Rogers Park Cabbage War

Chicago's Crabgrass Communities
by Harvey M. Karlen

Some confusion exists about the western boundary of Rogers Park in these early years. The original plat marked the boundary line at Ridge Avenue but did not include the area that became known as West Ridge. Disputes between residents of these adjacent areas over local improvements led to incorporation of the village of West Ridge in 1890. There was a scattering of farms west of Ridge Avenue. In 1885 there were 44 frame houses. Two-thirds of the 300 residents in 1891 were farmers. The people of West Ridge , even after incorporation, depended on Rogers Park for public transportation and for many commercial, business and social needs.

The entire area was treated as Rogers Park after annexation to Chicago, but bitterness between the residents of the two sides remained. This developed into the political battles of the little-known "Cabbage War" of 1896-97.

In 1895, a permit was approved for formation of the North Shore Park District to include all territory north of Devon Avenue (6400 North). West-siders saw this plan as nothing less than a nefarious scheme to siphon off west side tax dollars to improve lake front and east side properties. In retaliation, they sought, and received, from the Cook County Court a permit to create their own park district on land west of the C&NW tracks. A referendum was slated for 1896 to decide whether a west side park district should be formed, or whether the Rogers Park park district should include the west side as originally conceived.

A bitter campaign followed. Accompanied by a brass band, east siders paraded on the streets waving poles topped with cabbages and taunting the farmers of West Ridge with the chant, "Cabbage Heads." The West Ridge settlers prevailed and, in 1897, the first election of the Ridge Avenue Park Commission was held. Thereafter, the area usually was known as Northtown or as West Rogers Park. Ill will and divisiveness between the two sides continued though the years over such issues as the paving of Ridge Avenue and prohibition.


Chicago's Crabgrass Communities by Harvey M. Karlen
Collectors' Club of Chicago, Chicago, 1992