Four Generations Building Traditions
Gazette Article by: Jane Lord
Appeared in the Gazette: Winter 1996
Probably no one knows the homes in the village as well as the Edward A. Anderson Company. The Winnetka contractor has built and remodeled Winnetka residences for four generations.
The firm’s founder, Edward Anderson, learned construction while living in California and working for the Santa Fe Railroad’s engineering department. He reversed the fortune-building advice, “go West, young man,” when, at the urging of an Oak Park relative, he moved east to Illinois and in 1908 started a stone masonry firm in Winnetka called Anderson and Stevens.
Two years later the business evolved into general contracting work and in 1913 incorporated under the Edward A. Anderson name. An early office was on Green Bay Road, next to the current location of the Union 76 station. In the late 1920s the Anderson Company moved to its present location on Lincoln Avenue, above the Depot restaurant. Today Nick Anderson, the founder’s grandson, heads the business; and two great-grandsons, Jim and Steve Anderson, also work for the company.
Edward Anderson, who died in 1961, lived on Walnut Street and was well known for his participation in village activities. He headed the local rationing board during World War II and was a founder of the Winnetka Rotary Club and a deacon of the Winnetka Congregational Church.
Although his son Boyd and grandson Nick learned the business as apprentices during summer vacations, they had other careers before joining the firm. Boyd joined his father’s company after working for a Chicago fire extinguisher manufacturer and serving with Army Ordnance in World War II. Nick Anderson was employed by Marshall Field’s for four and one-half years after graduating from college.
Most of the firm’s work has been residential. However, it also has been the contractor for some public and commercial buildings in the village. Among these are “The Chimneys,” apartments at 150-60 Green Bay Road, and the former Masonic Temple on east Elm Street where Hadley School now stands.
One local architect recalls Edward Anderson as “a good businessman, who was meticulous with bills and as honest as the day is long. He did only the best and the finest, and he wouldn’t fool around with cheap materials.” The architect notes that the founder’s high standards became his company’s hallmark and account for its longevity. “Having Anderson do one’s work is a status symbol,” he added.
Some houses built or remodeled by Anderson have won awards, and popular “shelter” publications often feature kitchens, bathrooms, and whole houses the Anderson Company has done.
In a business where materials and construction methods are ever-changing, Anderson has met the challenges. One of its most unusual recent projects involved undermining a house of considerable size and raising it in the air to build large basement rooms underneath.
Years ago a Winnetka woman was on vacation when notified that fire had swept through her showplace home. Only after calmly proceeding through a dinner party she was hosting did she share the shocking news with her husband. Then she confidently assured him that they need not worry; she had already hired Edward Anderson to handle the repairs!