A Shifting Shoreline: A Look at Evanston’s Beaches

by Jenny Thompson, PhD jthompson@evanstonhistorycenter.org

Evanston Bathing Beach, n.d. Over time, the locations, names, and number of Evanston’s beaches have changed. Evanston’s lakefront has a long and continuously shifting history. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Beaches today are widely viewed as sites of recreation, relaxing places where land meets sea. But the history of these sites is nothing if not natural. Evanston’s lakefront has undergone both physical and symbolic changes over the years, from being viewed as fraught with peril for ships and bathers alike to being seen as communal recreation areas for beach goers looking for some fun in the sun.

Evanston’s lakefront, which has long faced problems with erosion, is a site that proves to be constantly shifting, both literally and physically.[i] As white settlers moved into the area, indigenous peoples would be moved away from the shores in the appropriation of the land that would later be called Evanston. This was the first act of restriction, and it would be followed by others.

In 1913 members of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians filed a lawsuit claiming possession of a portion of the lakefront in Evanston and Chicago. “[T]he Indians cannot claim land which they abandoned eighty years ago,” wrote the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in dismissing the complaint. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the decision in 1917.[1] Evening Star, November 12, 1913.

In 1931, Evanston City Council members first passed legislation to restrict beach access. In July of that year, city officials ordered fences to be erected around four of the city’s municipal beaches and all residents and non-residents were required to pay access fees using a system of beach tokens. (See more below).

But in a variety of ways the city’s beaches had been under the control of city officials prior to those first official restrictions. As early as 1909 there is evidence that the city’s beaches had become restricted by race. Over the years, restrictions would also be enforced in ways that could be seen to target people according to gender and class. There is, to date, no comprehensive history of these restrictions and more research is needed on this topic. What is provided here is a basic outline of this history.

Calvary Beach[2], Evanston, 1900. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

The Rise of the Bathing Beach

Evanston has discovered the summer advantages of Lake Michigan.

The sandy shores afford extensive bathing beaches.[3]

Northwestern University brochure, 1918

In the years before World War I, most of Evanston’s beaches were fairly small expanses and they were not particularly well maintained. At that time, the shores of Lake Michigan were not viewed as places for recreation in the same way they are today. People swam in the lake to be sure, but there were significant problems.

First, the lake was “in a polluted state due to the constant flow of sewage into the waters.”[4] Second, many beaches were uncomfortable; they were rocky and littered with stones, and, in some areas, refuse. (For a time, Evanston used a portion of the shorefront as a dumping ground for trash.) And finally, the lake was (as it is still today) dangerous. Accidental and intentional drownings took place on a regular basis.  

Evanston Lakefront, c. 1914. Refuse was strewn along parts of the lakefront, indicating the poor state of most of Evanston’s beaches in the first part of the 20th century. In 1913, the beach at Dempster Street was described as “a low sandy expanse, unattractive and unimproved.” A year earlier, it was widely reported that a large number of rats were nesting on the beach.[5] Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Still, bathers did flock to various beaches. But not all visitors had equal access.

In 1909, at Evanston’s Dempster Street beach, a number of white bathers complained that Black men and Black women were “mingling with white persons” and “entering the water at the same point where the white people bathed.” They also complained that “colored men and boys”[6] were “lying on the sand and annoying white women passing along the beach or going to and from the water.”[7]

“This must stop,” said Fred G. Shaffer (1866-1936), Evanston’s chief of police. Shaffer announced he would detail a patrolman to the beach to arrest any “offenders.” “It is only proper that there should be segregation of the races,” Shaffer stated, “and this plan will be carried out. I understand that the proprietor of the lockers at the beach does not rent suits or rooms to colored persons, but they arrange in some other manner to get into the water.”[8] 

Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1909.

Shaffer’s statement provides evidence that racial discrimination was practiced on Evanston’s beaches prior to 1909, and, as Evanston’s Black population grew in the following years, especially during the period from 1910-1930, it would continue. It was precisely during this same period that city officials began to make improvements to Evanston’s beaches.

Around 1913, a campaign to raise funds (through taxation) to improve the city’s beaches was launched. A bit earlier, the city’s various parks departments had been established. In 1923, Evanston formed a Bureau of Recreation to manage the city’s beaches, parks, and other recreation areas.[9] Flyer, n.d., Evanston History Center Archives.

In 1914, two newly-constructed houses for bathers were opened at the popular Lee Street beach. (The beach is still extant; located between Greenleaf and Lee streets). That year, 100 bathers showed up for the opening day of the summer season.

Beach-Goers at an Evanston Beach, n.d. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Cook Street beach (no longer extant) was another popular swimming spot, despite being reportedly “rocky and unpleasant.”[10] The beach boasted lights on the piers for evening bathing and a diving platform, with rafts available just off shore. On the beach itself, as the Evanston News-Index reported in 1915, large settees were built “for the use of mothers and nurses, from which they can more easily overlooked their charges at play in the sand.”[11]

Cook Street beach, n.d. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Northwestern University also had its own private beaches which were “reserved for the sole use of students, faculty, and members of the administrative staff of the university.”[12] That beach too was segregated; the small number of Black students enrolled at the university were barred from the beach at least into the late 1930s. (See below.)

View of Evanston’s northern lakefront and the Northwestern University campus, c. 1907. Visible in the foreground is Evanston’s lifesaving station and boat house. Cook Street beach lies to the north of the station. The beach is no longer there. The university’s 1962-1964 lakefill project, which created 74 acres of land and almost doubled the campus’ size, greatly altered the shoreline along the university. George R. Lawrence, Co. “Birds’ eye view of Northwestern University,” c. 1907, Library of Congress.

Public interest in beach-going steadily grew, and by World War I, Evanston city planners observed an “urgent need of bathing beaches” as more and more residents were “discovering the lakefront after years of neglect.”[13] With the opening of the drainage canal, Lake Michigan’s water quality improved, and Evanston City Council members began to establish municipal beaches.[14]

On July 1, 1917, a municipal bathing beach at Lincoln Street was opened. The beach was complete with “spacious bathhouses with good provisions for the comfort of the bathers.”[15] The beach was owned by Northwestern University. (A different beach by the same name is still managed by the university today.) Through an agreement with the city, the university permitted Lincoln Street beach, which was located on a small portion of the university’s shoreline, to be used by the city of Evanston as a public bathing beach.[16]

Bathers at an Evanston beach, n.d. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

As improvements were made, and as Evanston as a city grew, the city’s government and many residents would increasingly view the city’s beaches not as places that were fully public. Instead, they were spaces in need of monitoring; places in need of a watchful eye to ensure both safety and “propriety.” And particularly after World War I, many viewed beaches as sites of potential racial conflict.

Evanston was just miles away from where one the United States’ largest race riots took place. The 1919 Chicago race riot had begun on a hot July day in the waters of Lake Michigan: Seventeen year old Eugene Williams was swimming in the water near Twenty-ninth street when he crossed the invisible line separating the “white beach” from the “Black beach.” One or more white men on the beach began throwing stones at Williams and as a result Williams drowned.[17]

No law segregated the beach, but it was tacitly understood that specific parts of the beach were divided by race, separated by an “imaginary boundary.”[18]

Evanston’s beaches were also not officially segregated. But, just as in Chicago, boundaries also existed. Prior to World War II, there existed what was informally called the “colored bathing beach” in Evanston. Since 1909, it was widely understood that the site, a small expanse located near Greenwood Beach just off Lake Street, was the only city beach that Black bathers were welcome to use.[19]  

Lake St. Beach (Colored People).” This 1940 map of Evanston is one of the few known official documents that provides evidence of the segregation of the city’s beaches. Today, there is no “Lake St. Beach.” That erstwhile beach is now part of Greenwood Beach. The larger area, which was also once the location of Dempster Street beach, has undergone significant changes over the years. Map of Evanston, Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, 1940.

While segregation of the beaches was not explicitly codified by the city, the authority to enforce just who was or wasn’t allowed on which beaches lay in the hands of city residents, city officials, Evanston police, and beach guards. No ordinance or posted placards were necessary to enforce these unwritten rules. “There were no signs such as ‘whites only,’ ” as some Black residents recalled of Evanston decades ago, “but everyone knew where they were allowed and not allowed to be.”[20]

For others, there were other rules to follow. And, over the first decades of the 20th century, city officials began to exercise more explicit control over Evanston’s beaches and enforce rules to regulate the “public” spaces of the lakefront.

Syndicated illustration from “Adventures of Evanston’s Juul of a Police Woman,” June 1919. The image depicts Georgianna Juul, who served on the Evanston police force for many years. (See more below.)

Policing the Beaches

In the direct wake of the 1919 Chicago race riot, Evanston city officials would intensify the monitoring of the city’s beaches. Part of that process involved establishing expanded safety procedures, including hiring more official beach guards (aka lifeguards).

Prior to World War I, there were only a handful of official beach guards posted on Evanston beaches. Occasionally residents volunteered their services to keep watch when no guards were present.[21] And in some cases, a beach guard was a former member of the Evanston police. This was the case with Nellie Werts, formerly an Evanston police officer, who was appointed to serve as official beach “matron” at Cook Street beach in 1915. Werts’ role was to “give especial care to the women and children.” Also on duty at Cook Street beach was “Red” Whittle, a star basketball player at Northwestern University.[22] (The hiring of Northwestern students as beach guards would become commonplace through the years.) 

The beach front residence of the Corrados, Evanston City Directory, 1912. One of Evanston’s longest serving beach guards was Frank Corrado (c. 1870-1918). In 1912, Corrado was first hired as an official “keeper of the beach” at the Lee Street Beach. He later worked at Lincoln Street beach. Corrado was also in charge of running the various amenities which were supplied to bathers: clothes-changing tents, rentals of umbrellas, boats, and bathing suits (25 cents per suit per “dip”), and towel service. In his 12 years of service, Corrado rescued more than 200 people. There had never been a fatality on his watch.[23]

In order to bring some measure of safety to the shores, Evanston’s first lifesaving crew had been formed in 1871. Comprised largely of Northwestern University students, the crew was dedicated to providing lifesaving services, particularly for crews of sailing vessels. But many were the times when crew members were summoned to help save people from the lake’s dramatic waters, where the water’s frigid cold and undertow often threatened swimmers.

The United States Life Saving Station (the smaller building directly on the right of the pier) and boathouse (directly to the left of the pier), Clark Street beach, Evanston, 1894. Located on the lakefront at the south end of the Northwestern University campus, the station was completed in 1877. In 1915, the U.S. Coast Guard took over operations of the station. In 1931 it was closed permanently. The buildings were turned over to Northwestern University and were demolished in 1954. Photograph, U.S. Coast Guard.

Clark Street beach, Evanston, c. 1915-1931. Evanston’s lifesaving station and boat house are in the direct background. Photograph, Northwestern University Archives.

Lifesaving was the number one duty of the beach guards. But for some years, the haphazard appointment of guards meant that many beaches were left unpatrolled. In 1916, after a Northwestern student drowned in the lake, members of the Mary Giddings Circle, a women’s club in Evanston, hired two Northwestern students to patrol Lee Street beach from 10am to 9pm daily.[24] Just days after being hired, the new guards had already performed their first rescues.[25] 

Indeed, numerous drownings took place in the lake, and many were the times that Evanston residents saved (or tried to save) others.

In 1919, Evanston resident and champion swimmer, Marian Furness, dove off the pier at Clark Street beach after hearing the cries a 15 year old girl who was on the verge of drowning. Furness swam to her, using “the overhand crawl,” for which, the Chicago Tribune noted, she “had won numerous medals” as a student at the Evanston Academy. Furness towed the girl back to shore where she was resuscitated.

Nineteen year old Cleo Martin wasn’t a champion swimmer, but she was quick to react when she heard cries from the lake. Two friends, who had been swimming together and were about 100 yards off the shore of Lee Street Beach, became endangered by the heavy seas “thrown up by the northeast winds.” One of the swimmers had already gone under when the cries of the other swimmer attracted the attention of the people on the beach. But it was only Martin who “caught the significance” of them. She plunged in and successfully saved one of the men from drowning.[26]

Cleo Martin of Evanston – another lakeshore “heroine.” “Youth Drowns While a Girl Saves Another,” Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1928.

