In 1890 two Chicago attorneys purchased a 106-acre plot of land from the Marshall Field syndicate for development. They built a railroad station and, consulting a Pennsylvania train timetable, named it “Berwyn” after a subdivision outside of Philadelphia.
First incorporated as a village in 1902 and then as a city six years later, Berwyn began an unprecedented building boom following World War I. Immigrants residing in Chicago’s Pilsen and Lawndale neighborhoods rushed to take advantage of affordable housing in the growing area. Financial strength provided by Cermak Avenue banks, referred to as “Bohemian Wall Street” due to the city’s large Czech population, established partnerships between bankers and developers supporting rapid, large-scale developments of entire neighborhoods. The large number of bungalow blocks in Berwyn is attributed to this highly-organized building approach.
Industry in the adjacent Town of Cicero contributed to another building boom after World War II. The city’s prime location with easy access to public transportation and highways was a key attraction for working families. For many new residents, homeownership represented an important step toward reaching the American middle class. A bungalow in Berwyn was the first home they owned, and with it, they were closer to achieving the American dream.
Beginning in the late 1980s, Berwyn experienced another influx of young families and single professionals. Newcomers were, again, attracted by the convenient location, well-built homes and clean neighborhoods.
Almost 100 years after it first emerged in Berwyn, the bungalow is prominent again. Berwyn residents have begun to restore and recycle many of the aging buildings, thus preserving and protecting the city’s architectural heritage.
The Berwyn Historical Society, a volunteer organization established in 1979 to help preserve the history of the community, held the first annual Berwyn Bungalow Tour in 2006. In response to the event, Berwyn’s bungalows were featured in the summer 2007 edition of American Bungalow magazine. By 2010, over 1000 guests had toured four different historic neighborhoods showcased by the annual Berwyn Bungalow Tour. In 2011, This Old House Magazine recognized Berwyn as Best Place for bungalows.