Elmhurst’s First Neighborhood

Next in our exploration of Elmhurst subdivisions is a neighborhood so iconic, as far we can tell no one ever thought to name it. In fact, weun named map are dedicating two articles to this area so that we don’t miss any of the fascinating history.

Stretching from St. Charles Road on the North to the Prairie Path on the South and York Street to Spring Road, the estates first built there belonged to the most important founders of Elmhurst, including Thomas R. Bryan and his brother-in-law, Jedidiah H. Lathrop. Both men, along with Seth Wadhams their neighbor across the street, were responsible for planting the Elm trees that ultimately gave Elmhurst its name. Seth Wadhams’ home later became Wilder Mansion, which still stands today as a part of the Elmhurst Park District.

In the 1870s, both Bryan and Lathrop were involved in the diplomatic service and were friends with many politicians and other world leaders. Bryan was a close personal friend of Abraham Lincoln’s, serving as pallbearer at his funeral. With such high profiles, both men entertained a great many international guests, including King Edward VII, then the Prince of Wales, who visited while touring the United States.

Thomas Bryan Courtesy Elmhurst Historical Museum

Thomas Bryan

Thomas Bryan was also responsible for some big events outside of Elmhurst, including securing and organizing the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. Thomas Bryan and his wife, Jane Byrd Page, famously held a party for visiting World Fair dignitaries at their home, Byrd’s Nest, located at the southwest corner of St. Charles Road and York Street. Elmhurst’s other connection to the World Fair, Caroline Dupee Wade, was an artist who decorated the Illinois Building at the Columbian Exposition and provided artwork for the Palace of Fine Arts at the Fair.

The Great Fire of 1871 marked the beginning of an era of elegant socializing in Elmhurst for residents and wealthy refugees of Chicago, many of whom built their own estates on elm-shaded streets. By 1900, Elmhurst even had a Saddle Club. Every Saturday afternoon, 20 members of the club, with their guests, would gather near St. Charles Road and Mitchell Avenue to participate in races and other equestrian pursuits. After an afternoon of riding, one of the members would host a dinner dance. Known as Hagan Racetrack, the facility was later moved to Cicero and renamed Hawthorne Racetrack.

As time went on, the estates were subdivided into smaller lots. In 1914, Dr. Henry L. Lindlahr bought eight acres of the Lathrop estate on the south side of St. Charles Road between Cottage Hill and Prospect Avenues to use as a sanitarium. Advertisements claimed patients received Nature Cure treatments in a country-like atmosphere.

Lindlahrs Sanitarium

Lindlahrs Sanitarium

The Sanitarium specialized in homeopathic treatments including vegetarian diets, sunbaths, air baths, hydrotherapy and manipulation. A brochure stated outright: No Surgery, No Drugs, No Serums. The sanitarium operated until 1928, four years after Dr. Lindlahr died.

Enjoying a large campus, the property included an administration building, an annex with living quarters and treatment room, bungalows and a tent city in the summer. Exercise was an important component of the treatments and so the grounds also featured large wooded grounds for walking, tennis and basketball courts, lawn croquet, volleyball and exercise groups.

The homes in this subdivision currently range from $300,000 to over a million dollars. Some of the homes for sale today were built while Elmhurst was in its heyday and reflect the glory and majesty of the gilded age of Elmhurst. If you are interested in looking at homes in this or any of Elmhurst’s unique neighborhoods, call a knowledgeable realtor at LW Reedy.

Residents of this neighborhood are in the award winning Elmhurst School District 205 and would attend Hawthorne Elementary Grade School, Sandburg Middle School and York High School. Click here for more information on those schools, links to school reports and more.

All pictures were provided by the Elmhurst Historical Museum.

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