As city officials focused more attention on maintaining Evanston’s beaches, the process of hiring beach guards would become more formalized. And, along with lifesaving, guarding the beach would also increasingly involve policing the beach for violators of Evanston’s city codes. In particular, guards were on the lookout for violators of City Code number 1112, which stated that no one could swim in Lake Michigan without wearing a “proper” bathing suit.

Just what makes a suit “proper”? The vagueness of this city code foreshadowed a long battle over efforts to define propriety on the city’s beaches. Revised Ordinances of the City of Evanston, Illinois, 1904.

“Lakeside costumes” or bathing costumes were available for rental at some Evanston’s beaches (with tents or huts provided for changing clothes). But with the rise in the popularity of bathing as recreation, manufactured fashionable suits became more widely available, and not all were considered proper by those in power to enforce standards.

Indeed, Evanston officials were determined that nothing improper be worn or seen on the city’s shores. To help enforce the code, officials would rely heavily for many years on one woman: Georgianna Juul, an Evanston police officer who served on the force from 1915 to 1940.

Among her other duties, OfficerJuul was tasked with beach patrol. She was certainly not the sole officer who was assigned beach duty, but she soon became somewhat notorious as she doggedly pursued anyone in violation of the city’s dress code for bathers.[27] By 1921, Juul had even taken to using a rowboat “to pursue bathers in abbreviated suits.”[28] Juul’s actions were part of the city’s larger efforts to monitor the public spaces of the lakefront.

Born in Norway, Georgianna Juul (1886-1952) had a long career on the police force and was involved in various crime investigations. She also served on Evanston’s film censorship board.[29] Chicago Tribune, May 1, 1915.

Clark Street Beach, c. 1920s. Postcard, Evanston History Center Archives.

In the 1920s – in the wake of the Chicago race riot and in the midst of Prohibition – regulation of the city’s beaches would intensify. At that time, Evanston officials had begun waging a battle against what they identified as the “crime wave” that had swept the city. Like other cities across the country, Evanston beefed up law enforcement as officials sought to battle bootlegging and other vice related crimes; they also began to expand police infrastructure, impose greater surveillance, and pass a variety of city ordinances that restricted behavior.  

In 1921, the city formed a special “aerial police force” whose two members patrolled the lakefront by plane.[30] Policing of the city’s beaches was also conducted by others granted special authority, from beach guards to beach police. (As late as 1962, Evanston’s lifeguards and lakefront director were sworn in as “special police.”[31])

In 1927, former Chicago police officer, William O. Freeman (1886-1961), was appointed Evanston’s Chief of Police.[32] For 12 years, Freeman led the city’s crime fighting efforts. Freeman was notorious for his “no nonsense” approach to anything that smacked of impropriety. His efforts ranged from waging a “war on vagrants” – whereby officers were ordered to arrest anyone in Evanston “without visible means of support” –  to ordering the arrest of anyone playing the ukulele on a beach after 9pm.[33]

In May 1931, as Officer Georgiana Juul continued her patrol of the lakefront, she issued her own edict ordering all “feminine bathers” at Evanston beaches to wear skirted bathing suits and to cover their backs. “The one piece streamlined model,” Juul ordered, “is to be regarded as illegal for both men and women.”[34] Also outlawed were white bathing suits and men were ordered to cover their chests at all times.

“The practice of dropping the upper part of the suit to the waistline is prohibited. No tank suit of any description shall be permitted unless warm with trunks.” These were just a few of the numerous rules at Northwestern University beaches. The university, along with Evanston, also barred: “all white or flesh [sic] colored suits.”

Beach goer, Evanston beach, 1925. “Women may wear jersey knit suits, provided the suit has a skirt, or a skirt effect, or trunks, not shorter than 7 inches above the knee. Bathers going to or from the beaches much must wear bathrobes or coats closed in the front,” read Northwestern’s beach regulations.[35] Evanston also outlawed the wearing of bathing suits on city streets. Violators would be arrested and charged with indecency. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Despite the fact that both the city and Northwestern University imposed strict codes, it was Juul’s order that caused a stir nationwide. “Police woman on Evanston beaches,” one paper teased, “rules that feminine bathers must wear about everything but the kitchen stove. Sun back suits, one piece suits exposing the leg (limb in Evanston) more than six inches above the knee, shirtless suits and other indecent attire are positively prohibited on Evanston beaches by the decree issued by Policewoman Juul today. A highly moral and acceptable bathing costume for ladies will be red flannel, wrist-to-ankle underwear, hoop skirt with bustle, turtleneck sweater, shoes, stockings, cape and picture hat.”[36]

In July 1929, Chief of Police Freeman announced that he would have arrested and charged with indecent exposure “any woman who walks through the streets in a backless bathing suit and nothing more.”[37] Freeman’s pledge was partly a reaction to the City Council’s failure to pass an ordinance regulating specific bathing suit styles (rather than using the generic term “proper”). As Charles Byrnes, Evanston’s Superintendent of Recreation, put it, the City’s policy was that “Bathers need only follow common standards of decency. They may deviate from conservative styles as long as their costumes are not too extreme.”[38]

With this, legal as well as moral authority was directly placed in the hands of individual police officers and beach guards to determine just who or what they defined as “improper.” Northwestern University officials explicitly outlined this kind of authority when they authorized their beach guards “to expel anyone from the beaches whose suit in his or their discretion is not in conformity with public decency.”[39]

City residents, especially those living near the beaches, would regularly summon the police after witnessing any “indecent” activities. One summer day in 1918, for example, a resident called the police after watching several people parked near the beach, changing their clothes in their car. The police arrived. They were all arrested.[40]

Since the vast majority of the city’s policing/guarding roles were filled by men (despite the attention Georgianna Juul received), it was clear that women venturing onto Evanston’s beaches would be subject not only to the male gaze, but also, on occasion, the measuring tape.

“Relaxing” at the beach, Daily News, July 2, 1929. Evanston officials were serious when it came to recreation. In 1930, one hapless Evanston beach visitor was fined $5 for baring her unclothed arm and shoulder out of a curtained car window while she was parked near the beach.[41]

Men, of course, were also subject to scrutiny and even arrest on Evanston’s beaches. In July 1929, two men were arrested and later fined for disorderly conduct after they had taken a swim at an Evanston beach dressed in their street clothes.[42] “Clothing at beach considered crime in Evanston IL,” read the headline of the Associated Press story that was carried in papers across the country. One of the men told a reporter that he was “disturbed” by the incident. “Why in Chicago everybody bathes with clothes on and no one complaints about it,” he said. “I was just trying to sober my friend and was ducking him when the police came,” he explained.[43]

A year later, a 33 year old Chicago resident was convicted of “indecent exposure” after he removed his shoes and socks at Evanston’s Clark Street beach. The police officer who arrested him told a reporter that he had been watching the man closely. Once the man had taken off his shoes and socks, the officer explained, it was clear that he intended to change into his bathing suit in his car in “defiance of the law.”[44]

Evanston beach, 1922. Hey, kid! Cover up! It was not until 1934 that the Evanston City Council voted to allow women to wear white bathing suits (previously barred) and men to wear swimming trunks (rather than the one-piece tank style previously required.)[45] Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Legalized Restrictions

In 1920, Evanston city officials paid $6,000 a year to advertising specialist Charles Ward “to extol the advantages of the summer suburb as a summer resort.”[46] The campaign was a success.

As a result, in July 1921, City Council members declared that Evanston’s “hometown folks” were being “crowded out of their own parks, beaches and amusement places.”[47] Many in Evanston sounded an alarm: the city’s beaches were undergoing a “ruthless invasion” by Chicagoans. Reports of tens of thousands of people coming to Evanston to take a dip in the lake alarmed many residents, City Council members, and the mayor. The terms “invaders,” “undesirables,” and even “hoodlums” were widely used to describe these interlopers and there was no question: they were not welcome on Evanston’s beaches.[48]

“Chicago’s unwashed” are trying “to crowd us off our Lake beaches,” warned one Evanston official.[49] Also noted were the “invaders’” general “trashing” of the beaches and generally “unpleasant” behavior. Many Evanston residents who lived near the beaches were outraged to see the congestion brought by the “invaders:” cars were reportedly “parked on sideways, parkways, and on private lawns,” as a local paper reported. “In some places cars were parked 5 deep with no chance of them getting disentangled until the outside cars were moved first.”[50] Evanston City Council member A.J. Smith stoked the hysteria when he claimed that not only were “Chicago hoodlums” monopolizing Evanston bathing beaches but they were occasionally “even throwing people in the lake.”[51]

Police Chief Freeman pledged to double down on patrolling the beaches. If he “is able to tell a respected Evanston citizen from a ‘Chicago hoodlum’ in a bathing suit,” the press noted of Freeman, “he will keep the Chicagoans off Evanston bathing beaches.”[52]

Now Evanston city officials took their first legal action to restrict the city’s beaches: In July 1921, Evanston Mayor Harry Pearsons ordered the police to enforce “a new ordinance prohibiting automobiles without the Evanston license from parking near the beaches, parks and on downtown streets.”[53] And thus, Evanston became the first North Shore community to restrict access to its beaches by “forbidding motorists with Chicago license tags from parking in the vicinity of the beach.”[54]

As a result of the new restriction, Evanston now began a battle with Chicago, to some degree, that would continue for years. It was pointed out that while it was perfectly acceptable for Evanston residents to go south and enjoy all the recreational activities Chicago had to offer, the reverse seemed not to be the case. In fact, Evanston was charged with looking down on the “Chicago riff raff” in its undemocratic effort to keep out “undesirables.” “There is a suspicion among some people,” one newspaper observed, “that Evanston . . . is becoming somewhat snooty.”[55]

The story of Evanston’s battle to limit beach access reached both coasts and everywhere in between. Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1930.

“ ‘There’ muttered the North Shore with tight lips,” one reporter wrote after Evanston’s parking restriction went into effect, “ ‘We’ve raked up their banana peels, their watermelon rinds, their debris littered paper plates. We’ve made a bonfire of their crumpled papers. We’ve straightened up the torn and twisted flowers and bushes. It looks like Arcady again.”[56]

Other North Shore towns soon followed suit. Through imposing similar restrictions, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, and Lake Forest now also refused to allow out of towners to “tarry in their sanctified atmospheres.”[57]

But Evanston’s new restriction proved not enough to keep all “invaders” from the city’s beaches.

By 1922, an estimated 650 to 1800 people were visiting Evanston beaches on a daily basis. Calvary and Main Street beaches were the most popular, with Clark Street beach coming in third.[58] Use of the beaches increased steadily, and by 1929, Evanston broke all records, with an estimated 650,000 people said to have visited the beaches in the 1929 season. On one particularly hot day, an estimated 122,000 bathers were at the beaches, or twice the population of the city.[59] Meanwhile, Chicago’s beaches saw a decrease in attendance.[60]

Clark Street Beach, 1930. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

To the north of Evanston, some towns were able to control access to the beaches readily. In Wilmette and Kenilworth, for instance, city officials now easily “ruled out” any “undesired” visitors by erecting bathhouse entrances to their beaches. But, as was noted in the press, Evanston, “with its string of open beaches,” was “hard pressed as usual for excuses to keep out the outsiders.”[61]

In July 1931 members of the Evanston City Council found a way to control access. But it would take some time to work out the details of the new plan. First, City Council members passed an ordinance requiring nonresidents to pay a $1 fee to use the city’s beaches. Also passed was a more restrictive parking measure for streets near the city’s beaches. A week later, on July 8, 1931, city officials and City Council members met in a closed door special session to discuss a new ordinance allowing the city to “regulate the city’s bathing beaches.”[62]

That night, by a vote of 12 to 1, the new ordinance was passed.

