History of Riverside Township, Il.
From: History of Cook County, Illinois
By: A. T. Andreas
Published by: A. T. Andreas, Publisher Chicago, 1884
Riverside Township comprises but four sections, namely, Nos. 25, 26, 35 and 36, situated in the southeast corner
of the town of Proviso. Nearly three fourths of this territory is embraced in the village of Riverside, also incorporated,
and therefore under the control of its legislative board of officers.
In 1868 David A. Gage was the owner of a beautiful tract of land of nearly 1,200 acres, lying on the Desplaines River and only some four miles distant front the city limits. The natural beauty of the locality, its proximity to Chicago and its consequebt desirableness, as a place for subarban homes, soon attracted the attention of certain prominent Chicago gentlemen, and a company was speedily formed for the pnrpose of planting here on the banks of the Desplaines. the model suburb of Chicago. Accordingly in April. 1869, the Riverside Improvement Company was organized under a special charter granted by the State of Illinois, to carry the above idea into execution, i. e. to prepare a town and depend upon people to live in it. when it was completed. The company was com of the following well known men Emery E. Childs, Leverett W. Marray, Henry E. Seelve, David A. Gage. Alphens C. Badger, George M. Kimbark, and William T. Allen. The first step of the new organization was to secure 1,600 acres of land in which was included the tract belonging to Mr. Gage. known as "Riverside farm." and containing 1,200 acres. finely wooded and with many charming features of rural scenery. The next thing was to improve it in such a manner as to combine the conveniences of the city, such as gas, water, macalamized roads, walks, and drainage, with all the beauties of landscape gardening and the essential advantages of the country. To accomplish this truly desirable result. the company secured the services of Fred Law Olmsted, a noted landscape architect, who made a patient and thorough topographical survey of the property and furnished the plan upon which the village has since been built. The methods of construction were entrusted to L. Y. Schermerhorn, civil engineer, under whose superintendency the roads, walks, drainage and planting were executed, as were also the plans for gas and water works. In their preliminary report to the Company the architects. Messrs. Olmsted, Vanx & Co., speaking of the disposition of a finely wooded tract, said "The people of Chicago, in common with those of our large cities, are just beginning to wake up to the value of public pleasure grounds ; they will, during the next five years, be educating themselves by constant discussions to better understand the real elements of their value. They will gradually realize that, while pleasing grounds and drives of a certain kind may be obtained by them near the city after several years, a great deal of what constitutes the charm and gives the value of parks elsewhere cannot be acquired by Chicago - at least in the present generation. if ever. If then you can while they are thus eager for it, aud while they are aggravated by the natural difficulties of their position, present them with a complete park, comparing favorably with any existing town park in respect to beauty, and rich in those elements in which the Chicago parks are, and for the next fifty years will be, most provokingly deficient, you will be sure to attract to Riverside a degree of attention, admiration and appreciation which you could do in no other way. Your wooded district referred to is so happily furnished by nature that it would be praeticable, we think, within a year to form a park at Riverside which will surpass the New York or Brooklyn parks, a park to which a citizen of Chicago might, therefore, take a citizen of New York, or even London, with pride and satisfaction." After some deliberation the Company adopted the suggestions embodied in the above report, and appropriated this wooded district for a park. It contains nearly 160 acres, lying on both sides of the river, and is connected by bridges for the use of vehicles and pedestrians. The entire area is covered with a fine grown forest of oak, ash, linden, hickory and black walnut.
Resident sites at Riverside are of the most liberal dimensions. the smallest lots being laid off no less than
100 feet front by 200 feet deep thus affording sufficient ground for spacious lawns, the cultivation of trees,
shrubs, flowers, small fruits. etc. ; besides allowing space for barns and out buildings remote from the dwellings.
These advantages in addition to the fact, that out of the 1,600 acres comprising the village plat, 700 acres were
set apart forever for roads, borders, walks, recreative grounds and parks, served to make the place doubly attractive
to seekers of ideal suberban homes. So energetically in fact, did the company pnsh the work of improving and beautifying
Riverside, that within two years from its founding they had constructed ten miles of roads, seven miles of walks,
sixteen miles of drains and sewers, planted 47,000 scrubs, 7,000 evergreens and 32,000 deciduous trees ; 2,500
of the latter were large shade trees, some of them nineteen inches in diameter and eighty feet high. Gas works
had also been constructed and over five miles of gas mains laid ; the roads and driveways of the village, as well
as the stores and private residences being supplied with gas at city rates. An artesian well was also sunk to the
depth of 735 feet, front which a constant snpplv of pure and healthful water sufficient for a population of ten
thousands people, is still obtained. A substantial water tower of stone and brick, itself an elegant bit of architeetnre,
was erected, into which the water is forced by a steam pump and from thence distributed through mains to all parts
of the village. rrluis tower is 108 feet lngh, and from a balcony some 70 feet front the ground, reached by winding
stairs within, a fine view of Riverside and its surroundings may be had. In addition to the gas and water works
buildings, the company had within the same time built and completed a handsome stone chapel (now the Presbyterian
Church of Riverside) at a cost of nearly $20,000, a neat and imposing block of stores and offices, constructed
of red and Milwaukee brick and which were then ocenpied as a market, supply store, drug store and post office.
They had also erected a beautiful building, on the banks of time Desplaines, with broad verandas overhanging that
picturesque stream ; this was known as the Refrectory and Billiard Pavilion while built at the same time, amid
situated a little east of this and connected with it by an elevated walk, was another strikingly handsome edifice,
the Riverside Hotel. This building, which was originally designed for a summer resort hotel, is constructed in
the shape of an E, with two conrts 57x83 feet, open to the sonth. The length of the main building is 260 feet,
width at tIme wings 104 feet, length of verandas 1,042 feet, and 15 to 20 feet wide, length of balconies to third
story 368 feet. The rooms were all large. light and airy, supplied with running water and lighted with gas, with
a grate and chimney to each, thus rendering it equal in its arrangements and appointments to any of the hotels
in the city. In the construction of the building, Mr. Jenney, the architect, adopted the Swiss style of architecture,
as that being the best adapted for a rural hotel; giving as it does, opportunities for broad verandas, overhanging
roof, shaded balconies, and many pleasing though comparatively inexpensive details. Until 1879, the hotel was kept
by H. M. Kinsley; when at that date, it not proving a profitable venture, the idea of keeping it as a public honsc
was abandoned. It has since been occupied as a tenement house. The grounds about it however have been well kept
up and it is still a beautiful place.
Among those who were the first residents of Riverside, and who built for themselves houmes witilin its favored
shades were : David A. Gage, F. F Chiids. H. C. Ford, L. Y. Schermerhorn, John C. Dore, F. F. Nexsen, E. T. Wright,
Charles Gladding, J. P. Merrill, W. W. Chandler, H. F. Jennison, Telford Burnham, J. H. Hollister, David Blakely,
D. F. Chase, Horace Enos and John A. Rice. Of the above none are at present living in tile viilage. Those who located
here at the same time and who still remain are : W. T. Allen, L. W. Murray, Watts De Goyler, W. L. B. Jenney, H.
E. Seelye, Rev. H. Trowbridge and others whose names ore not now at hand. Among those deceased are: George M. Kimbark,
E. L. Sherman and George Gilbert. The present estimated population of Riverside is nine hundred.