November 16, 2011

You Asked: What is McCormickville?


A late nineteenth-century composite photograph of the Samuel M. Nickerson Mansion on Erie Street, located in the neighborhood then known as McCormickville. The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

You Asked…

Why was this neighborhood called McCormickville (and why didn’t the Nickersons live down on Prairie Avenue with the rest of the wealthy)?

Today’s blog is part of an occasional series dedicated to answering visitors’ questions.

You probably know Evanston. It’s a nice place, right? Lake views, good schools, safe, easy parking, not nearly as noisy as down here in the Loop, high income levels all around. It has all the benefits of the ‘burbs while sidled right up to one of the greatest cities on Earth (in our opinion, anyway).

We could perhaps think of McCormickville as the Evanston of the late 19th century. The neighborhood Samuel Nickerson chose for his palatial residence—McCormickville then, Near North today—was similarly lakeside (Lake Michigan used to lap at the shores just steps east of the Magnificent Mile, but receded over time and was subsequently filled in and became Streeterville). The area was also pleasantly removed from the bustle of Chicago’s center, which was further south than it is today. While George Pullman and Marshall Field built their mansions on a short stretch of Prairie Avenue down south, the Nickersons and a handful of other Chicago elite—among them Cyrus H. McCormick, inventor of the mechanical reaper, and some of his relatives, which is where we got the name McCormickville—built northwards. Other affluent inhabitants included Henry J. Willing, a dry goods merchant; Judge Mark Skinner; and the lawyer Henry W. Bishop. Another of Chicago’s wealthiest businessmen, Potter Palmer, built his colossal 1885 home on the Gold Coast just a mile north of the Nickerson Mansion.

Sally Sexton Kalmbach, a historian who leads McCormickville Walking Tours, tells it better than I do. There are only two more of these tours before we succumb to winter, so if you have Sundays the 20th or 27th free and want to hear more about the lives of this historic neighborhood’s rich and famous, call the Museum and make a reservation.

—Lindsey Howald Patton

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by Sälja Guld on December 27, 2011 | at 04:29 AM |

Very nice, seems like nice tour!

by Chelsea Lampard on February 29, 2012 | at 09:05 AM |

Great historical interview! Really impressed to know about that McCormickville. By the way cool photograph. Thanks!


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