As a result of the new ordinance, city officials now planned to “restrict” two of the city’s beaches by erecting fences around them and charging admission to everyone, both Evanston residents and non-residents alike.[63] The ordinance also reiterated the requirement that bathing suits “must meet the requirements of common decency” and that no one would be permitted “to change clothing in cars or behind improvised screens under penalty of arrest.”[64]

City Council member Sherman told the Evanston News-Index why he cast the sole dissenting vote against the ordinance. He understood that “the only justification for such an ordinance was to keep out undesirable elements” and he did not feel that the ordinance went far enough to achieve that goal.[65]

“The ordinance is nondiscriminatory in its wording,” reported the Evanston News-Index, “but provides that two beaches controlled by the city shall be fenced and an admission fee charged.”[66] Evanston Mayor Charles Bartlett fully backed the new ordinance, reiterating that it “was not adopted for the purposes of keeping out persons who wish to use the bathing beaches, but it was intended to give the city the power to regulate conditions.”[67] 

While initially City Council members agreed to restrict only two beaches, that number soon doubled: The ordinance ordered fences to be erected around four of the city’s seven municipal beaches. These four now became “closed” or “restricted” beaches. Each would not only be physically enclosed, but also guarded at the entrances.

Now, anyone who wished “to bathe in privacy at four closed beaches in Evanston” was required to go to Evanston’s city hall and purchase a season ticket or buy a daily ticket (50 cents per “dip,” per person). A season ticket cost $1 per family. Tickets for children under the age of 14 were 25 cents.[68] “Anyone attempting to use the restricted beaches without paying the customary fee,” the City ordered, “will be subject to arrest and a fine of not less than $1 or more than $50.”[69]

Immediately, construction crews began building the fences.[70]

Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1931. The City of Evanston spent a reported $1300 to fence the four beaches, and in the first month of beach restrictions, it took in $2500 in revenue through the sale of beach tokens. A decade later, the city reported taking in $11,300 in a single season’s beach token sales.[71]

The ordinance was explained to the public as “a means of regulating the beaches so as to avoid a repetition of the extreme congestion which occurred some weeks ago.”[72] Also noted was the assertion that “many bathers abused the privileges of public property use. The parkways were strewn with debris. There were many complaints of unnecessary exposure.”[73]

The morning that beach tokens went on sale, three hundred people jammed into city hall and the clerks were overrun. The supply of tickets was quickly exhausted and many were told to return the next week.[74]

The 1931 beach token (pictured upper left) was the first beach token issued by the city. Officials instructed residents that they could easily wear the tokens by hanging them around their necks or attaching them to their beach garb. Around the same time, Northwestern University also began to require beach tokens for those who wished to gain access to the university’s private beaches.[75] Evanston Beach Tokens and Passes, Collection of the Evanston History Center.

At the same time the beach ordinance was passed, the City Council also acted on a petition received by over 500 Evanston residents, who demanded that parking near the beaches be more strictly regulated. The City Council complied.

As the new beach restrictions went into effect, new 15-minute parking restrictions went into effect within a “restricted area” that “extended from South Blvd north to University Place from the lake to Judson Avenue including all intersecting streets” on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays throughout the beach season. All cars, both those owned by residents and visitors alike, were subject to the parking restriction.[76] Evanston police were “instructed to watch for overtime parking” and all violators “will be given a ticket to appear in police court. Warrants will be issued for anyone failing to respond to the ticket summons.”[77]

On Sunday, July 19, 1931, the beach fee system went into effect.

Evanston’s Three Free Beaches, 1931:

Calvary, Greenwood, and Clark Street

Evanston’s Four Restricted Beaches, 1931:

 South Boulevard, Lee Street, Main Street, and Lincoln Street

Soon, the reports were in: Each of the free beaches saw a rise in attendance. Clark Street beach saw the sharpest jump, with an increase of 4,000 visitors in one day. Closed beaches saw a decline. The most notable decline was seen at Lee Street Beach which counted 16,000 visitors prior to the restriction going into effect and then plummeted to 6,000.[78] Overall, a 2/3 decline in attendance was noted at the restricted beaches.[79] Over time, it was observed, the fee system caused beachgoing “congestion to shift” to the city’s free beaches, leaving the restricted beaches far less crowded.[80]

Closed beach, Lincoln Street Beach, Evanston, 1932. In the 1940s, Northwestern University issued a reminder that the Lincoln Street beach was university property, but Evanston had been permitted to operate the beach for public use.[81] Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

After the restrictions went into effect, Evanston police continued to patrol all the beaches. On a single day in July, a total of seven men were arrested on one of the city’s free beaches, Calvary beach. The men had dropped the “straps of their suits to the waist” and proceeded to bask in the sun “in full view of other hundreds of users of the beach.” Brought before Evanston’s police magistrate and charged with indecent exposure, each plead not guilty. They explained that they had “supposed they were on a Chicago beach where police are not concerned with such ‘trivialities’ of the question of public modesty.” Their defense did not sit well with the magistrate, who ordered each of the men to pay a five dollar fine as an example to “others who take the attitude that Evanston police vigilance existed only on paper.”[82] 

Parking restrictions near the city’s beaches provided an opportunity for Evanston’s taxi fleets to promote their services. Advertisement, Evanston News-Index, July 20, 1932.

Opposition

After the fences went up, most of the Evanston City Council members, along with the Mayor, congratulated themselves for arriving at a solution to regulate the city’s beaches, stating that the ordinance allowing the city to charge admission to the four closed beaches “makes no discrimination against nonresidents.”[83] And in fact, the access fees were the same regardless of where one lived.

But the reality of these restrictions told a different story.

Just after the announcement was made that four of the city’s beaches would be restricted, somebody dumped a large amount of oil in the water off the newly-restricted Lee Street beach. “Many believed it to be retaliation for the charges and fences,” an observer noted.[84] 

Many others were outraged by the restrictions and a few spoke out.

When the City Council members first presented the idea of charging a beach fee to non-residents, John Henry Wigmore (1863-1943), an Evanston resident and former dean of the law school at Northwestern University, made his opposition known. In an open letter published in the Evanston News-Index and other papers, Wigmore, who lived near the lakefront at 207 Lake Street, challenged the City Council’s publicly stated reasons for imposing beach restrictions.

As far as attempting to curb “disorderly conduct” on the beaches, Wigmore wrote: “Nothing of the kind takes place. My residence directly overlooks the lakefront park. On the last two hot Sundays and Saturdays several thousands of happy families have come there. A more orderly, well behaved gathering we have never seen. Not a squabble, not a yell or scream, not a shout, no coarse language. It might have been a Sunday school picnic.”[85]

As to whether out of towners were “crowding out Evanstonians” from the beaches, Wigmore asserted: “There was room for plenty more people if they had wanted to come. Parking cars in the side streets? Yes, they did park cars along my house front, and doubtless all the other side streets and house fronts for several hours, but what of it? Whose street is it? Not the abutters. It is a public highway. Dozens of Evanston streets are filled every day and night with cars parked in front of other persons’ premises.”[86]  

Wigmore concluded by questioning the “attitude” of city officials. “Just because an Evanston citizen owns or leases a piece of land,” he stated, “does not entitle him morally to crowd out of Evanston public parkland and beaches any person who happens not to live in Evanston.”[87]

Others pointed out that the city’s free beaches shared a common trait: they were all fairly “removed from private residential districts.”[88] As such, visitors to those beaches were less likely to bother residents near the lakefront who lived in expensive homes. Additionally, the free beaches, it was noted, were either impossible to fence or of lesser quality. According to one Black Evanston resident, the free beaches were “full of stones, glass, and refuse, and the worst one of them all is set aside for the Negroes to use. This Jim-Crow beach is totally unfit for use,” he asserted.[89]

Edwin B. Jourdain, Jr. (1900-1986) pictured in 1932. In April 1931, Jourdain was elected to the Evanston City Council as alderman for the city’s Fifth Ward. He was Evanston’s first Black City Council member. In early 1932, however, he was dramatically unseated from office, charged by his opponent with (unsubstantiated) election “irregularities.” In April 1932, Jourdain ran again, won again, and took his seat, serving on the council until 1947.

One of the leading voices against segregation in Evanston was City Council member, Edwin B. Jourdain, Jr. In a letter to his friend, W.E.B. DuBois, co-founder of the N.A.A.C.P., Jourdain wrote of his outrage at the city’s history of forcing Black people “to sit in balconies only of movie houses [and] to use only a ‘colored bathing beach’ on the lake-front,” among other practices.[90] But just four years into office, Jourdain had made numerous advances in his fight against segregation in Evanston. By 1935, he defeated a rule prohibiting “mixed” baseball games on city-owned diamonds; secured the abolition of discrimination in “the seating of movie patrons;” changed the hiring examination system in relation to hiring Black life guards; and secured “a ruling by the Mayor before the City Council against segregated bathing beaches in Evanston.”[91]

Despite the beach ruling, however, the system of requiring the purchase of tokens to access closed beaches continued. And it was precisely this system that appears to have provided city officials with a means to continue to control access without codifying any restrictions further. According to a 2018 interview conducted by Shorefront Legacy Center with Spencer Jourdain, the youngest son of Edwin B. Jourdain, Jr., the continued use of the beach token system offered a “workaround that did not require written policies.” Spencer Jourdain explained that the beach token system allowed city officials “to screen Black residents and block them from purchasing the tokens . . . The exclusion was maintained by the use of tokens to help maintain the ‘beautification’ of some of the beaches, and to keep Blacks – and other ‘undesirables’ out.”[92]

Challenges

On July 17, 1936, Northwestern University student, William Yancy Bell, Jr. purchased a beach token for admission to a Northwestern University bathing beach. According to The Crisis ​magazine, when Bell “presented himself for admission, he was told he could not enter because he was colored.”[93] Bell insisted upon his right to enter and was told by the beach guard that “he would be thrown out if he tried to enter.”[94] Bell stood his ground while the guards ordered “all of the people on the beach, including Bell, to withdraw from the enclosed beach and then the captain of the lifeguards stood at the entrance and let every white bather return and then barred Bellfrom entering under ‘pain of physical ejection.’ ”[95]

A few months later, Bell was represented by Irvin C. Mollison of the N.A.A.C.P in a lawsuit against Northwestern for $5,000 in damages for denying Bell access to the university’s bathing beach. The lawsuit charged the university with violating Bell’s civil rights. University officials responded that the 1885 Civil Rights Act of Illinois was not applicable in this case since Northwestern was a “charitable” institution and, as such, exempt from the law.[96] University lawyers reportedly “sought to evade a trial on the merits of the case, knowing that the testimony will disclose that the denial of Bell the use of the beach after he had paid for it can be explained only on the grounds that Bell was colored.”[97] The judge in the case denied a motion to dismiss the case.[98]

William Yancy Bell, Jr. (c. 1914 -1967) graduated from Northwestern University with honors, with a BA degree in classics. Bell took part in numerous efforts to fight segregation and discrimination at Northwestern University and in the city of Evanston.   

Like the city of Evanston, Northwestern University did have restrictions and rules governing the use of its beaches. But nowhere did the university state that its beaches were accessible only to white students, faculty, and staff. But just as with the City of Evanston, Northwestern enforced segregation by practice and behavior, not by policy.

In 1942, A.L. Foster, executive director of the Chicago Urban League and a resident of Glencoe, Illinois, won a permanent injunction restraining Glencoe officials from denying beach use to Black residents.[99] The case was brought by Foster himself after he and his family members had been denied access to the beach. Foster expressed his hope that his victory in winning the injunction would cause Black residents “in other north shore villages to insist upon the right to use the beaches.” “It is my understanding,” Foster observed, “that Negroes are discriminated against in the use of beaches in Evanston, Kenilworth, Wilmette and Winnetka as well as those beaches in villages farther north.”[100]

In the years after passage of the ordinance allowing Evanston officials to regulate the beaches, however, restrictions would only intensify. And, gradually, even Evanston’s free beaches would become restricted. By 1945, only two of the city’s beaches were free.[101] By 1948, Evanston was charging admission to six of the city’s seven beaches. The only free beach was the “Davis-Lake” beach, which had historically been labelled the “colored beach.”[102] By 1956, there were no free beaches in Evanston, although Evanston’s Recreation Board allowed those in need of financial assistance to present their cases to the board.

