The Lakewood Balmoral Historic District of Chicago was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. It is part of the larger Edgewater neighborhood and just east of the popular Andersonville shopping district along Clark Street.
John Lewis Cochran, the first major developer in Edgewater, purchased the land in 1890. At the turn of the century, the Lakewood-Balmoral neighborhood drew some of the wealthiest Chicago families, including the Krafts, to build homes here. Influential architects like Neils Buck, Ivar Viehe-Naess, Holabird and Roche, and Cochran himself designed homes in various styles during the era from approximately 1885 to 1905 that preceded Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style movement. Most of these homes still stand today giving Lakewood-Balmoral the same feel as it did a century ago.
Many of the streets in the district were named by Cochran. Berwyn Avenue, Bryn Mawr Avenue and Wayne Avenue were named after train stations on the Main Line running north of his native Philadelphia. Catalpa Avenue was named after a street in Philadelphia, Lakewood Avenue after the town of Lakewood, New Jersey, and Balmoral—a nod to Cochran’s Scottish ancestry—after Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
The Chicago Landmark Commission has designated several homes in the neighborhood as historic landmarks. This Halloween, I was lucky enough to take a stroll around the ‘hood with my friend Eddie and his daughter, Quinn, as she trick-or-treated door to door under the towering canopy of ash trees on and around Lakewood Avenue. Not only did it conjure up my own favorite childhood memories of chilly and spooky Halloween nights, it was probably the most perfect setting for this fun slice of Americana. As dusk settled over the area, homeowners came out and sat on their stoops in creative costumes handing our goodies to the hoards of trick-or-treaters whom, with their parents looking on, went up and down the welcoming and friendly blocks.
This quaint neighborhood has to be one of my favorite in Chicago. To me, it’s the quintessential American neighborhood – the one of leafy streets from every movie. In fact, it looks like a movie set – beautifully restored and cared for homes with colorful trim and long front porches with perfectly painted balustrades and meticulously landscaped front gardens. It looks like the perfect American town and yet in fact it’s just 7 miles north of downtown Chicago. Just another reason I love this town….a big city, with so many pockets of ‘small town appeal.’ But the best part, was everyone was out, talking, catching-up, and being a real community. Many times we walked by a house, Eddie would wave and greet the owners by name. People say that it’s not like the ‘old days’ and no one knows their neighbors anymore, but this is certainly not the case in some neighborhoods in the city of Chicago, neighborhoods like Lakewood-Balmoral.
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