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Evanston Dimensions | Ask the historians

Evanston Dimensions | Ask the historians

Double prairie house on the Ridge

Reader’s Question: What can you tell me about the house at 1307 Ridge Ave., Evanston, Illinois 60201? Chris Swanson

The year 2022 marks the 125th anniversary of the house’s construction. The house was converted into a single family house about 2010. Today, its address is 1313 Ridge Ave. The house’s original address was 1307-1309 Ridge Ave. Credit: Jenny Thompson

Thank you for your question, Chris. We always enjoy digging into the history behind a specific house and this one was no exception! 

For more than a century, the house at 1307 Ridge Ave. (now 1313 Ridge Ave.) was, in fact, a “double house.” Two large and separate residences comprised the structure. It was completed in 1897 and designated with two separate street addresses: 1307 and 1309 Ridge Ave. The double house was built for Evanston resident Catharine M. White (1833 –1899) and designed by Evanston architect Myron Hunt (1868-1952). 

Postcard, Ridge Avenue, c. 1907. The fence and entry to James A. Patten’s mansion, built in 1901, is pictured on the left. Patten was nicknamed the “Wheat King” after he cornered the wheat, corn, oats and cotton markets and made a fortune. Credit: Evanston History Center

On the Ridge

Wealthier families built their mansions on the ridge. Not that they did not appreciate the beauties of the lake, but in a day when tuberculosis was so common, they feared the harmful effects of the lake air. 

  • Margery Blair Perkins, author of Evanston: A Tour of the City’s History

Ridge Avenue is so named because it lies along a geological ridge left by the retreating glacial Lake Chicago, today’s Lake Michigan. One either side of the ridge were low-lying wetlands, making the high ground of the ridge a natural travel route and settlement site for Indigenous Peoples.

The earliest white residents on Ridge Avenue, the Mulfords, named their property Ridgeville, and that name was also given to the community that predated the founding of Evanston.

By the time the house at 1307-1309 Ridge Avenue was built in 1897, wealthy, white Evanston residents had been constructing large homes for themselves along the portion of Ridge Avenue that extends south from Emerson Street for decades.

The earliest homes on the ridge had been modest structures, but these were soon replaced by elaborate houses and mansions, designed by some of the area’s most prominent architects.