In 1968, the north office of Cook County Legal Assistance took notice and announced it was legally challenging admission rates to public bathing beaches in Evanston and other north shore communities including Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lake Forest, and Lake Bluff. 

“Legally the use and benefit of Lake Michigan should be open to all state residents without distinction,” said Leo Holt, lead attorney. Holt also challenged the establishment of a “free token system” for low income residents. “The free token system fails to reach great numbers of low-income residents who have no established contact with one of the referring agencies,” he said.[103]

Leo Ellwood Holt brought the lawsuit against Evanston and other north shore cities and towns. As a young criminal defense lawyer, Holt represented numerous civil rights activists. In 1966, Holt represented Martin Luther King Jr. during the open housing marches in Chicago.[104] In 1986, Holt was elected Cook County Circuit Court judge. Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1968.

Evanston prevailed in defending the practice of restricting beach access. And, as readers may know, the practice continues to be discussed and debated. Most recently, in 2021, (almost exactly 90 years after the passage of the city’s beach restriction ordinance) the Evanston City Council addressed the issue of beach access. While a proposal to allow entirely free beach access was not adopted, by a majority vote, the council voted to allow Evanston residents free beach access on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.[105] 

And thus, the history of Evanston’s beaches continues to unfold.

City of Evanston website (accessed July 15, 2021)

  • Do you have a beach-related story or photo to add to this history? We welcome hearing from you! Please email Jenny Thompson at jthompson@evanstonhistorycenter.org

[1] Joseph D. Kearney and Thomas W. Merrill, “Contested Shore: Property Rights in Reclaimed Land and the Battle for Streeterville,” 107 NW. U. L. REV. 1057 (2013), 1109. For more see: John N. Low, Chicago’s First Urban Indians – the Potawatomi. PhD dissertation. The University of Michigan, 2011.

[2] For years, the waterfront along Sheridan Road and Sheridan Square was identified variously as South Boulevard beach, Keeney Street beach, and Calvary (Cemetery) beach. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Impact Statement: Beach Erosion Control at South Boulevard Beach, Evanston, Illinois (Chicago: U.S. Army Engineer District, 1975), 7.

[3] “The Summer School,” Northwestern University Bulletin (Volume 18) 1918, 4.

[4] “Open Lincoln Street Beach on Saturday,” Evanston News Index, June 26, 1917.

[5] “Fair Bathers and Big Rats Use Beach,” Chicago Defender, August 10, 1912.

[6] Throughout this article, I quote materials that use the term “colored” and other antiquated and racist terms. I do so in original context only.

[7] “Will Bar Negro Bathers on Complaint of Women,” Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1909.

[8] “Will Bar Negro Bathers on Complaint of Women,” Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1909.

[9] “New Recreation Board is Named For Evanston,” Chicago Tribune, January 18, 1953.

[10] Lee Street beach had been patronized by the great majority of the city’s bathers in earlier years. “Open Lincoln Street Beach on Saturday,” Evanston News Index, June 26, 1917.

[11] “Cook Street Bathing Beach is Now Open,” Evanston News Index, June 24, 1915.

[12] “Beach Regulations,” Daily Northwestern, June 28, 1932.

[13] Evanston Small Park and Playground Association, Plan of Evanston (Evanston, IL: Bowman Publishing Company, 1917), 45-47.

[14] “City’s Beaches Excellent Bathing Spot,” Evanston News-Index, July 2 1917.

[15] “Open Lincoln Street Beach on Saturday,” Evanston News-Index, June 26, 1917. The Lincoln Street beach that exists in 2021 is not the same beach as was opened in 1917. The newer beach was created after the university’s 1962 project to extend the campus by adding landfill into Lake Michigan. After that project was completed, the beach was reserved for university and staff only. There is some dispute over who owns the beach. See Genevieve Bookwalter, “Northwestern, Evanston Officials Differ on Rules For Campus Beach,” Pioneer Press, July 16, 2019.

[16] “Beach Regulations,” Daily Northwestern, June 28, 1932.

[17] Chicago Commission on Race Relations, The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1922), 596.

[18] Chicago Commission on Race Relations, The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot, 4

[19] E[dwin] B. Jourdain, Jr. to W.E.B. Du Bois, February 17, 1939, W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312) Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries, http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-b088-i365; Shorefront Legacy Center, interview with Spencer Jourdain, 2018.

[20] Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 63.

[21] “Offer Services to City as Main Street Guards,” Evanston News-Index, July 16, 1921.

[22] “Cook Street Bathing Beach is Now Open,” Evanston News Index, June 24, 1915.

[23] United States Census, 1910, Chicago Ward 17, Cook, Illinois, United States. In 1890, Frank and his wife Mary immigrated to the United States from Italy. They settled in Chicago and Frank Corrado worked as a fruit peddler. The couple had nine children. Prior to being appointed beach keeper, Frank and his family moved to Evanston and lived at 97 Dempster Street. In 1917, the Evanston City Council awarded Corrado a gold medal in honor of his service. Corrado died of a heart attack while vacationing in Monterey, California, in October 1918. “Frank Corrado Drops Dead of Heart Failure,” Evanston News-Index, October 10, 1918.

[24] “Evanston Women Hire Guards for Lee Beach,” Chicago Tribune, August 6, 1916.

[25] “4 Rescues in Day Record of 15 Year Old Life Guard,” Chicago Tribune, August 10, 1916.

[26] “Youth Drowns While a Girl Saves Another,” Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1928.

[27] “Evanston Beach Opens July 4,” Chicago Tribune, June 25, 1914. Before being appointed Cook Street beach matron, Nellie Werts had served on Evanston’s police force. As “Evanston’s policewoman,” she was tasked with beach patrol, along with patrolling parks and other “places of amusement.” Juul succeeded Werts.

[28] “Coppette Needs a Rowboat at Evanston Beach,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1921. 

[29] “Mrs. Georgianna Juul,” Chicago Tribune, October 30, 1952.

[30] Aerial police from U.S. Air Service, “Will Chicago Become Center of Aircraft Industry,” August 1922, 23; “Evanston Installs Aerial Police to Keep Down Crime,” Decatur Herald, June 7, 1921.

[31] “Guards Become Special Police,” Evanston Review, June 21, 1962.

[32] “New Chief,” Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1927.

[33] “Benefactor,” Indianapolis Times, June 22, 1931. By 1934, Freeman even implored all Evanston residents to come to the police headquarters and get fingerprinted. It would be “valuable,” he said, “in case anything happens.” “Police Chief Invites All to Get Fingerprinted,” Press and Sun-Bulletin, April 3, 1934.

[34] “Police in Evanston Ready to War on Scanty Beach Suits,” Chicago Tribune, May 4, 1931; “Evanston’s Beach Sirens May Wear ‘Conscience Suits,’ ” Decatur Herald, June 12, 1931.

[35] “Beach Regulations,” Daily Northwestern, June 28, 1932.

[36] “Ultraviolet Ray Business Considered Just Hooey,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 6, 1931. 

[37] “Evanston Police War on Backless Bathing Suit,” Daily News, July 2, 1929; “Modesty by Rule,” Daily News, July 2, 1929.

[38] “Evanston’s Beach Sirens May Wear ‘Conscience Suits,’ ” Decatur Herald, June 12, 1931.

[39] “Beach Regulations,” Daily Northwestern, June 28, 1932.

[40] “Highway as Dressing Room? Not in Evanston,” Chicago Tribune, July 26, 1918.

[41] “What’da Leg Go?” Santa Cruz Evening News, September 4, 1930.

[42] “Evanston Men Fined For Swimming Fully Clad,” The Times, August 13, 1929.

[43] “Clothing at Beach Considered Crime in Evanston IL,” The Star Tribune, July 17, 1929.

[44] “Removes Shoes at Beach in Evanston; Is Fined $5,” Chicago Tribune, August 13, 1930.

[45] “Bulletin,” Decatur Daily Review, May 22, 1934.

[46] “Find Advertising Paid All Too Well,” Decatur Herald, July 8, 1921.

[47] “Find Advertising Paid All Too Well,” Decatur Herald, July 8, 1921.

[48] “A ‘Tough’ Job,” Indianapolis Times, June 30 1932.

[49] “In the Wake of the News,” Chicago Tribune, August 3, 1921.

[50] “Parking ban is in Effect at Lake Front,” Evanston News Index, July 10, 1931.

[51] “A ‘Tough’ Job,” Indianapolis Times, June 30 1932.

[52] “A ‘Tough’ Job,” Indianapolis Times, June 30 1932.

[53] “Find Advertising Paid All Too Well,” Decatur Herald, July 8, 1921.

[54] “Bathing Beaches on North Shore Bar Chicagoans,” Waukegan Daily Sun, July 22, 1921.

[55] “Object to the Chicago Riffraff,” Potsville Evening Republican, July 8, 1930.

[56] “Bathing Beaches on North Shore Bar Chicagoans,” Waukegan Daily Sun, July 22, 1921.

[57] “Bathing Beaches on North Shore Bar Chicagoans,” Waukegan Daily Sun, July 22, 1921.

[58] “Four Drowned Toll of Local Beach Season,” Evanston News Index, September 25, 1922.

[59] “Cooler Weather Makes Evanston a Generous Neighbor,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1931.

[60] “Beach Crowds Decrease; High Lake to Blame?” Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1929.

[61] “Shore Suburbs Open Beaches – To Home Folk,” Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1931.

[62] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[63] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[64] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[65] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[66] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[67] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[68] “Beach Fences in Evanston to Rise this Week,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1931.

[69] “City Workers Begin Erection of Fences at Four Beaches,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[70] “City Workers Begin Erection of Fences at Four Beaches,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[71] “Evanston Beaches Attract Record Crowd This Year,” Chicago Tribune, August 24, 1941.

[72] “Continue Rush for Evanston Beach Tickets,” Evanston News-Index, July 18, 1931.

[73] “Continue Rush for Evanston Beach Tickets,” Evanston News-Index, July 18, 1931.

[74] “Continue Rush for Evanston Beach Tickets,” Evanston News-Index, July 18, 1931.

[75] “This Bather Objects to N.U. Beach Tokens,” Daily Northwestern, August 1, 1935.

[76] “Parking Ban at Lakefront Will Become Effective Tomorrow,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[77] “Parking Ban is in Effect at Lake Front,” Evanston News Index, July 10, 1931.

[78] “Fees Cut Beach Attendance,” Evanston News Index, July 20, 1931.

[79] “Fees Cut Beach Attendance,” Evanston News Index, July 20, 1931.

[80] “Fee Plan Crowds Free City Beaches,” Evanston News Index, July 27, 1931.

[81] “Foster St. Beach for NU Only,” Daily Northwestern, July 8, 1941.

[82] ‘ ‘Sun Bathing’ Charges Bring 7 Into Court,” Evanston News-Index, July 27, 1931.

[83] “Beach Fences in Evanston to Rise this Week,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1931.

[84] “Oil Fails to Calm Evanston Bathing Beach Troubles,” Times Herald, July 17, 1931.

[85] “Dean Wigmore Attacks City’s Beach Fee Plan,” Evanston News-Index, July 2, 1931.

[86] “Dean Wigmore Attacks City’s Beach Fee Plan,” Evanston News-Index, July 2, 1931.

[87] “Dean Wigmore Attacks City’s Beach Fee Plan,” Evanston News-Index, July 2, 1931.

[88] “Cooler Weather Makes Evanston a Generous Neighbor,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1931.

[89] “Good Beaches in Evanston Fenced Off from Workers,” Daily Worker, July 3, 1933.

[90] (E[dwin] B. Jourdain, Jr. to W.E.B. Du Bois, February 17, 1939, W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312) Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries, http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-b088-i365.

[91] “Evanston Wants Jim Crow; Fights For It,” Chicago Defender, February 16, 1935.

[92] Shorefront Legacy Center, Conversation with Spencer Jourdain, 2018.

[93] “State-Wide Battle on Illinois Jim Crow,” The Crisis, February 1937, 43.

[94] “State-Wide Battle on Illinois Jim Crow,” The Crisis, February 1937, 43.

