Incorporation Date: November 28, 1890 as the Village of West Ridge.
The Village of West Ridge (1890-1893)
Numerous factors contributed to the growth of the community and its transition from Ridgeville Township to the Village of West Ridge in 1890.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 created a demand for new homes beyond the city center. In 1872, Patrick Touhy, Philip Rogers’ son-in-law, created the Rogers Park Building and Land Company and subdivided and improved 48 blocks east of Ridge for residential development.
The Village of Rogers Park was incorporated in 1878. Municipal services and fire, police, and schools ensued as well as infrastructure improvements, including a private waterworks that extended water to the west side of Ridge. Pressure was being put on the farmers on the Ridge to contribute to improvements of their adjacent infrastructure, such as the paving of Ridge Road and maintenance of eastward portion of the "Big Ditch."
The residents of the new Rogers Park were predominantly Protestant, white collar commuters, who shared Evanston’s social and cultural ethic. In 1891, The Village of Rogers Park adopted a similar "dry" ordinance, and five of the Ridge saloon keepers were arrested for selling liquor.
In a 1927 interview the Luxembourg Counsel stated "The Luxemburger, no matter where he is planted, is frugal, industrious and thrifty and he likes his beer and wine." To retain control over one of their most valued resources, their saloons, the West Ridge farmers voted unanimously to incorporate as a village.
In addition to the Zender/Karthauser and Joseph Ebert saloons, Philip and Joseph Trausch, born in 1858 and his wife, Mary Fortmann Trausch, nee: Fortmann born 1860, operated a grocery and saloon located on "Ridge Avenue near Evanston Town Line." Their mother, Magdelena Trausch, born in 1823, wife of farmer Peter Trausch born in 1828, is listed as "midwife" in the 1890 Village Directory.
The Village of West Ridge – Entrepreneurs (1890 +)
With the growth of the residential community in Rogers Park, a small business services "strip" developed along (now) Clark Street, centered around Peter Phillip's mill near (now) Greenleaf and the Town Hall (now) 2239 W. Lunt Avenue.
The first shops were of modest frame construction on an unpaved street. On August 8, 1894, a fire broke out at a lumber planing mill at (now) Greenleaf and East Ravenswood that quickly spread through the nearby buildings. While the fire equipment arrived quickly, due to excessive use on the hot day, the water mains were dry and there was difficulty pumping the water into the gravity fed tanks. The merchants in this commercial area were predominantly English, however there are two families of Luxembourg and Germanic heritage interred in St. Henry's Cemetery.
Peter Tres (Traes) born in 1848, maintained a cobbler’s shop at (now) 7048 N. Clark Street. His first frame shop was destroyed in the fire and was rebuilt in brick. His wife, Katherine, born in 1858, and his son, Peter J. born in 1895 and his wife Elizabeth M., born in 1895 are interred in St. Henry's Cemetery.
Peter Weimeschkirch born in 1851, opened his undertaking business in 1888 at (now) 7066 N. Clark Street. His brother, Nicholas, born in 1859, ran the affiliated livery service garaged around the corner at (now) 1776 W. Estes Avenue. The original frame buildings were destroyed in the fire and soon rebuilt in masonry. This family business was in continuous operation for a hundred years.
Peter, Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth M. b. 1862, and Nicholas and his wife Mary b. 1871 are interred in St. Henry's Cemetery.
The Village of West Ridge – Artisans (1890 +)
Gast Monuments was founded in 1880 as Buscher & Gast and was located on Clark Street. It provided cemetery monuments as well as cut stone for the building boom that followed the Great Chicago Fire. Many of the familiar walk-up Victorian Brownstones in the Lakeview and Ravenswood neighborhoods feature the use of limestone and granite furnished by Buscher & Gast. The company also supplied ornamental cut-stone and statuary in marble, limestone and granite seen in several Chicago area churches such as St. Henry Church in Chicago and St. Nicholas Church in Evanston.
Engelbert Gast trained in Bavaria as a young sculptor and stone carver. He emigrated from Füssen in Bavaria (Germany). He worked with the artist Leonard Wells Volk in making the bronze life masks and hands of Abraham Lincoln, now on exhibit at both the Chicago Historical Society and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. After joining Christian Buscher (1852-1926), he worked in marble, Indiana limestone, and granite.
In 1906, Engelbert's son, Joseph F., born in 1873 bought out Christian Buscher and renamed the business Joseph F. Gast Monumental Works. The company began focusing on the design and carving of memorials.
One of his children, Bert J. Gast, joined the business in 1949, after he trained at the Barre School of Memorial Art. Bert J. brought his own brand of creative design to the memorial business. With his father’s business and sales experience, Bert J. was able to pursue and develop a new market for his creativity by shifting the focus to designing major memories for churches and cemeteries. His designs include the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and the wildlife memorial at The Grove in Glenview.
Gast Monuments have designed memorials for many well known Chicagoans, including Albert Cardinal Meyer, Mies van der Rohe, Richard J. Daley, Ruth Page, Jean Baptiste du Sable and the Daniel Burnham Family.
The company is now owned by Bert's sons; Thomas, John, and James, the fifth generation. Like their predecessors they have expanded the business into new areas such as architectural signage. Gast Monuments has carved lettering in stone at several well known Chicago locations — Millenium Park, Soldier Field, Prudential Plaza, the Robert J. Laurie Research Center, and the Gold Star Memorial Park.