Before Monday, February 8, 1915, 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, and Howard Avenue (Then Chicago's northern city limit) to the south. As demand grew for electricity and sewer services, the residents of Germania, being physically cut off from Evanston, were virtually forced to fend for themselves. Hence: Germania’s nickname, "No Man's Land."
Although Germania was geographically isolated from Evanston, it was completely connected to Chicago. Germania was purchasing its water from the Rogers Park Water Company not Evanston. The logical conclusion to secede from Evanston and join Chicago was unavoidable. Under Illinois state law, a section of one city could separate from that city and merge with an adjoining city with two-thirds approval of the councils of both cities. The separation of Germania was approved first by Evanston and on Monday, February 8, 1915, by the Chicago City Council. Mayor Carter Henry Harrison, Jr.'s signature made the annexation official. Its population at the time was approximately 900 people.
In the early 1900s Germania was subdivided, and it rapidly built up after the annexation to Chicago brought the needed utilities and municipal services. The area east of Sheridan Road and north of Howard Avenue, once known as “Fisher's Grove,” was subdivided in 1910 by developer Ben Lowenmeyer. The extension of the “L” to Howard Avenue brought further residents and interest in the area. By 1922, a local newspaper described Germania as “the busiest spot in the city from a building viewpoint.”
Much of the original housing stock exists today 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.
- 1 Evanston Index, Vol. XLII, No. 44, Saturday, March 21, 1914, "Annexation Bee Still Buzzing," page 1
- 2 Evanston Index, Vol. XLIII, No. 27, Saturday, November 21, 1914, "Annexation Now up to Chicago," page 1
- 3 Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, February 9, 1915, page 1, "Germania," With its 900 Folks, Annexed to Chicago
- 4 Annexation Act by 48th Illinois General Assembly
Evanston Index, Vol. XLII, No. 44, Saturday, March 21, 1914, "Annexation Bee Still Buzzing," page 1
Council Avoids a Vote on Cutting Off Southwestern Territory
A larger crowd filled the spectators' seats in the council chamber Tuesday, March 18, 1914, evening than has been there since the new council was seated. They were almost without exception, residents of that portion of the city lying south of Calvary Cemetery, who had petitioned for annexation to Chicago and were anxious to see whether the Evanston City Council was going to grant their petition. There were several women among them. While the annexation question did not reach a vote, it occasioned the most spirited debate of anything in its recent history and only went over until next week to allow the corporation counsel to give an opinion upon some legal questions raised regarding the ordinance submitted.
The first thing submitted had an annexation bearing, being an opinion from the corporation counsel requested at the last meeting, which was to the effect that a change in territory from annexation to would not affect the rate of fare the elevated road was entitled to demand. The city ordinance under which it was operating had been accepted and became a contract and that fixed the southern limit of the five cent fare radios, and in his opinion an extension of the city limits would not affect that contract in any way. The road would still be empowered to charge an additional five cent fare under the law.
Had Proper Petition
Alderman Carter brought up the annexation question, asking that the petition of the residents of this territory south of Calvary Cemetery be taken up, and he read a petition showing that one-half of the legal voters and one-half of the property owners residing in that territory wished to have it annexed to Chicago. He submitted a draft of an ordinance providing for the annexation of that territory south of Calvary Cemetery and east of the St. Paul Railroad tracks.
Alderman Burns moved to amend by including all that territory west of the tracks to Ridge Avenue and south of Mulford Street. The point was made and sustained by the mayor that the proposed amendment was not germane, as no petition such as was required by the law had been submitted from the residents of that additional territory.
"Has the committee examined the petition as to the number of signers and other legal requisites?" inquired Alderman Murray.
"All the committees were satisfied that the petition was sufficient," replied Alderman Turnock.
"I was waiting," said Alderman Murray, "to hear someone say something good about this ordinance before I attempted what I have to say. I was not a member of this council when the original resolution was passed, but in order that my position may not be misunderstood, I most sincerely and earnestly oppose the granting of this petition. The cutting off of any territory is a bad precedent which other portions of the city are eager to take advantage of. We consider Evanston our home town and a very good place to live in and while it may be that our city government is not absolutely perfect it is so much superior to that of Chicago that there is no comparison. I think that if these people could be satisfied to remain within our territory that they will shortly come to appreciate us and our efforts for them. It is our duty to give them a square deal and also our right and privilege. They now have sewer and water and are getting other improvements and should be content with these until the city can give them more. If we once start to let down the bars, there are very serious complications which would ensue. I doubt myself whether the Legislature had the power to give away this territory as it has done and I think it is a very dangerous thing to do.
Willing to Stand for it.
"I am perfectly willing to stand sponsor for the ordinance," said Alderman Carter, "because I believe in it. It carried out the spirit of the vote taken last March and I for one feel bound to carry out our agreement. I would not say that under no circumstances should a member of a legislative body change his mind and break an implied pledge, but I think he should hesitate a long time before doing so. This territory is separated from Evanston and its interests are always those of Chicago and not of Evanston. Another reason, I think that if this territory is denied annexation now and the question of all of Evanston to Chicago should come up in the near future, that this territory would furnish at that time a solid thousand votes in favor of annexation which, in turn, would turn the tide against us."
"There is no provision," said Alderman Murray, "for the protection of the city in tax matters. There is nothing to indicate the value of the property we give away and no partition of the territory along drainage lines. The nearer Chicago comes to our doors, the less protection we have from the ever encroaching liquor traffic. We are rushing blindly into Chicago in order to carry out a plighted word but giving no thought to our duty as trustees the city and the stand we should take on this liquor question. If we have to take in this territory at all, it should be done more carefully than in this manner where but little profit is seen except to those who have private axes to grind."