[95] “Wins Point in Northwestern Jim Crow Suit,” Indianapolis Recorder, December 5, 1936.

[96] “State-Wide Battle on Illinois Jim Crow,” ​The Crisis,​ February 1937, 43; ​See also Jenny Thompson, The Takeover 1968: Student Protest, Campus Politics, and Black Student Activism at Northwestern University (Evanston: Evanston History Center Press, 2019),​ 35-36.

[97] “Wins Point in Northwestern Jim Crow Suit,” Indianapolis Recorder, December 5, 1936.

[98] “Northwestern Loses Point in Lawsuit for Discrimination,” Chicago Defender, December 5, 1936.

[99] “Services Set for A. Foster, Business Man,” Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1968.

[100] A.L. Foster, Letter to the Editor, Chicago Bee, August 2, 1942.

[101] National Urban League. Dept. of Research and Community Projects., and Evanston Council of Social Agencies, Economic and Cultural Problems in Evanston, Illinois, As They Relate To The Colored Population: A Study (Evanston, Illinois: The Council, 1945), 78. In 1932, it was reported that only one of Evanston’s five beaches was free. Charles E. Reed, Charges and Fees for Community Recreation Facilities and Activities of Public Park, Recreation and School Systems (New York: National Recreation Association, 1932), 40.

[102] “Summer Play for Evanston’s Youths at Hand,” Chicago Tribune, June 20, 1948. By 1953, all but one of Evanston’s six public bathing beaches were restricted. “A beach at Greenwood St, included with the Dempster Street beach for planning purposes, is free while the others are on a fee basis; However, all are restricted to residents and their guests,” reported the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Shore Beach Erosion Control Study, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1953, 110.

[103] “Legal Aid Charges Evanston, Others Unfair in Beach Rates,” Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1968.

[104] Steve Bogira, “A Law Abiding Judge,” Chicago Reader, March 4, 2005.

[105] lana Arougheti, “Evanston to Offer Three Free Weekly Beach Days After Advocacy Against Token Sales,” Daily Northwestern, May 25, 2021.

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In 1913 members of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians filed a lawsuit claiming possession of a portion of the lakefront in Evanston and Chicago. “[T]he Indians cannot claim land which they abandoned eighty years ago,” wrote the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in dismissing the complaint. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the decision in 1917.[1] Evening Star, November 12, 1913.

In 1931, Evanston City Council members first passed legislation to restrict beach access. In July of that year, city officials ordered fences to be erected around four of the city’s municipal beaches and all residents and non-residents were required to pay access fees using a system of beach tokens. (See more below).

But in a variety of ways the city’s beaches had been under the control of city officials prior to those first official restrictions. As early as 1909 there is evidence that the city’s beaches had become restricted by race. Over the years, restrictions would also be enforced in ways that could be seen to target people according to gender and class. There is, to date, no comprehensive history of these restrictions and more research is needed on this topic. What is provided here is a basic outline of this history.

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Calvary Beach[2], Evanston, 1900. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

The Rise of the Bathing Beach

Evanston has discovered the summer advantages of Lake Michigan.

The sandy shores afford extensive bathing beaches.[3]

Northwestern University brochure, 1918

In the years before World War I, most of Evanston’s beaches were fairly small expanses and they were not particularly well maintained. At that time, the shores of Lake Michigan were not viewed as places for recreation in the same way they are today. People swam in the lake to be sure, but there were significant problems.

First, the lake was “in a polluted state due to the constant flow of sewage into the waters.”[4] Second, many beaches were uncomfortable; they were rocky and littered with stones, and, in some areas, refuse. (For a time, Evanston used a portion of the shorefront as a dumping ground for trash.) And finally, the lake was (as it is still today) dangerous. Accidental and intentional drownings took place on a regular basis.  

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Evanston Lakefront, c. 1914. Refuse was strewn along parts of the lakefront, indicating the poor state of most of Evanston’s beaches in the first part of the 20th century. In 1913, the beach at Dempster Street was described as “a low sandy expanse, unattractive and unimproved.” A year earlier, it was widely reported that a large number of rats were nesting on the beach.[5] Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Still, bathers did flock to various beaches. But not all visitors had equal access.

In 1909, at Evanston’s Dempster Street beach, a number of white bathers complained that Black men and Black women were “mingling with white persons” and “entering the water at the same point where the white people bathed.” They also complained that “colored men and boys”[6] were “lying on the sand and annoying white women passing along the beach or going to and from the water.”[7]

“This must stop,” said Fred G. Shaffer (1866-1936), Evanston’s chief of police. Shaffer announced he would detail a patrolman to the beach to arrest any “offenders.” “It is only proper that there should be segregation of the races,” Shaffer stated, “and this plan will be carried out. I understand that the proprietor of the lockers at the beach does not rent suits or rooms to colored persons, but they arrange in some other manner to get into the water.”[8] 

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Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1909.

Shaffer’s statement provides evidence that racial discrimination was practiced on Evanston’s beaches prior to 1909, and, as Evanston’s Black population grew in the following years, especially during the period from 1910-1930, it would continue. It was precisely during this same period that city officials began to make improvements to Evanston’s beaches.

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Around 1913, a campaign to raise funds (through taxation) to improve the city’s beaches was launched. A bit earlier, the city’s various parks departments had been established. In 1923, Evanston formed a Bureau of Recreation to manage the city’s beaches, parks, and other recreation areas.[9] Flyer, n.d., Evanston History Center Archives.

In 1914, two newly-constructed houses for bathers were opened at the popular Lee Street beach. (The beach is still extant; located between Greenleaf and Lee streets). That year, 100 bathers showed up for the opening day of the summer season.

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Beach-Goers at an Evanston Beach, n.d. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Cook Street beach (no longer extant) was another popular swimming spot, despite being reportedly “rocky and unpleasant.”[10] The beach boasted lights on the piers for evening bathing and a diving platform, with rafts available just off shore. On the beach itself, as the Evanston News-Index reported in 1915, large settees were built “for the use of mothers and nurses, from which they can more easily overlooked their charges at play in the sand.”[11]

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Cook Street beach, n.d. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Northwestern University also had its own private beaches which were “reserved for the sole use of students, faculty, and members of the administrative staff of the university.”[12] That beach too was segregated; the small number of Black students enrolled at the university were barred from the beach at least into the late 1930s. (See below.)

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View of Evanston’s northern lakefront and the Northwestern University campus, c. 1907. Visible in the foreground is Evanston’s lifesaving station and boat house. Cook Street beach lies to the north of the station. The beach is no longer there. The university’s 1962-1964 lakefill project, which created 74 acres of land and almost doubled the campus’ size, greatly altered the shoreline along the university. George R. Lawrence, Co. “Birds’ eye view of Northwestern University,” c. 1907, Library of Congress.

Public interest in beach-going steadily grew, and by World War I, Evanston city planners observed an “urgent need of bathing beaches” as more and more residents were “discovering the lakefront after years of neglect.”[13] With the opening of the drainage canal, Lake Michigan’s water quality improved, and Evanston City Council members began to establish municipal beaches.[14]

On July 1, 1917, a municipal bathing beach at Lincoln Street was opened. The beach was complete with “spacious bathhouses with good provisions for the comfort of the bathers.”[15] The beach was owned by Northwestern University. (A different beach by the same name is still managed by the university today.) Through an agreement with the city, the university permitted Lincoln Street beach, which was located on a small portion of the university’s shoreline, to be used by the city of Evanston as a public bathing beach.[16]

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Bathers at an Evanston beach, n.d. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

As improvements were made, and as Evanston as a city grew, the city’s government and many residents would increasingly view the city’s beaches not as places that were fully public. Instead, they were spaces in need of monitoring; places in need of a watchful eye to ensure both safety and “propriety.” And particularly after World War I, many viewed beaches as sites of potential racial conflict.

Evanston was just miles away from where one the United States’ largest race riots took place. The 1919 Chicago race riot had begun on a hot July day in the waters of Lake Michigan: Seventeen year old Eugene Williams was swimming in the water near Twenty-ninth street when he crossed the invisible line separating the “white beach” from the “Black beach.” One or more white men on the beach began throwing stones at Williams and as a result Williams drowned.[17]

No law segregated the beach, but it was tacitly understood that specific parts of the beach were divided by race, separated by an “imaginary boundary.”[18]

Evanston’s beaches were also not officially segregated. But, just as in Chicago, boundaries also existed. Prior to World War II, there existed what was informally called the “colored bathing beach” in Evanston. Since 1909, it was widely understood that the site, a small expanse located near Greenwood Beach just off Lake Street, was the only city beach that Black bathers were welcome to use.[19]  

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“Lake St. Beach (Colored People).” This 1940 map of Evanston is one of the few known official documents that provides evidence of the segregation of the city’s beaches. Today, there is no “Lake St. Beach.” That erstwhile beach is now part of Greenwood Beach. The larger area, which was also once the location of Dempster Street beach, has undergone significant changes over the years. Map of Evanston, Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, 1940.

While segregation of the beaches was not explicitly codified by the city, the authority to enforce just who was or wasn’t allowed on which beaches lay in the hands of city residents, city officials, Evanston police, and beach guards. No ordinance or posted placards were necessary to enforce these unwritten rules. “There were no signs such as ‘whites only,’ ” as some Black residents recalled of Evanston decades ago, “but everyone knew where they were allowed and not allowed to be.”[20]

For others, there were other rules to follow. And, over the first decades of the 20th century, city officials began to exercise more explicit control over Evanston’s beaches and enforce rules to regulate the “public” spaces of the lakefront.

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Syndicated illustration from “Adventures of Evanston’s Juul of a Police Woman,” June 1919. The image depicts Georgianna Juul, who served on the Evanston police force for many years. (See more below.)

Policing the Beaches

In the direct wake of the 1919 Chicago race riot, Evanston city officials would intensify the monitoring of the city’s beaches. Part of that process involved establishing expanded safety procedures, including hiring more official beach guards (aka lifeguards).

Prior to World War I, there were only a handful of official beach guards posted on Evanston beaches. Occasionally residents volunteered their services to keep watch when no guards were present.[21] And in some cases, a beach guard was a former member of the Evanston police. This was the case with Nellie Werts, formerly an Evanston police officer, who was appointed to serve as official beach “matron” at Cook Street beach in 1915. Werts’ role was to “give especial care to the women and children.” Also on duty at Cook Street beach was “Red” Whittle, a star basketball player at Northwestern University.[22] (The hiring of Northwestern students as beach guards would become commonplace through the years.) 

The beach front residence of the Corrados, Evanston City Directory, 1912. One of Evanston’s longest serving beach guards was Frank Corrado (c. 1870-1918). In 1912, Corrado was first hired as an official “keeper of the beach” at the Lee Street Beach. He later worked at Lincoln Street beach. Corrado was also in charge of running the various amenities which were supplied to bathers: clothes-changing tents, rentals of umbrellas, boats, and bathing suits (25 cents per suit per “dip”), and towel service. In his 12 years of service, Corrado rescued more than 200 people. There had never been a fatality on his watch.[23]

In order to bring some measure of safety to the shores, Evanston’s first lifesaving crew had been formed in 1871. Comprised largely of Northwestern University students, the crew was dedicated to providing lifesaving services, particularly for crews of sailing vessels. But many were the times when crew members were summoned to help save people from the lake’s dramatic waters, where the water’s frigid cold and undertow often threatened swimmers.

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The United States Life Saving Station (the smaller building directly on the right of the pier) and boathouse (directly to the left of the pier), Clark Street beach, Evanston, 1894. Located on the lakefront at the south end of the Northwestern University campus, the station was completed in 1877. In 1915, the U.S. Coast Guard took over operations of the station. In 1931 it was closed permanently. The buildings were turned over to Northwestern University and were demolished in 1954. Photograph, U.S. Coast Guard.

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Clark Street beach, Evanston, c. 1915-1931. Evanston’s lifesaving station and boat house are in the direct background. Photograph, Northwestern University Archives.

