These are news stories of significant area events.
In the mid-1920s the Chicago area was buzzing with the plans for a dream Chicago suburb -- Westchester. Many powerful industrials, developers and engineers of the Chicago area spent a good deal of money and time preparing for this planned suburban perfect community. This and the following related pages contain text from a special edition of the Westchester Tribune. The area was very optimistic. One wonders, if not for the Great Depression, what would have happened.
-- Westchester Tribune, September 28, 1926, page 1 --
Westchester ‘L’ to Start Friday, Oct 1.
TELLS DREAM OF
William Zelosky Says Westchester Is Realization of Life’s Longing
"It is easy for a real estate man who has spent his life in developing subdivisions and suburban property to dream of an ideal city. His mind is so filled with the memory of undesirable conditions at this place or that place; handicaps that had to be overcome here and there, that he often thinks of what a joy it would be to develop a city where things could be shaped as he would really like them".
It was William Zelosky speaking, one of the most successful subdivision developers in Chicago—a man whose name stands high in real estate circles and whose opinions always command respect.
"First of all an ideal city would be free from undesirable surrounds; free from the grime and noise of factories and railroad yards. There must be nothing around it to give offense in any way.
"Next would come transportation—frequent trains and fast service to the city. It makes no difference what other natural advantages or attractions a community might have, it would never prosper without convenient, rapid transportation.
"These are the two essentials that attracted me to Westchester. The land was there—not a few acres such as one might find in other places but hundreds of acres without an industry or objectionable feature of any kind. The other essential, transportation – could easily be supplied by a short extension from the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin system.
"Here was the background for a dream city; Accessibility, nearness, transportation; the absence of objectionable features.
"Other ideal features we could make sure of such as a comprehensive plan, rigid building restrictions, careful zoning and adequate provision for parks, playgrounds, a community center and things of this kind."
"Are you working on these ideas and ideals at Westchester?" was the question asked of Mr. Zelosky.
"We certainly are," he replied, "for it is the first opportunity I have ever had to plan everything just as we wanted. For instance in some sections streets will be 100 feet wide with a parkway in the center of the street and a driveway on each side. I wanted to do this in some of our subdivisions in Chicago but could not work it out although to my mind this is the finest form of street for residence districts ever devised.
"Another essential in this climate is to have the blocks run north and south so that house will face either east or west. This assures the maximum amount of sunshine which everyone appreciated during the fall and winter months.
Plan Wide Streets
"Then another plan which I have long considered is to have the blocks one thousand feet long which will reduce the number of cross streets and permit the streets which we do have to be wider. Whether or not it is possible to do this in Westchester is not determined. It isn’t necessary to point out the handicap of many older suburbs with narrow street for today there should be space to park cards on both sides of the street with a wide lane for traffic.
"Another thing that we will avoid is winding streets and short curves. The winding streets are always confusing to strangers but we will break the monotony by long, graceful curves which are not confusing and easy to drive through.
"Nothing has been given more careful thought than the zoning ordinance. Like all real estate men we have learned much from experience about zoning—and we have tried to take advantage of this information to avoid pitfalls and at the same time afford real protection to the property owners. Provision is made for single family districts; small apartments sections and certain blocks for business and other essentials. Manufacturing and wholesale business is not permitted. Provision has been made for a civic center, for parks and for playgrounds, about then per cent of the total area being reserved for public use.
"The ideal park would have a stream of running water which contributes both to the beauty and to the health of a district. Then there should be a civic center where the people could have both recreation and intellectual entertainment. I would want to see a fine library and a hall for lectures, concerts, recitals; I would like to see a real community center that would promote civic pride and foster a high ideal citizenship. There is nothing more needed than to raise the standards of the electorate and bring home to men and women a keener sense of the responsibilities of citizenship.
"Of course we want to do everything to encourage wholesome family life—to give the children every possible advantage for play, for education, for religious instructions. These things are necessary for a dream city and we are all giving it out best thought and our most earnest efforts to realize these dreams.
"But one thing should be emphasized—don’t work too fast. As someone has said, a pumpkin can be grown in a summer but not an oak tree. An ideal city cannot be built over night or in a year or in several years. It is an end towards which we strive. We have the advantage of long experience, the knowledge of mistakes made in many older communities. We are trying to avoid similar mistakes in Westchester and we are ambitious to accomplish things as quickly as possible but we realize that it must be a growth; that time is a factor that cannot be ignored and that co-operation, with faith and with vision we can at least approach our ideals in Westchester."
