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Developing Chicago

The Chicago grew because individuals, manufacturing companies, land associations and real estate companies platted and subdivided acreage and created villages surrounding the city’s downtown core. As transportation improved with elevated trains, railroads and bus lines, these small communities expanded. They voted to be annexed into Chicago to benefit from city services, and the city grew rapidly. This unique, extensive development occurred throughout Chicago’s history.

Photo by Elaine C. Shigley
A view of Chicago's skyscrapers

In the 1870s, the Brown Iron and Steel Company constructed the town of Irondale, which later became part of South Deering Community of Chicago. The Calumet and Chicago Canal and Dock Company subdivided 6,000 acres in South Chicago, Calumet Heights and the East Side. The Samuel E. Gross, a developer, using ads in English and German, sold 500 lots a week near horsecar, rail and elevated lines to German immigrants.

In the 1880s, John Lewis Cochran (1857-1923), a developer, planned his Edgewater mansions along the lakefront and apartments west of Broadway Avenue. He built sidewalks, sewers, and streetlights, and through his Edgewater Light Company created the “only lighted suburb adjacent to Chicago.”

In 1893, streetcar magnate Delancy Louderbach, Illinois Trust and Savings Bank executive John J. Mitchell, Northwest Elevated Railroad executive Clarence Buckingham and transportation entrepreneur Charles T. Yerkes developed Albany Park, which became a part of Chicago in 1889.

In 1911, Bartlett Realty subdivided acreage in Archer Heights, Marquette Manor, Western Boulevard, Garfield Boulevard, Clearing and Gage Park. In 1918, the company developed Roseland, Chicago’s largest single subdivision. In 1927, they purchased 3,600 acres in Beverly Shores to create a development meant to rival Atlantic City.

By 1935, Chicago possessed enough lots for a population of 15 million people. That was 40% more than the population at the end of the 1900s.

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