Lifesaving was the number one duty of the beach guards. But for some years, the haphazard appointment of guards meant that many beaches were left unpatrolled. In 1916, after a Northwestern student drowned in the lake, members of the Mary Giddings Circle, a women’s club in Evanston, hired two Northwestern students to patrol Lee Street beach from 10am to 9pm daily.[24] Just days after being hired, the new guards had already performed their first rescues.[25] 

Indeed, numerous drownings took place in the lake, and many were the times that Evanston residents saved (or tried to save) others.

In 1919, Evanston resident and champion swimmer, Marian Furness, dove off the pier at Clark Street beach after hearing the cries a 15 year old girl who was on the verge of drowning. Furness swam to her, using “the overhand crawl,” for which, the Chicago Tribune noted, she “had won numerous medals” as a student at the Evanston Academy. Furness towed the girl back to shore where she was resuscitated.

Nineteen year old Cleo Martin wasn’t a champion swimmer, but she was quick to react when she heard cries from the lake. Two friends, who had been swimming together and were about 100 yards off the shore of Lee Street Beach, became endangered by the heavy seas “thrown up by the northeast winds.” One of the swimmers had already gone under when the cries of the other swimmer attracted the attention of the people on the beach. But it was only Martin who “caught the significance” of them. She plunged in and successfully saved one of the men from drowning.[26]

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Cleo Martin of Evanston – another lakeshore “heroine.” “Youth Drowns While a Girl Saves Another,” Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1928.

As city officials focused more attention on maintaining Evanston’s beaches, the process of hiring beach guards would become more formalized. And, along with lifesaving, guarding the beach would also increasingly involve policing the beach for violators of Evanston’s city codes. In particular, guards were on the lookout for violators of City Code number 1112, which stated that no one could swim in Lake Michigan without wearing a “proper” bathing suit.

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Just what makes a suit “proper”? The vagueness of this city code foreshadowed a long battle over efforts to define propriety on the city’s beaches. Revised Ordinances of the City of Evanston, Illinois, 1904.

“Lakeside costumes” or bathing costumes were available for rental at some Evanston’s beaches (with tents or huts provided for changing clothes). But with the rise in the popularity of bathing as recreation, manufactured fashionable suits became more widely available, and not all were considered proper by those in power to enforce standards.

Indeed, Evanston officials were determined that nothing improper be worn or seen on the city’s shores. To help enforce the code, officials would rely heavily for many years on one woman: Georgianna Juul, an Evanston police officer who served on the force from 1915 to 1940.

Among her other duties, OfficerJuul was tasked with beach patrol. She was certainly not the sole officer who was assigned beach duty, but she soon became somewhat notorious as she doggedly pursued anyone in violation of the city’s dress code for bathers.[27] By 1921, Juul had even taken to using a rowboat “to pursue bathers in abbreviated suits.”[28] Juul’s actions were part of the city’s larger efforts to monitor the public spaces of the lakefront.

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Born in Norway, Georgianna Juul (1886-1952) had a long career on the police force and was involved in various crime investigations. She also served on Evanston’s film censorship board.[29] Chicago Tribune, May 1, 1915.

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Clark Street Beach, c. 1920s. Postcard, Evanston History Center Archives.

In the 1920s – in the wake of the Chicago race riot and in the midst of Prohibition – regulation of the city’s beaches would intensify. At that time, Evanston officials had begun waging a battle against what they identified as the “crime wave” that had swept the city. Like other cities across the country, Evanston beefed up law enforcement as officials sought to battle bootlegging and other vice related crimes; they also began to expand police infrastructure, impose greater surveillance, and pass a variety of city ordinances that restricted behavior.  

In 1921, the city formed a special “aerial police force” whose two members patrolled the lakefront by plane.[30] Policing of the city’s beaches was also conducted by others granted special authority, from beach guards to beach police. (As late as 1962, Evanston’s lifeguards and lakefront director were sworn in as “special police.”[31])

In 1927, former Chicago police officer, William O. Freeman (1886-1961), was appointed Evanston’s Chief of Police.[32] For 12 years, Freeman led the city’s crime fighting efforts. Freeman was notorious for his “no nonsense” approach to anything that smacked of impropriety. His efforts ranged from waging a “war on vagrants” – whereby officers were ordered to arrest anyone in Evanston “without visible means of support” –  to ordering the arrest of anyone playing the ukulele on a beach after 9pm.[33]

In May 1931, as Officer Georgiana Juul continued her patrol of the lakefront, she issued her own edict ordering all “feminine bathers” at Evanston beaches to wear skirted bathing suits and to cover their backs. “The one piece streamlined model,” Juul ordered, “is to be regarded as illegal for both men and women.”[34] Also outlawed were white bathing suits and men were ordered to cover their chests at all times.

“The practice of dropping the upper part of the suit to the waistline is prohibited. No tank suit of any description shall be permitted unless warm with trunks.” These were just a few of the numerous rules at Northwestern University beaches. The university, along with Evanston, also barred: “all white or flesh [sic] colored suits.”

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Beach goer, Evanston beach, 1925. “Women may wear jersey knit suits, provided the suit has a skirt, or a skirt effect, or trunks, not shorter than 7 inches above the knee. Bathers going to or from the beaches much must wear bathrobes or coats closed in the front,” read Northwestern’s beach regulations.[35] Evanston also outlawed the wearing of bathing suits on city streets. Violators would be arrested and charged with indecency. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Despite the fact that both the city and Northwestern University imposed strict codes, it was Juul’s order that caused a stir nationwide. “Police woman on Evanston beaches,” one paper teased, “rules that feminine bathers must wear about everything but the kitchen stove. Sun back suits, one piece suits exposing the leg (limb in Evanston) more than six inches above the knee, shirtless suits and other indecent attire are positively prohibited on Evanston beaches by the decree issued by Policewoman Juul today. A highly moral and acceptable bathing costume for ladies will be red flannel, wrist-to-ankle underwear, hoop skirt with bustle, turtleneck sweater, shoes, stockings, cape and picture hat.”[36]

In July 1929, Chief of Police Freeman announced that he would have arrested and charged with indecent exposure “any woman who walks through the streets in a backless bathing suit and nothing more.”[37] Freeman’s pledge was partly a reaction to the City Council’s failure to pass an ordinance regulating specific bathing suit styles (rather than using the generic term “proper”). As Charles Byrnes, Evanston’s Superintendent of Recreation, put it, the City’s policy was that “Bathers need only follow common standards of decency. They may deviate from conservative styles as long as their costumes are not too extreme.”[38]

With this, legal as well as moral authority was directly placed in the hands of individual police officers and beach guards to determine just who or what they defined as “improper.” Northwestern University officials explicitly outlined this kind of authority when they authorized their beach guards “to expel anyone from the beaches whose suit in his or their discretion is not in conformity with public decency.”[39]

City residents, especially those living near the beaches, would regularly summon the police after witnessing any “indecent” activities. One summer day in 1918, for example, a resident called the police after watching several people parked near the beach, changing their clothes in their car. The police arrived. They were all arrested.[40]

Since the vast majority of the city’s policing/guarding roles were filled by men (despite the attention Georgianna Juul received), it was clear that women venturing onto Evanston’s beaches would be subject not only to the male gaze, but also, on occasion, the measuring tape.

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“Relaxing” at the beach, Daily News, July 2, 1929. Evanston officials were serious when it came to recreation. In 1930, one hapless Evanston beach visitor was fined $5 for baring her unclothed arm and shoulder out of a curtained car window while she was parked near the beach.[41]

Men, of course, were also subject to scrutiny and even arrest on Evanston’s beaches. In July 1929, two men were arrested and later fined for disorderly conduct after they had taken a swim at an Evanston beach dressed in their street clothes.[42] “Clothing at beach considered crime in Evanston IL,” read the headline of the Associated Press story that was carried in papers across the country. One of the men told a reporter that he was “disturbed” by the incident. “Why in Chicago everybody bathes with clothes on and no one complaints about it,” he said. “I was just trying to sober my friend and was ducking him when the police came,” he explained.[43]

A year later, a 33 year old Chicago resident was convicted of “indecent exposure” after he removed his shoes and socks at Evanston’s Clark Street beach. The police officer who arrested him told a reporter that he had been watching the man closely. Once the man had taken off his shoes and socks, the officer explained, it was clear that he intended to change into his bathing suit in his car in “defiance of the law.”[44]

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Evanston beach, 1922. Hey, kid! Cover up! It was not until 1934 that the Evanston City Council voted to allow women to wear white bathing suits (previously barred) and men to wear swimming trunks (rather than the one-piece tank style previously required.)[45] Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

Legalized Restrictions

In 1920, Evanston city officials paid $6,000 a year to advertising specialist Charles Ward “to extol the advantages of the summer suburb as a summer resort.”[46] The campaign was a success.

As a result, in July 1921, City Council members declared that Evanston’s “hometown folks” were being “crowded out of their own parks, beaches and amusement places.”[47] Many in Evanston sounded an alarm: the city’s beaches were undergoing a “ruthless invasion” by Chicagoans. Reports of tens of thousands of people coming to Evanston to take a dip in the lake alarmed many residents, City Council members, and the mayor. The terms “invaders,” “undesirables,” and even “hoodlums” were widely used to describe these interlopers and there was no question: they were not welcome on Evanston’s beaches.[48]

“Chicago’s unwashed” are trying “to crowd us off our Lake beaches,” warned one Evanston official.[49] Also noted were the “invaders’” general “trashing” of the beaches and generally “unpleasant” behavior. Many Evanston residents who lived near the beaches were outraged to see the congestion brought by the “invaders:” cars were reportedly “parked on sideways, parkways, and on private lawns,” as a local paper reported. “In some places cars were parked 5 deep with no chance of them getting disentangled until the outside cars were moved first.”[50] Evanston City Council member A.J. Smith stoked the hysteria when he claimed that not only were “Chicago hoodlums” monopolizing Evanston bathing beaches but they were occasionally “even throwing people in the lake.”[51]

Police Chief Freeman pledged to double down on patrolling the beaches. If he “is able to tell a respected Evanston citizen from a ‘Chicago hoodlum’ in a bathing suit,” the press noted of Freeman, “he will keep the Chicagoans off Evanston bathing beaches.”[52]

Now Evanston city officials took their first legal action to restrict the city’s beaches: In July 1921, Evanston Mayor Harry Pearsons ordered the police to enforce “a new ordinance prohibiting automobiles without the Evanston license from parking near the beaches, parks and on downtown streets.”[53] And thus, Evanston became the first North Shore community to restrict access to its beaches by “forbidding motorists with Chicago license tags from parking in the vicinity of the beach.”[54]

As a result of the new restriction, Evanston now began a battle with Chicago, to some degree, that would continue for years. It was pointed out that while it was perfectly acceptable for Evanston residents to go south and enjoy all the recreational activities Chicago had to offer, the reverse seemed not to be the case. In fact, Evanston was charged with looking down on the “Chicago riff raff” in its undemocratic effort to keep out “undesirables.” “There is a suspicion among some people,” one newspaper observed, “that Evanston . . . is becoming somewhat snooty.”[55]

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The story of Evanston’s battle to limit beach access reached both coasts and everywhere in between. Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1930.

“ ‘There’ muttered the North Shore with tight lips,” one reporter wrote after Evanston’s parking restriction went into effect, “ ‘We’ve raked up their banana peels, their watermelon rinds, their debris littered paper plates. We’ve made a bonfire of their crumpled papers. We’ve straightened up the torn and twisted flowers and bushes. It looks like Arcady again.”[56]

Other North Shore towns soon followed suit. Through imposing similar restrictions, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, and Lake Forest now also refused to allow out of towners to “tarry in their sanctified atmospheres.”[57]

But Evanston’s new restriction proved not enough to keep all “invaders” from the city’s beaches.

