Characters in Evanston residential history: Julius White

The names of some of Evanston's subdivisions and roadways hark back to some of our past heroes and also to some characters who don't quite fit that label.  The White Subdivision that I live in was named for one of the characters, Julius White.  A lawyer born in NY, White became a brigadier general in the Civil War (1862-1865); afterwards, he was active in real-estate investment and speculation and was briefly the US Ambassador to Argentina during ex-general Ulysses S. Grant's administration.  White's civil war record was not unmixed, due to some battle decisions that some deemed ill-advised.  A resident of Evanston after the war, he was whispered to have been involved in shady dealings, and his real-estate developments brought him to a spectacular bankruptcy in the early 1870s.  The southeast area of current Evanston was part of his properties, and it was sold after the proceedings and divided into lots for modest wooden houses, supposedly for railroad workers.  The railroads made it easier to bring in stone, brick, metal, and hardwoods for building, so homes built around the turn of that century are larger and sturdier than most earlier ones.   

My house, 1028 Judson Ave, between Greenleaf and Lee Streets, was one of the many modest, early wood houses that White bought and fixed up in the 1860s and 1870s.  Local papers recorded its construction in 1854.  White is said to have moved the house to its present location from a lot near Davis Street and Chicago Avenue when commercial development got going up there after the founding of the town of Evanston in 1863.  From the published borders of Evanston's predecessor, Ridgeville, the house lay within that earlier township.   A blurb for one of the many historic house tours that included my house claimed that White lived in the house, but no reference was provided for that information.  However, he's recorded in city records as living nearby in a house down on the southwest corner of the alley.  Rumor also has it that Lincoln visited White at 1028 at some point, staying the night and giving a public address from the porch.  However, news accounts of the address give a different address.

The 1028 house, like others of its era, has hardwood support and roof timbers, but the rest is made of local evergreen softwoods, except for a very thin oak veneer on some of its floors.  Mr. White added a kitchen - the house had a separate cooking building earlier - and a bathroom.  Before, the house had only had outhouses, like most American residences away from big cities, until the 1940s.  In adding the kitchen, Mr. White changed the roof angle and altered the inset gutters, creating for future owners problems with water drainage and ice dams.  For the history buff, however, that alteration was positive - not to speak of the amenity of having an attached kitchen - because a bit of the original cedar shakes roof was sandwiched below the new one and thus was preserved.  It is the reason I knew to replace the aging 1950s asphalt shingle roof with cedar, for the sake of authenticity.  The house, like much of White's former land now falls within the Evanston Lakeshore Historic District.

Posted on October 9, 2016 and filed under Local Notes.