North Center was once just that–the center of the North Side
Named because it happened to be in the approximate center of the city’s North Side, local printer Henry Moberg gave the area its name. On October 21, 1921, at the urging of Moberg, the Lincoln-Irving-Robey Businessmen’s Association (ancestor of the North Center Chamber of Commerce) officially named the commercial district from North End to North Center.
North Center has been home to Chicago’s oldest radio station, possibly the city’s longest row of car dealerships, Americas first movie capital, and probably our town’s first anti-pollution crusade.
Back in the late 1860s and early 1870s, the onetime Ravenswood Land Company subdivision began getting $200 to $2,500 per lot in the area between Montrose, Diversey, Ravenswood and the Chicago River.
Besides the Indians, the first residents were workers in “Bricktown”–the riverside quarries that were eventually forced to move further north when neighbors started complaining about smoke and fumes–paving the way so to speak for a shopping center at Robey and Graceland (Irving and Damen) and a nearby residential development by Charles Ford, who named Berenice, Grace and Fay (now Larchmont) streets after his three daughters.
And because the former clay pits quickly became dumping grounds for garbage, housing developers steered clear, leaving the virtually abandoned properties for parks, the Mid-City Golf Course at Addison and Western, where they later built Lane Tech High School.
Not far away, in 1903, the Schuetzen Sharpshooters’ Park was installing a “Figure Eight” ride considered the forerunner of today’s roller coaster–and the beginnings of Riverview, which would one day advertise itself as “the World’s Largest Amusement Park.”
Patrick Butler, Historian, Inside-Booster reporter and author of Hidden History of Ravenswood & Lake View