By 1922, an estimated 650 to 1800 people were visiting Evanston beaches on a daily basis. Calvary and Main Street beaches were the most popular, with Clark Street beach coming in third.[58] Use of the beaches increased steadily, and by 1929, Evanston broke all records, with an estimated 650,000 people said to have visited the beaches in the 1929 season. On one particularly hot day, an estimated 122,000 bathers were at the beaches, or twice the population of the city.[59] Meanwhile, Chicago’s beaches saw a decrease in attendance.[60]

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Clark Street Beach, 1930. Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

To the north of Evanston, some towns were able to control access to the beaches readily. In Wilmette and Kenilworth, for instance, city officials now easily “ruled out” any “undesired” visitors by erecting bathhouse entrances to their beaches. But, as was noted in the press, Evanston, “with its string of open beaches,” was “hard pressed as usual for excuses to keep out the outsiders.”[61]

In July 1931 members of the Evanston City Council found a way to control access. But it would take some time to work out the details of the new plan. First, City Council members passed an ordinance requiring nonresidents to pay a $1 fee to use the city’s beaches. Also passed was a more restrictive parking measure for streets near the city’s beaches. A week later, on July 8, 1931, city officials and City Council members met in a closed door special session to discuss a new ordinance allowing the city to “regulate the city’s bathing beaches.”[62]

That night, by a vote of 12 to 1, the new ordinance was passed.

As a result of the new ordinance, city officials now planned to “restrict” two of the city’s beaches by erecting fences around them and charging admission to everyone, both Evanston residents and non-residents alike.[63] The ordinance also reiterated the requirement that bathing suits “must meet the requirements of common decency” and that no one would be permitted “to change clothing in cars or behind improvised screens under penalty of arrest.”[64]

City Council member Sherman told the Evanston News-Index why he cast the sole dissenting vote against the ordinance. He understood that “the only justification for such an ordinance was to keep out undesirable elements” and he did not feel that the ordinance went far enough to achieve that goal.[65]

“The ordinance is nondiscriminatory in its wording,” reported the Evanston News-Index, “but provides that two beaches controlled by the city shall be fenced and an admission fee charged.”[66] Evanston Mayor Charles Bartlett fully backed the new ordinance, reiterating that it “was not adopted for the purposes of keeping out persons who wish to use the bathing beaches, but it was intended to give the city the power to regulate conditions.”[67] 

While initially City Council members agreed to restrict only two beaches, that number soon doubled: The ordinance ordered fences to be erected around four of the city’s seven municipal beaches. These four now became “closed” or “restricted” beaches. Each would not only be physically enclosed, but also guarded at the entrances.

Now, anyone who wished “to bathe in privacy at four closed beaches in Evanston” was required to go to Evanston’s city hall and purchase a season ticket or buy a daily ticket (50 cents per “dip,” per person). A season ticket cost $1 per family. Tickets for children under the age of 14 were 25 cents.[68] “Anyone attempting to use the restricted beaches without paying the customary fee,” the City ordered, “will be subject to arrest and a fine of not less than $1 or more than $50.”[69]

Immediately, construction crews began building the fences.[70]

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Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1931. The City of Evanston spent a reported $1300 to fence the four beaches, and in the first month of beach restrictions, it took in $2500 in revenue through the sale of beach tokens. A decade later, the city reported taking in $11,300 in a single season’s beach token sales.[71]

The ordinance was explained to the public as “a means of regulating the beaches so as to avoid a repetition of the extreme congestion which occurred some weeks ago.”[72] Also noted was the assertion that “many bathers abused the privileges of public property use. The parkways were strewn with debris. There were many complaints of unnecessary exposure.”[73]

The morning that beach tokens went on sale, three hundred people jammed into city hall and the clerks were overrun. The supply of tickets was quickly exhausted and many were told to return the next week.[74]

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The 1931 beach token (pictured upper left) was the first beach token issued by the city. Officials instructed residents that they could easily wear the tokens by hanging them around their necks or attaching them to their beach garb. Around the same time, Northwestern University also began to require beach tokens for those who wished to gain access to the university’s private beaches.[75] Evanston Beach Tokens and Passes, Collection of the Evanston History Center.

At the same time the beach ordinance was passed, the City Council also acted on a petition received by over 500 Evanston residents, who demanded that parking near the beaches be more strictly regulated. The City Council complied.

As the new beach restrictions went into effect, new 15-minute parking restrictions went into effect within a “restricted area” that “extended from South Blvd north to University Place from the lake to Judson Avenue including all intersecting streets” on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays throughout the beach season. All cars, both those owned by residents and visitors alike, were subject to the parking restriction.[76] Evanston police were “instructed to watch for overtime parking” and all violators “will be given a ticket to appear in police court. Warrants will be issued for anyone failing to respond to the ticket summons.”[77]

On Sunday, July 19, 1931, the beach fee system went into effect.

Evanston’s Three Free Beaches, 1931:

Calvary, Greenwood, and Clark Street

Evanston’s Four Restricted Beaches, 1931:

 South Boulevard, Lee Street, Main Street, and Lincoln Street

Soon, the reports were in: Each of the free beaches saw a rise in attendance. Clark Street beach saw the sharpest jump, with an increase of 4,000 visitors in one day. Closed beaches saw a decline. The most notable decline was seen at Lee Street Beach which counted 16,000 visitors prior to the restriction going into effect and then plummeted to 6,000.[78] Overall, a 2/3 decline in attendance was noted at the restricted beaches.[79] Over time, it was observed, the fee system caused beachgoing “congestion to shift” to the city’s free beaches, leaving the restricted beaches far less crowded.[80]

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Description automatically generatedClosed beach, Lincoln Street Beach, Evanston, 1932. In the 1940s, Northwestern University issued a reminder that the Lincoln Street beach was university property, but Evanston had been permitted to operate the beach for public use.[81] Photograph, Evanston History Center Archives.

After the restrictions went into effect, Evanston police continued to patrol all the beaches. On a single day in July, a total of seven men were arrested on one of the city’s free beaches, Calvary beach. The men had dropped the “straps of their suits to the waist” and proceeded to bask in the sun “in full view of other hundreds of users of the beach.” Brought before Evanston’s police magistrate and charged with indecent exposure, each plead not guilty. They explained that they had “supposed they were on a Chicago beach where police are not concerned with such ‘trivialities’ of the question of public modesty.” Their defense did not sit well with the magistrate, who ordered each of the men to pay a five dollar fine as an example to “others who take the attitude that Evanston police vigilance existed only on paper.”[82] 

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Parking restrictions near the city’s beaches provided an opportunity for Evanston’s taxi fleets to promote their services. Advertisement, Evanston News-Index, July 20, 1932.

Opposition

After the fences went up, most of the Evanston City Council members, along with the Mayor, congratulated themselves for arriving at a solution to regulate the city’s beaches, stating that the ordinance allowing the city to charge admission to the four closed beaches “makes no discrimination against nonresidents.”[83] And in fact, the access fees were the same regardless of where one lived.

But the reality of these restrictions told a different story.

Just after the announcement was made that four of the city’s beaches would be restricted, somebody dumped a large amount of oil in the water off the newly-restricted Lee Street beach. “Many believed it to be retaliation for the charges and fences,” an observer noted.[84] 

Many others were outraged by the restrictions and a few spoke out.

When the City Council members first presented the idea of charging a beach fee to non-residents, John Henry Wigmore (1863-1943), an Evanston resident and former dean of the law school at Northwestern University, made his opposition known. In an open letter published in the Evanston News-Index and other papers, Wigmore, who lived near the lakefront at 207 Lake Street, challenged the City Council’s publicly stated reasons for imposing beach restrictions.

As far as attempting to curb “disorderly conduct” on the beaches, Wigmore wrote: “Nothing of the kind takes place. My residence directly overlooks the lakefront park. On the last two hot Sundays and Saturdays several thousands of happy families have come there. A more orderly, well behaved gathering we have never seen. Not a squabble, not a yell or scream, not a shout, no coarse language. It might have been a Sunday school picnic.”[85]

As to whether out of towners were “crowding out Evanstonians” from the beaches, Wigmore asserted: “There was room for plenty more people if they had wanted to come. Parking cars in the side streets? Yes, they did park cars along my house front, and doubtless all the other side streets and house fronts for several hours, but what of it? Whose street is it? Not the abutters. It is a public highway. Dozens of Evanston streets are filled every day and night with cars parked in front of other persons’ premises.”[86]  

Wigmore concluded by questioning the “attitude” of city officials. “Just because an Evanston citizen owns or leases a piece of land,” he stated, “does not entitle him morally to crowd out of Evanston public parkland and beaches any person who happens not to live in Evanston.”[87]

Others pointed out that the city’s free beaches shared a common trait: they were all fairly “removed from private residential districts.”[88] As such, visitors to those beaches were less likely to bother residents near the lakefront who lived in expensive homes. Additionally, the free beaches, it was noted, were either impossible to fence or of lesser quality. According to one Black Evanston resident, the free beaches were “full of stones, glass, and refuse, and the worst one of them all is set aside for the Negroes to use. This Jim-Crow beach is totally unfit for use,” he asserted.[89]

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Edwin B. Jourdain, Jr. (1900-1986) pictured in 1932. In April 1931, Jourdain was elected to the Evanston City Council as alderman for the city’s Fifth Ward. He was Evanston’s first Black City Council member. In early 1932, however, he was dramatically unseated from office, charged by his opponent with (unsubstantiated) election “irregularities.” In April 1932, Jourdain ran again, won again, and took his seat, serving on the council until 1947.

One of the leading voices against segregation in Evanston was City Council member, Edwin B. Jourdain, Jr. In a letter to his friend, W.E.B. DuBois, co-founder of the N.A.A.C.P., Jourdain wrote of his outrage at the city’s history of forcing Black people “to sit in balconies only of movie houses [and] to use only a ‘colored bathing beach’ on the lake-front,” among other practices.[90] But just four years into office, Jourdain had made numerous advances in his fight against segregation in Evanston. By 1935, he defeated a rule prohibiting “mixed” baseball games on city-owned diamonds; secured the abolition of discrimination in “the seating of movie patrons;” changed the hiring examination system in relation to hiring Black life guards; and secured “a ruling by the Mayor before the City Council against segregated bathing beaches in Evanston.”[91]

Despite the beach ruling, however, the system of requiring the purchase of tokens to access closed beaches continued. And it was precisely this system that appears to have provided city officials with a means to continue to control access without codifying any restrictions further. According to a 2018 interview conducted by Shorefront Legacy Center with Spencer Jourdain, the youngest son of Edwin B. Jourdain, Jr., the continued use of the beach token system offered a “workaround that did not require written policies.” Spencer Jourdain explained that the beach token system allowed city officials “to screen Black residents and block them from purchasing the tokens . . . The exclusion was maintained by the use of tokens to help maintain the ‘beautification’ of some of the beaches, and to keep Blacks – and other ‘undesirables’ out.”[92]

Challenges

On July 17, 1936, Northwestern University student, William Yancy Bell, Jr. purchased a beach token for admission to a Northwestern University bathing beach. According to The Crisis ​magazine, when Bell “presented himself for admission, he was told he could not enter because he was colored.”[93] Bell insisted upon his right to enter and was told by the beach guard that “he would be thrown out if he tried to enter.”[94] Bell stood his ground while the guards ordered “all of the people on the beach, including Bell, to withdraw from the enclosed beach and then the captain of the lifeguards stood at the entrance and let every white bather return and then barred Bellfrom entering under ‘pain of physical ejection.’ ”[95]

A few months later, Bell was represented by Irvin C. Mollison of the N.A.A.C.P in a lawsuit against Northwestern for $5,000 in damages for denying Bell access to the university’s bathing beach. The lawsuit charged the university with violating Bell’s civil rights. University officials responded that the 1885 Civil Rights Act of Illinois was not applicable in this case since Northwestern was a “charitable” institution and, as such, exempt from the law.[96] University lawyers reportedly “sought to evade a trial on the merits of the case, knowing that the testimony will disclose that the denial of Bell the use of the beach after he had paid for it can be explained only on the grounds that Bell was colored.”[97] The judge in the case denied a motion to dismiss the case.[98]

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William Yancy Bell, Jr. (c. 1914 -1967) graduated from Northwestern University with honors, with a BA degree in classics. Bell took part in numerous efforts to fight segregation and discrimination at Northwestern University and in the city of Evanston.   

