Between World War I and World War II, Edgewater was synonymous with elegance, and the Edgewater Beach Hotel was the North Shore spot for fine dining and dancing. But as times changed this once-elite community fell into decline. The Edgewater Hotel was torn down in 1969, along with many of the other fine, lake shore mansions that surrounded it. One-survivor is the 19-story flamingo-pink cooperative that houses the Edgewater Beach Apartments.
Edgewater’s more recent history is a wonderful example of community spirit. The are has experienced a remarkable turnaround over the past two decades. At one time, sixteen boarded-up buildings marred the Winthrop-Kenmore corridor, and the commercial strip along the Bryn Mawr contained grimy storefronts, rundown residential hotels, and abandoned buildings. Gang infestation was driving the neighborhood rapid decline. But the community was given a second chance in 1995, when a section of Bryn Mawr Avenue, from Broadway to Lake Michigan, was declared a historic district. This led to tax breaks and a renewed interest in the area by commercial developers. The Edgewater Community Council led the way to get the buildings belonging to absentee landlords transferred to different ownership and another 72-story building to be renovated. The community’s efforts have paid off with the crime rate in Edgewater consistently decreasing over the past several years.
Loyola university lies at Edgewater’s northern edge, attracting many students to live in the area. Also here: home-based business owners, retirees, and a large number of families of Hispanic, Asian and Russian descent. And, according to the 2000 census data, Edgewater has the largest community of gay couples in Chicago, many of whom live in Andersonville. With its convenient location, easy access to Lake Shore Drive, major bus routes run through it, and an active community council, Edgewater has long been posed to become the next great neighborhood in north Chicago. While prices for houses, brick flats, and condos are rising slowly and steadily, one can still get a condo for about $50,000 to $100,000 less than its equivalent in Lakeview.
The vast park and accompanying bike path that follows the beach side of Lake Shore Drive come to an end at Edgewater’s southeast corner. The family friendly beaches here at Hollywood, Ardmore, and Foster avenues are beautiful and offer excellent views of the shoreline to the north. On clear days you can make out the lakeshore campus of Northwestern university in Evanston. Looking eastward, out across the lake, you will spot a squat, cylindrical shape that hover about two miles off the coast. Don’t be misled by locals who may try to convince you that it is 1) a giant floating storage tank for industrial waste, 2) a casino, or 3) the new Bears stadium. It’s actually a water intake crib, one of three (if you looks south you can see the others) that provides the city with its fresh water.