IN PATH OF CITY'S GROWTH
Wilson Avenue in 1894 Compared With Westchester in 1926 by William Zelosky
"We know you have great faith in the future of Westchester or you would not be spending money so lavishly for improvements but we want to ask you if you really expect any big development, such we will say, as at Wilson Avenue?"
This is the question a representative of the Tribune asked William Zelosky. We wanted to know just what he had in mind--and he did not hesitate to reply.
"Frankly, I don't know and it seems to me that anyone would be foolish to make definite predictions but I sold lots at Wilson Avenue thirty-two years ago and it is infinitely easier to interest people in Westchester property today than it was at Wilson Avenue years ago. At that time there were a million people in Chicago and the expansion could be in any direction--north, west or south.
"Today there are three million people in Chicago and there are no large undeveloped areas either north or south of the loop--the expansion has got to go west. The movement away from the congested districts of Chicago is much greater than it was when we tried to interest people in Wilson Avenue subdivisions.
"The transportation to Wilson Avenue thirty-two years ago was very poor--no comparison with what there will be at Westchester from the very first.
"No one in Chicago thirty years ago had the faintest vision of how fast the Wilson Avenue district would develop. We have more vision now and we can see how these other sections have increased in population and in value but I do not believe anyone of us can grasp the development that will take place in Westchester in the next decade. Fortunes will be made there, just as they have been made in all the rapidly growing centers in Chicago and suburban territory. Nothing can stop Chicago's growth; the big expansion will have to be westward--nothing in human affairs can be more certain than a large residential development at Westchester."
Barbecue, Fish Fry and Big Celebrations Are Planned By William Zelosky Co.
Westchester---America's model suburb thirteen miles from State and Madison Streets, Chicago---will be linked to the loop next Friday, October 1, when the first trains of the Chicago Rapid Transit company run over the new tracks. Express trains will run thereafter every twelve minutes on a 13-cent fare schedule for one way or 25 cents for the round-trip.
The coming of rapid transportation to Westchester will be celebrated in a fitting way on Saturday and Sunday when a Texas barbecue, fish fry and other features will be held at the William Zelosky Company office along Roosevelt Road.
The tracks have been laid; the elevated trains await the guiding hands of the motormen; everything is in readiness for the big occasion.
Officials representing the state county and city, even some concerned in the administration of the national government, will be among those who will convey this message to the public on Friday, October 1, Saturday, October 2 and Sunday October 3. The program of celebrations is expected to be one of the most notable ever assembled to set forth the glories and growth of Chicago's metropolitan district.
The Rapid Transit company is ingesting a tremendous sum of money in order to provide Chicago's popular transportation to Westchester. This has been done, according to Mr. Moran, commercial manager of the company, in fullest confidence that the investment will be a profitable one, as have the other "L" extensions from the loop.
The single adult fare to any point on the newly developed line west of Des Plaines Avenue in Forest Park---going to Westchester, will be seven cents Mr. Moran announced.
The single fare of a child up to 12 years of age will be three cents for any point west of Des Plaines Avenue and an additional three cents to the "loop" or other Chicago lines, making a total of a six cent fare.
School tickets for children from 12 to 16 years of age may be purchased in books of fifty for $2.50, Mr. Moran says. This will make a five cent single fare to any point west of Des Plaines Avenue.
Weekly Passes for $2
There will also be weekly passes for Westchester patrons at $2 each.
"This pass may be used as often as the patron wishes to any point on the Rapid Transit service," Mr. Moran said. This includes the new service, anywhere in the city of Chicago, Cicero or Berwyn. This pass of $2 is on the same basis as the Evanston-Wilmette line."
Mr. Moran stated that company officials have been working for the last two weeks on a schedule. Trains would be run, in the main part he said, every twelve minutes.
"We will have practically all express service from Westchester in. Trains may stop at Des Plaines Avenue station, then at the Laramie Avenue station, then at the Laramie station with no further stops to the Loop.
24 Hour Service
"There will be twenty-four hour service, starting at about 4 o'clock in the morning. From midnight until about 4 o'clock in the morning there will be thirty minute service."
