Gladstone Park’s Early Development

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. Most local newspapers that did write about the community’s growth are difficult to locate due to loss and the limited number of places where old issues that still remain are housed. The Northwest Chicago Historical Society is particularly hampered in its research by the fact that no old local newspapers have 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 then, of course, was on getting the attention of (mostly) 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 were offered through realty companies, just as they are today.

Many of the subdivisions in Northwest Chicago, including Gladstone Park, were platted by Polish-immigrant-turned-property-developer William Zelosky. He specifically believed in putting money into their infrastructure so that his communities would be “high class,” according to the book The Chicago Bungalow by Dominic A. Pacyga & Charles Shanabruch of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 2003. These 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 his zenith, Zelosky had eight offices on the Northwest Side, including four on N. Milwaukee Avenue, Pacyga and Shanabruch wrote. The subdivisions targeted different markets. But he made sure that all his properties had access to good transportation while providing favorable financing to make it easier for people to buy into his communities. With banks of the era requiring a stunning 50% down for first mortgages, his privately-funded payment plans were instrumental in making it possible for many working-class Americans who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it to become homeowners for the first time.

Gladstone Gardens, Zelosky’s first big venture in Gladstone Park, arose in the extreme southern part of the community. In the first decade of the 20th Century, this area had attracted many Germans who built the Dutch Colonial Revivals for which the neighborhood is known. Then Polish immigrants arrived, architectural styles changed, and Zelosky began building the sturdy and affordable brick bungalows then in vogue. (As trends changed again two decades later, homeowners gravitated to the more ornate Tudor Revivals and later the more minimalistic English Georgians that are now also abundant in the community).

It is unknown just when Zelosky began putting in the sidewalks and other infrastructure to pave the way for Gladstone Gardens. But he left his mark in the form of a sidewalk plaque identifying his company as the subdividers for the development that can still be seen today. But rather than just stamp his company name into the sidewalk as required by the city of Chicago of all concreters, he exceeded requirements by embedding a rare brass William Zelensky & Co. plaque. Located in the sidewalk at the northwest corner of W. Catalpa and N. Parkside, it is still in remarkably good shape, its gleaming surface weathered to an attractive blue-green patina.

Zelosky Sidewalk Nameplate (Brass)

Rare brass sidewalk plaque installed by William Zelosky & Co. identifying the developer as the “subdividers” of Gladstone Gardens. At the northwest corner of W. Catalpa and N. Parkside, the gleaming plaque has weathered to a beautiful blue-green patina. In remarkably good shape, it can still be easily viewed today. Photo by author.

Halfway up the west side of the 5500 block of N. Parkside from the Catalpa plaque is a contiguous run of paired numbers (49/50, 47/48, 45/46) stamped into the oldest section of unreplaced sidewalk. The speculation is that these identified the common borders of adjacent lot numbers for the development. One of these pairs is pictured below.

Sidewalk lot numbers

Three pairs of numbers (49/50, 47/48, 45/46) can be seen stamped on the edges of the oldest sidewalks halfway up the 5500 block of N. Parkside from the Catalpa plaque. The speculation is that the paired numbers originally identified lot numbers for the Gladstone Gardens development. Most of the adjacent sidewalks have been replaced since, obliterating other evidence. Photo by author.

As older sidewalks eroded down, progressively showing more and more of their gravel substrate, they often cracked and needed replacement. Below is an example of photo taken by the author of a sidewalk section replaced by Chicago Cement Contractor H. Killian on N. Mango Avenue in Gladstone Park in 1971. Sidewalks identified by the Killian stamp are found in later-developing areas of the Far Northwestern part of the city from Albany Park to Gladstone Park and beyond that needed replacement in the latter half of the 20th Century. Despite how prolific this particular cement contractor was, no information could be located about the H. Killian business beyond his stamped phone number SP[ring] 7-4749, following the convention of the time when the first two digits of telephone exchanges in local areas was a two-letter abbreviation for a word. Further research yielded the modern reiteration of the phone number (773) 777-4749 was a landline assigned to a home in Chicago’s Norwood Park neighborhood just on the edge of the suburban community of Niles that had once been owned by a Kilian family member.

Kilian sidewalk stamp

The more typical sidewalk stamp like this one from the latter half of the 20th Century can be found throughout the Far Northwestern part of the city from Albany Park to Gladstone Park and beyond. Prolific Chicago Cement Contractor H. Killian left his mark here on N. Mango in 1971 after older sidewalks on the block gradually eroded down to their gravel substrate, cracked, and needed replacement.

Park View Crest, Zelosky’s 500-lot subdivision on 60 acres overlooking the Edgebrook Golf Course just south of W. Devon, was marketed in the 1920s to people seeking a community with adjacent parkland and open space. With housing trends shifting by the next decade, 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 development’s borders at 6105 N. Milwaukee, Zelosky’s company was in the perfect place to self-promote these properties. No building at that address remains today where it was located in the area of Chopin Plaza near where N. Milwaukee merges with N. Elston.

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.

Gladstone Gardens

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 then the development began attracting Polish immigrants, who, in the 1920s and early 1930s, tended to contract for brick bungalows. When English Tudor revivals became desirable in the 1940s, they filled in the subdivision’s remaining vacant lots, leading to a neighborhood with three distinct styles of architecture. Notice the different financial terms offered by Schultz, Baker & Co. for the 30×125-foot lots.

Polish ad
Polish ad

Park View Crest

Ad for Park View Crest from (Chicago) Daily Tribune, May 31, 1924 for the 60-acre, 500-lot subdivision that started developing in the 1920s in the northern part of Gladstone Park. Developer William Zelosky used the tract’s advantageous location bordering on the Forest Preserves of Cook County with its Edgebrook Golf Course to market its homesites east of N. Milwaukee traveling north to W. Devon. Because housing trends were changing during the latter part of this decade and into the 1930s, many homebuyers in this development pulled away from the low-slung bungalows and contracted for bigger and more elaborate steep-roofed English architectural designs with all their decorative elements, particularly in the northern section near the most desirable parkland. The result was a Gladstone Park with perhaps the largest collection of brick English Tudor Revivals in Chicago, followed to a lesser extent by the plainer two-story brick English Georgian Revivals that followed.