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History of the Sociology House

1940 Census on Our Sociology Houses

Professor Laura Beth Nielsen searched the just released 1940 Census and saw it revealed that a retired lawyer and his wife, Henry and Carroll Huxley, lived in our little house, 1808 Chicago Avenue, since 1935.

The 1810 and 1812 Chicago Avenue buildings were rooming houses which, by Laura's count housed 22 people. All were lodgers from all over the United States – PA, IA, CO. This included an assistant professor, Fran Forbes (age 62) and a “teacher” at the University Joseph Broholm (age 29). There was an office manager, a library assistant, some students, a seamstress, and a stenographer to name just a few.

The History of 1810-12 Chicago Avenue and the Department of Sociology

It all started quietly enough in 1890 when a Northwestern German professor named Hatfield moved into a new home at 1810 Chicago Avenue. Although he did not stay long, more than 45 years later he was contacted about the house: The City of Evanston wanted to know if it had, indeed, always been a boarding house.

According to documents at the Evanston Historical Society, the double house at 1810-1812 Chicago Avenue had a series of owners until the mid 1920s, when Frank C. Whitmore, an NU chemistry professor, assumed ownership of both addresses. He lived at 1812 while renting out 1810. The renter also rented out rooms, and a Mrs. Huxley, next door at 1808, was not happy with all the comings and goings. For more than 10 years she complained to Evanston's building commissioner. A letter written by the commissioner describes it this way: "the premises…are used contrary to the regulations of the Evanston Zoning Ordinance…It is reported that (the) premises are used for a commercial photography business, lodging house, and furniture sales and display rooms…"

Although Professor Whitmore moved on to Penn State in 1929, he retained ownership of the house. Through letters he defended the rights of his tenants to rent rooms, claiming the houses had always brought in boarders, evidenced by their combined 31 rooms and nine baths. The city eventually contacted Professor Hatfield, now living on Foster Avenue in Evanston, to verify this information. With Hatfield's "testimony" the matter was settled in favor of Whitmore and his tenants – not to mention his tenants' tenants.

Northwestern acquired the property in 1948 and for a number of years used it as sorority housing. NU's auditing, parking and traffic, and personnel departments also have had stays at the double address. In 1980 the Sociology Department moved in. The house was deemed historically significant in 1972, and is an Evanston landmark building.


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