Slideshow: An Hour on Bryn Mawr Avenue
By Sadie Lipe
Click on any photo below to learn more about one of Edgewater’s most historic blocks. Like many areas on Chicago’s north side, the 1000 block of West Bryn Mawr is a commercial hub, cultural melting pot and architecturally significant. But the block is also plagued by urban problems like crime and homelessness.
While parts of Chicago are continuously undergoing new developments, some places still manage to hold onto their historic qualities. One area in particular is the Historic Bryn Mawr District, which lies in the southernmost region of the Edgewater area.
Through the ’80s and ’90s, the 1000 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue block experienced a surge in gang activity, violence, shootings and prostitution, in addition to drug use and distribution, according to reports in a Chicago Reader article published in 2000.
To combat the deflating reputation and decay issues, The Edgewater Community Council created the Bryn Mawr Historic District in 1996. Shortly after, the council was able to secure redevelopment funding from the city through Tax Increment Financing to improve the Bryn Mawr and Belle Shore hotels and the Bryn Mawr Red Line stop.
Running adjacent to the lakefront, The Bryn Mawr Historic District extends along Bryn Mawr Avenue between Broadway Avenue and Sheridan Road. The district’s most well-known properties include the Belle Shore Apartment Hotel, the Bryn Mawr Apartment Hotel, Edgewater Beach Apartments (EBA) and the Manor House.
The district’s history dates back to 1885, when the district served as the center point of the developing and expanding Edgewater community. The Guild Hall, built in 1886 as a community center and commercial building, was one of the first buildings to be constructed in the district.
The historic EBA still stands at the corner of Sheridan and West Bryn Mawr Road. Originally built in 1928, the apartments were designed to complement the Spanish-style stucco Edgewater Beach Hotel, which is now used as apartment rentals. The Edgewater Beach Hotel opened in 1916 at Sheridan and Berwyn and closed in 1967.
The Bryn Mawr Apartments building was designed by architects Alexander Levy and William Klein during the “Gothic Revival style” era and was completed in 1928. The building underwent a $7.5 million renovation and restoration in the ’90s.
“Do you know who the Ash Can painters were?” asked Bryn Mawr Road-and Edgewater-resident John Holpasks. Holpasks, 72, has lived in the area for more than 40 years and always finds joy in telling neighborhood newcomers the history behind the painted murals in the alleyways. The Ash Can painters were students at the Ashcan School in New York City and were part of the 20th century artistic movement. The movement eventually made its way to other urban areas, including Chicago, where artists were inspired to create murals portraying scenes of every day city life, often painting in the city’s lower-income areas.
Edgewater resident Rose Sue Connors, 83, says the snowy winter months can leave the city “anytime now.” Connors has lived in the Bryn Mawr district for 23 years and says the area keeps her conveniently located near her family who lives in north Rogers Park. Connors believes the district is one of the few places in the city that has fought to keep characteristics from its original founding.