The Cradle of Winnetka

Gazette Article by: Joan Evanich
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall 2003

Around Your Neighborhood: The Cradle of Winnetka

Imagine you are on an August trip in the family vehicle —hot, tired and looking for a place to stop. You have been traveling for a long time and the kids are getting cranky. Now imagine it is 1836 and you are traveling in an ox cart! That is precisely the experience of Erastus and Zeruah Patterson and their five children Moses, Azel, Joseph, Lucia and Olive. The first white family to settle in what was to become Winnetka came from Woodstock, Vermont, by way of Detroit and Chicago. They were on their way to settle in Wisconsin but were captivated by the beautiful spot near what is now Christ Church. They were the first residents in the “Cradle of Winnetka.”

This neighborhood, near what is now Tower and Sheridan Roads, was the very first settlement in our Village. High on a ridge overlooking Lake Michigan, it is along what was once the Green Bay Trail, a government post road first surveyed in 1833. Patterson and his wife capitalized on their new location and built the Patterson Tavern, a wayside inn for travelers that was known to have “the best drink of whiskey between Milwaukee and Chicago.” Erastus died a short time after his arrival, but “the Widow” continued to run the business. Initially a preemptor or squatter on the land, Zeruah Patterson officially bought the claim of 57.71 acres from the U.S. government in 1843 for $192.70. By 1847, the property and business were purchased by John Garland. John Garland used the tavern for civic as well as commercial purposes. The first meeting to form New Trier Township was held at the Garland Tavern in 1850. Soon after, John Garland built a brick home for his family on the west side of the Green Bay Trail and a lumber yard near the lake. Now that his family and business needs were met, Garland moved onto the spiritual. Non-denominational church services had been said at the tavern, but when his first wife Susannah died in 1865, Mr. Garland built a separate church to honor her memory. Christ’s Church was originally a union church for all Christian denominations; it was later donated to the Episcopal diocese in 1876. A stipulation of the gift gave all Garland descendants the right to be buried in its church yard. The current Christ Church building was designed by local architect, William Otis in memory of Emilie Hoyt Fox and her three children who were killed in the Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago in 1903.

The practice of philanthropy and public service continued in the neighborhood with the arrival of the Henry Demarest Lloyd family in 1878. Lloyd, a journalist and social reformer was a close friend of Jane Addams of Chicago’s Hull House. In Winnetka, his progressive thinking was instrumental in developing the existing Village Town Meeting and our Village-owned and -operated utilities. The family house known as Wayside (now on the National Register) was a center of “hospitality and high thinking, intelligent laughter and fluent repartee.”

The architecture in the neighborhood once marketed as “Winnetka Park Bluffs” is some of the most beautiful in the village. Along the winding streets of Bryant, Humboldt, Prospect Avenues and Lloyd Place sit houses built at the turn of the last century by renowned architects Edwin Clark, William Otis, Augustus Higginson and Howard Van Doren Shaw. Mature trees and access to the bluffs and beaches round out the aesthetic value of the “Cradle of Winnetka,” a great place to settle.

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