631 N. Sheridan Road, he convinced Emil to live nearby in a Wright-designed house of his own.
During the Rogers Park building boom in the 1920s, Birchwood Beach, like the neighboring Howard District, exploded with new apartment buildings and homes. The neighborhood became a combination of two- and three-story apartment buildings, apartment hotels, small shopping areas, and modern houses.