Leaves Burden on Evanston
Several other aldermen joined in the debate and then Alderman Murray called particular attention to the fact that if any territory were to be gotten rid of it should include Calvary Cemetery and that portion of Sheridan Road back of it, which had always been a heavy expense to the city, and that part of Chicago Avenue east of it for which the city had to spend an undue amount to maintain. If we were going to get rid of any territory he much preferred that those burdensome portions should also be lifted from the city's shoulders as remaining they certainly did not constitute an asset.
Evanston Index, Vol. XLIII, No. 27, Saturday, November 21, 1914, "Annexation Now up to Chicago," page 1
Council Votes to let Germania Go, Although It Once Refused.
If the Chicago City Council approves, that section of Evanston known as the Germania Addition, lying south of Calvary Cemetery, will be divorced from Evanston and annexed to the larger city. A Chicago paper ventures the opinion that Chicago will not consent to take that territory unless a larger slice of Evanston is given. Tuesday evening November 17, 1914, the Evanston city council voted to allow them to go. One of the speakers indicated the same thing, asserting, that this was but the opening wedge to final annexation of the whole or major major part of Evanston to Chicago. The votes registered against allowing this territory to go were four, cast by Aldermen Chandler, Witt, Knapp, and Eiden. Alderman Murray, who led the former fight against letting this territory go, said that he not changed his mind about the advisability of this action, but that very influential men, both of his ward and throughout the city, had so strongly urged this annexation plan that he considered it a plain instruction from his constituents to favor it. Alderman Sheffield took the same stand. He had not changed his mind, but now changed his vote. Alderman Humphreys said he considered the legislation which permitted the council to affirm this plan, instead of submitting it to a vote of the people, as most iniquitous legislation, but that his ward was solidly in favor of letting it go, so that he was forced to vote aye. Had either of these affirmative votes been cast in the negative, the annexation would have failed. The chamber was crowded with Germania residents whose applause was allowed to go unrebuked.
Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, February 9, 1915, page 1, "Germania," With its 900 Folks, Annexed to Chicago
Mayor Signs Ordinance and Inhabitants of "No Man's Land" Sever Allegiance to Evanston.
At one bound last night (Monday, February 8, 1915) Chicago's population jumped 900 nearer the 8,000,000 mark.
As Mayor Carter Henry Harrison, Jr. finished attaching his signature to an ordinance passed unanimously by the Chicago City Council a few minutes before, all of the residents of "Germania" became Chicagoans. "Germania" or "No Man's Land," is the eighty acres between the northern city limits at Howard Avenue and Calvary Cemetery, east of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company's tracks.
The annexation was accomplished without a referendum, under an act of the 48th Illinois General Assembly providing means whereby a section of one city contiguous to another city may be disconnected from the former and annexed to the latter merely by a two-thirds vote of the city councils of each city. Evanston passed its ordinance several weeks ago.
The territory received almost no service from Evanston, and it was contended that it naturally was a part of Chicago. So overjoyed were the residents when they were made Chicagoans that they began to telephone friends. They found they were still paying toll "to Chicago."
Annexation Act by 48th Illinois General Assembly
The Revised Statutes of the State of Illinois, 1915-1916
Containing all the General Statutes of the State Now in Force and Those Passed to May 1, 1916, in Force July 1, 1916.
Chapter 24, Page 362, Cities, Villages and Towns
PROCEEDINGS TO DISCONNECT FROM ONE CITY, ETC. AND ANNEX TO ANOTHER—CONSENT BY ORDINANCE—ORDINANCE AND MAP TO BE FILED—ADJUSTMENT OF PROPERTY RIGHTS.] § 3. That on petition in writing, signed by one-half (1/2) of the legal voters and by one-half (1/2) of the property owners in any territory, not exceeding in area one hundred sixty (160) acres, within any city, village or incorporated town, which territory shall be contiguous to another city, village or incorporated town, the city council or board of trustees in which said territory shall be situated may, by ordinance passed by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the city council or board of trustees (as the case may be) of such city, village, or incorporated town, consent that such territory may be disconnected from such city, village, or incorporated town and annexed to such other city, village, or incorporated town to which is contiguous; and thereupon the city council or board of trustees of such city, village, or incorporated town to which such territory is contiguous may, by ordinance passed by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the city council or board of trustees (as the case may be), annex such territory to such municipality; Provided, that such territory shall not be disconnected from such municipality in which the same is situated until the same shall be, by ordinance passed as hereinabove provided, annexed to the city, village, or incorporated town to which it is contiguous; And, provided, further, that the city clerk of the city, village, or incorporated town to which such territory is annexed shall, within ninety (90) days after the passage of said ordinance, file a copy of said ordinance, with an accurate map of the territory annexed, duly certified by the city clerk of such municipality, in the office of the recorder of deeds in the county where the annexed territory is situated, and have the same recorded therein; Provided, further, that all property rights and questions of indebtedness and tax matters between the municipalities affected, or such territory, shall be adjusted in accordance with the provisions of an act entitled, “An Act too provide for the annexation of cities, incorporated towns, and villages, or parts of same, to cities, incorporated towns, and villages,” approved and in force April 25, 1889, as amended by an Act approved June 5, 1911, in force July 1,1911. Any act or parts of acts in conflict, herewith are hereby repealed. [As amended by act approved June 27, 1913. In force July 1, 1913. L. 1913, p. 135.