Mr. Moran said that during the lull periods of the day, the service would depend upon what the people of this territory need.
"We will try and work the service into what you need in addition to the express stops.
Mr. Moran said that for the time being the Chicago Rapid Transit company expects to lose money on this project, but that eventually with the building up of the territory it will be a good paying community and profitable if the company gives the service the territory needs. The Fifth Avenue and Seventeenth Avenue stations will be retained. The new stations are at Twenty-fifth Avenue in Bellwood, and at Harrison Street and at Roosevelt Road, Westchester.
How "L" Increases Population
Mr. Moran gave a number of interesting comparative figures, which show both the growth in population and real estate values with the coming of the "L" to various communities in the Chicago district.
He declared that the population in the Chicago area in 1900 had been 1,698,000; in 1920 it was 2,701,000 and is estimated at 4,250,000 in 1930.
Mr. Moran quoted the following statistics on the population of the suburban area:
In 1900 the population was 395,000.
Valuations Are Boosted
Showing the way property advances with the advent of rapid transit transportation, Mr. Moran declared that in 1900 when the "L" service started to Wilson Avenue, the one and one half square miles between Irving Park and Bryn Mawr Avenue and Lake Street to Ashland Avenue, was valued at $12.216,000 for taxation purposes. In 1923 at the last quadrennial taxation, the value was $91,651,000. This was an increase of sight times in twenty four years.
The speaker pointed out that the Ravenswood branch started operation in 1907 and that the property between Montrose and Foster and Western and Central Park Avenues was valued at $1,975,000 while in 1923 it was $27,695,000---an increase of fourteen times in sixteen years.
"Real estate values are based upon supply and demand," Mr. Moran said. "The whole story will repeat itself in Westchester.
America's Model Suburb
Erasure of the word "suburb" from the pages which record the developments of the great area of which Chicago is the core, will be one of the chief phases in the building of America's model community at Westchester.
Just as the now thriving sections of the western metropolitan area have benefited by rapid transportations until they are very important parts of the world, just so will Westchester assume its role in the march of municipal progress. This is the message, backed up by the invincible facts, which will be made the keynote of the observance of the elevated opening.
Gathering from the most responsible statisticians, whose work it has been to conduct population surveys along the most scientific lines, an array of facts, some of them startling in their import, have been arranged. In all these surveys, the western sections of the metropolitan district hold an important part.
With a population of 6,600,000 set for the Chicago area by 1950, more than 2,000,000 souls will be living outside of the city proper. Of this great increase, fully forty five percent must be absorbed by the communities to the west.
How the growth of the population, with consequent increase in business activities, without exception, has followed the development of rapid transportation, will be pointed out. No section of Chicago has shown growth without adequate transportation making it accessible to other portions of the area. Thus it is that Westchester, the newest community to be welcomed to the family of civic developments, possesses at its birth an advantage which has been acquired elsewhere only after waiting.
Work Will be Started as Soon as Sewer System and Water Mains Have Been Laid in Westchester
The streets will be improved just as soon as feasible but it is first necessary to have the sewer and water pipes all laid and allow a little time for the ground to settle. Machines have been perfected that accomplish wonders--such as the trench excavating and filling machines used in laying pipe lines--but the element of time cannot be eliminated or ignored. After trenches have been filled in it is necessary to allow some time before it is safe to start paving or the ground will settle and the pavement crumble.
This is by way of explanation for some people may wonder why street work has not been started. Assurance is given my the men directing the affairs of Westchester that street improvements will be made just as soon as practical. Different types of surface will probably be used in different streets but property owners may rest assured the developers will provide adequate streets just as soon as possible.
All streets will have tree set out in the parkways and the engineers will aim for beauty as well as for utility in all improvements.
To read more about the men behind the development of Westchester, turn toWestchester Tribune Sep 28 1926 page 2 or read a story about the Immanuel Lutheran Church.
The civic center (or "Town Center") which Mr. Zelosky refers to is the area east of Mannheim and North of 22nd Street surrounding the Westchester electric train station. An aerial view of this area is available at Area Aerial Photographs and the station can be viewed at Westchester's Rapid Transit Line.
The articles on this page were taken from the Westchester Tribune, Special Edition, September 28, 1926 -- Volume L-No. 43
Last Modified: 12/22/2001