A look back into history of area shopping district
by BRIAN NADIG
Taking a look back into the past shows that Edgebrook experienced a large population growth in the 1930s and 1940s that lead to more stores opening in the Devon-Central shopping district.
But with growth came concerns.
The early history of the commercial area is highlighted in a pamphlet titled “Edgebrook from Billy Caldwell to 1973” that the Edgebrook Community Association published 48 years ago.
In addition, the Ryerson and Burnham Art and Architecture Digital Collection includes pictures of a B. Leo Steif-designed building at 5424-30 W. Devon Ave. where Baird and Warner real estate and the Edgebrook Post Office are now among the tenants. See picture from the past and the present on the right.
The archival pictures were taken in 1940 by Vories Fisher, according to the Art Institute of Chicago, whose Web site at www.artic.edu hosts the collection.
In 1940, the building’s occupants included Edgebrook Drugs, Peterson’s Fish and Foods, National Tea Company and Edgebrook 5 cents to $1 store.
“In September 1940, Wally Peterson opened a small delicatessen and speciality shop on Devon Avenue. He describes Edgebrook then as a small community of clean, friendly people of primarily Scandinavian and German extraction. … There was still much vacant land in Edgebrook, and it was still considered to be in the ‘country,’” the pamphlet sates.
Peterson added that the shopping district also included a bakery, dry cleaners and a hardware store and that “his biggest business day” came on Sundays when visitors came “from all over the North Side to watch the ‘Hiawatha,” a high speed train pass through Edgebrook. A larger Peterson’s Foods store opened later on the south side of Devon in the business district.
As the community grew, however, so did the concerns.
“The rapid growth of Edgebrook during the forties caused a great deal of anxiety among older residents. They became greatly concerned about what type of people and businesses were moving into the neighborhood.
“The residents did not like strangers of any kind in the neighborhood; in 1940 the Edgebrook Community Association discouraged housewives from buying from door-to-door peddlers and almost requested the City Council to pass an ordinance prohibiting peddlers in Edgebrook, (and) in February of 1941 a resolution was passed by several community groups expressing their determination to prevent any extension of the liquor businesses in Edgebrook,” the pamphlet states.
Eventually Downtown Edgebrook became “dry,” banning the sale of liquor.
That only changed in the 2000s, when residents voted to lift the prohibition on the issuance of liquor licenses in the area. And this summer the community will welcome the district’s first liquor store, the locally owned and managed Bottles and Cans, 6401 N. Central Ave., featuring craft beers, fine wines and spirits.