It is difficult to trace the old subdivisions built in Gladstone Park without physical access to old building plans from Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development. Few major Chicago newspapers discussed growth on the Far Northwest side except in general terms and most local newspapers that did write about the community’s growth are difficult to access due to their limited locations and the fact they have not been digitized.
However, we can get some idea of how the community’s residential areas grew by examining advertisements placed in area publications by developers. The focus was on getting the attention of first-time homeowners eager to buy lots and/or ready-built dwellings with attractive financial terms. The author was able to find several of these in both English and Polish Chicago newspapers going back to the first decades of the 20th Century. Some of the new real estate opportunities were marketed directly by developers and others through realty companies, just as they are today.
Many of the subdivisions in Northwest Chicago were platted by Polish-immigrant-turned-property-developer William Zelosky, who believed in putting money into their infrastructure so that his communities would be “high class,” according to The Chicago Bungalow by Dominic A. Pacyga & Charles Shanabruch of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 2003. The improvements included wide paved roads, cement curbs, sidewalks, sewers, water and gas mains, electrical service, provisions for parklands and sometimes gates and architectural monuments.
At one time Zelosky had eight offices on the Northwest Side, including four on N. Milwaukee Avenue, targeting various developments to different markets, Pacyga and Shanabruch wrote. He made sure that all his properties had access to good transportation and provided favorable financing to make it easier for people to buy into his communities. His payment plans were instrumental in an era when many working-class Americans were seeking to become homeowners for the first time even as banks were requiring 50% down for first mortgages.
Gladstone Gardens, Zelosky’s first big venture in Gladstone Park, grew up in the extreme southern part of the community. In the first decade of the 20th Century, this development attracted many Germans who built the Dutch Colonial Revivals for which the neighborhood is known. Then Polish immigrants arrived, intermixing architectural styles by contracting for the sturdy brick bungalows they preferred. Park View Crest, his 500-lot subdivision on 60 acres overlooking the Edgebrook Golf Course just south of W. Devon, was marketed in the 1920s. With housing trends shifting, this area became home to perhaps the largest group of English Tudor Revivals in Chicago. With one of the developer’s offices on the edge of the latter’s borders at 6105 N. Milwaukee, Zelosky’s company was in the perfect place to promote these properties. (This is the area where Chopin Plaza at the merger of N. Milwaukee with N. Elston is today.)
Widely regarded as a visionary, Zelosky implemented “careful zoning,” separating homes from apartments and businesses to ensure his developments would be family-friendly and remain desirable through time, according to the September 28, 1926 Westchester Tribune article Tells Dream of Ideal Community as reprinted on the Franzosenbusch Heritage Project.
As you read the ads, you will get a good sense of the features property developers were touting 100 years ago in order to attract buyers.
The Best Investment in the World!
Ad for 8 developments Zelosky had in the works by 1924, including subdivisions in Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park, from Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1924.
Two ads for Gladstone Gardens lots in the extreme southern section of Gladstone Park from Polish language newspaper Dztennik Chicagoski (Chicago Daily News), February 27 and March 6, 1915, both from Library of Congress. This was the earlier development that attracted many German immigrants, who built the barn-roof style Dutch (“Deutsch”) Colonial Revivals for which the area is so well known. But it subsequently starting attracting Polish immigrants, who tended to contract for brick bungalows. The result is a neighborhood with two distinct styles of architecture. Notice the different financial terms offered by Schultz, Baker & Co. for the 30×125-foot lots.