Like the city of Evanston, Northwestern University did have restrictions and rules governing the use of its beaches. But nowhere did the university state that its beaches were accessible only to white students, faculty, and staff. But just as with the City of Evanston, Northwestern enforced segregation by practice and behavior, not by policy.

In 1942, A.L. Foster, executive director of the Chicago Urban League and a resident of Glencoe, Illinois, won a permanent injunction restraining Glencoe officials from denying beach use to Black residents.[99] The case was brought by Foster himself after he and his family members had been denied access to the beach. Foster expressed his hope that his victory in winning the injunction would cause Black residents “in other north shore villages to insist upon the right to use the beaches.” “It is my understanding,” Foster observed, “that Negroes are discriminated against in the use of beaches in Evanston, Kenilworth, Wilmette and Winnetka as well as those beaches in villages farther north.”[100]

In the years after passage of the ordinance allowing Evanston officials to regulate the beaches, however, restrictions would only intensify. And, gradually, even Evanston’s free beaches would become restricted. By 1945, only two of the city’s beaches were free.[101] By 1948, Evanston was charging admission to six of the city’s seven beaches. The only free beach was the “Davis-Lake” beach, which had historically been labelled the “colored beach.”[102] By 1956, there were no free beaches in Evanston, although Evanston’s Recreation Board allowed those in need of financial assistance to present their cases to the board.

In 1968, the north office of Cook County Legal Assistance took notice and announced it was legally challenging admission rates to public bathing beaches in Evanston and other north shore communities including Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lake Forest, and Lake Bluff. 

“Legally the use and benefit of Lake Michigan should be open to all state residents without distinction,” said Leo Holt, lead attorney. Holt also challenged the establishment of a “free token system” for low income residents. “The free token system fails to reach great numbers of low-income residents who have no established contact with one of the referring agencies,” he said.[103]

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Leo Ellwood Holt brought the lawsuit against Evanston and other north shore cities and towns. As a young criminal defense lawyer, Holt represented numerous civil rights activists. In 1966, Holt represented Martin Luther King Jr. during the open housing marches in Chicago.[104] In 1986, Holt was elected Cook County Circuit Court judge. Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1968.

Evanston prevailed in defending the practice of restricting beach access. And, as readers may know, the practice continues to be discussed and debated. Most recently, in 2021, (almost exactly 90 years after the passage of the city’s beach restriction ordinance) the Evanston City Council addressed the issue of beach access. While a proposal to allow entirely free beach access was not adopted, by a majority vote, the council voted to allow Evanston residents free beach access on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.[105] 

And thus, the history of Evanston’s beaches continues to unfold.

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City of Evanston website (accessed July 15, 2021)

  • To see some bathing suits from the 1920s, artifacts, and images related to Evanston beaches, visit the Evanston History Center to see the temporary exhibit, “Ode to Greenwood Street Beach.”
  • Do you have a beach-related story or photo to add to this history? We welcome hearing from you! Please email Jenny Thompson at jthompson@evanstonhistorycenter.org

[1] Joseph D. Kearney and Thomas W. Merrill, “Contested Shore: Property Rights in Reclaimed Land and the Battle for Streeterville,” 107 NW. U. L. REV. 1057 (2013), 1109. For more see: John N. Low, Chicago’s First Urban Indians – the Potawatomi. PhD dissertation. The University of Michigan, 2011.

[2] For years, the waterfront along Sheridan Road and Sheridan Square was identified variously as South Boulevard beach, Keeney Street beach, and Calvary (Cemetery) beach. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Impact Statement: Beach Erosion Control at South Boulevard Beach, Evanston, Illinois (Chicago: U.S. Army Engineer District, 1975), 7.

[3] “The Summer School,” Northwestern University Bulletin (Volume 18) 1918, 4.

[4] “Open Lincoln Street Beach on Saturday,” Evanston News Index, June 26, 1917.

[5] “Fair Bathers and Big Rats Use Beach,” Chicago Defender, August 10, 1912.

[6] Throughout this article, I quote materials that use the term “colored” and other antiquated and racist terms. I do so in original context only.

[7] “Will Bar Negro Bathers on Complaint of Women,” Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1909.

[8] “Will Bar Negro Bathers on Complaint of Women,” Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1909.

[9] “New Recreation Board is Named For Evanston,” Chicago Tribune, January 18, 1953.

[10] Lee Street beach had been patronized by the great majority of the city’s bathers in earlier years. “Open Lincoln Street Beach on Saturday,” Evanston News Index, June 26, 1917.

[11] “Cook Street Bathing Beach is Now Open,” Evanston News Index, June 24, 1915.

[12] “Beach Regulations,” Daily Northwestern, June 28, 1932.

[13] Evanston Small Park and Playground Association, Plan of Evanston (Evanston, IL: Bowman Publishing Company, 1917), 45-47.

[14] “City’s Beaches Excellent Bathing Spot,” Evanston News-Index, July 2 1917.

[15] “Open Lincoln Street Beach on Saturday,” Evanston News-Index, June 26, 1917. The Lincoln Street beach that exists in 2021 is not the same beach as was opened in 1917. The newer beach was created after the university’s 1962 project to extend the campus by adding landfill into Lake Michigan. After that project was completed, the beach was reserved for university and staff only. There is some dispute over who owns the beach. See Genevieve Bookwalter, “Northwestern, Evanston Officials Differ on Rules For Campus Beach,” Pioneer Press, July 16, 2019.

[16] “Beach Regulations,” Daily Northwestern, June 28, 1932.

[17] Chicago Commission on Race Relations, The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1922), 596.

[18] Chicago Commission on Race Relations, The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot, 4

[19] E[dwin] B. Jourdain, Jr. to W.E.B. Du Bois, February 17, 1939, W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312) Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries, http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-b088-i365; Shorefront Legacy Center, interview with Spencer Jourdain, 2018.

[20] Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 63.

[21] “Offer Services to City as Main Street Guards,” Evanston News-Index, July 16, 1921.

[22] “Cook Street Bathing Beach is Now Open,” Evanston News Index, June 24, 1915.

[23] United States Census, 1910, Chicago Ward 17, Cook, Illinois, United States. In 1890, Frank and his wife Mary immigrated to the United States from Italy. They settled in Chicago and Frank Corrado worked as a fruit peddler. The couple had nine children. Prior to being appointed beach keeper, Frank and his family moved to Evanston and lived at 97 Dempster Street. In 1917, the Evanston City Council awarded Corrado a gold medal in honor of his service. Corrado died of a heart attack while vacationing in Monterey, California, in October 1918. “Frank Corrado Drops Dead of Heart Failure,” Evanston News-Index, October 10, 1918.

[24] “Evanston Women Hire Guards for Lee Beach,” Chicago Tribune, August 6, 1916.

[25] “4 Rescues in Day Record of 15 Year Old Life Guard,” Chicago Tribune, August 10, 1916.

[26] “Youth Drowns While a Girl Saves Another,” Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1928.

[27] “Evanston Beach Opens July 4,” Chicago Tribune, June 25, 1914. Before being appointed Cook Street beach matron, Nellie Werts had served on Evanston’s police force. As “Evanston’s policewoman,” she was tasked with beach patrol, along with patrolling parks and other “places of amusement.” Juul succeeded Werts.

[28] “Coppette Needs a Rowboat at Evanston Beach,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1921. 

[29] “Mrs. Georgianna Juul,” Chicago Tribune, October 30, 1952.

[30] Aerial police from U.S. Air Service, “Will Chicago Become Center of Aircraft Industry,” August 1922, 23; “Evanston Installs Aerial Police to Keep Down Crime,” Decatur Herald, June 7, 1921.

[31] “Guards Become Special Police,” Evanston Review, June 21, 1962.

[32] “New Chief,” Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1927.

[33] “Benefactor,” Indianapolis Times, June 22, 1931. By 1934, Freeman even implored all Evanston residents to come to the police headquarters and get fingerprinted. It would be “valuable,” he said, “in case anything happens.” “Police Chief Invites All to Get Fingerprinted,” Press and Sun-Bulletin, April 3, 1934.

[34] “Police in Evanston Ready to War on Scanty Beach Suits,” Chicago Tribune, May 4, 1931; “Evanston’s Beach Sirens May Wear ‘Conscience Suits,’ ” Decatur Herald, June 12, 1931.

[35] “Beach Regulations,” Daily Northwestern, June 28, 1932.

[36] “Ultraviolet Ray Business Considered Just Hooey,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 6, 1931. 

[37] “Evanston Police War on Backless Bathing Suit,” Daily News, July 2, 1929; “Modesty by Rule,” Daily News, July 2, 1929.

[38] “Evanston’s Beach Sirens May Wear ‘Conscience Suits,’ ” Decatur Herald, June 12, 1931.

[39] “Beach Regulations,” Daily Northwestern, June 28, 1932.

[40] “Highway as Dressing Room? Not in Evanston,” Chicago Tribune, July 26, 1918.

[41] “What’da Leg Go?” Santa Cruz Evening News, September 4, 1930.

[42] “Evanston Men Fined For Swimming Fully Clad,” The Times, August 13, 1929.

[43] “Clothing at Beach Considered Crime in Evanston IL,” The Star Tribune, July 17, 1929.

[44] “Removes Shoes at Beach in Evanston; Is Fined $5,” Chicago Tribune, August 13, 1930.

[45] “Bulletin,” Decatur Daily Review, May 22, 1934.

[46] “Find Advertising Paid All Too Well,” Decatur Herald, July 8, 1921.

[47] “Find Advertising Paid All Too Well,” Decatur Herald, July 8, 1921.

[48] “A ‘Tough’ Job,” Indianapolis Times, June 30 1932.

[49] “In the Wake of the News,” Chicago Tribune, August 3, 1921.

[50] “Parking ban is in Effect at Lake Front,” Evanston News Index, July 10, 1931.

[51] “A ‘Tough’ Job,” Indianapolis Times, June 30 1932.

[52] “A ‘Tough’ Job,” Indianapolis Times, June 30 1932.

[53] “Find Advertising Paid All Too Well,” Decatur Herald, July 8, 1921.

[54] “Bathing Beaches on North Shore Bar Chicagoans,” Waukegan Daily Sun, July 22, 1921.

[55] “Object to the Chicago Riffraff,” Potsville Evening Republican, July 8, 1930.

[56] “Bathing Beaches on North Shore Bar Chicagoans,” Waukegan Daily Sun, July 22, 1921.

[57] “Bathing Beaches on North Shore Bar Chicagoans,” Waukegan Daily Sun, July 22, 1921.

[58] “Four Drowned Toll of Local Beach Season,” Evanston News Index, September 25, 1922.

[59] “Cooler Weather Makes Evanston a Generous Neighbor,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1931.

[60] “Beach Crowds Decrease; High Lake to Blame?” Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1929.

[61] “Shore Suburbs Open Beaches – To Home Folk,” Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1931.

[62] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[63] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[64] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[65] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[66] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[67] “City Passes Beach Ordinance,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[68] “Beach Fences in Evanston to Rise this Week,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1931.

[69] “City Workers Begin Erection of Fences at Four Beaches,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[70] “City Workers Begin Erection of Fences at Four Beaches,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[71] “Evanston Beaches Attract Record Crowd This Year,” Chicago Tribune, August 24, 1941.

[72] “Continue Rush for Evanston Beach Tickets,” Evanston News-Index, July 18, 1931.

[73] “Continue Rush for Evanston Beach Tickets,” Evanston News-Index, July 18, 1931.

[74] “Continue Rush for Evanston Beach Tickets,” Evanston News-Index, July 18, 1931.

[75] “This Bather Objects to N.U. Beach Tokens,” Daily Northwestern, August 1, 1935.

[76] “Parking Ban at Lakefront Will Become Effective Tomorrow,” Evanston News Index, July 9, 1931.

[77] “Parking Ban is in Effect at Lake Front,” Evanston News Index, July 10, 1931.

[78] “Fees Cut Beach Attendance,” Evanston News Index, July 20, 1931.

[79] “Fees Cut Beach Attendance,” Evanston News Index, July 20, 1931.

[80] “Fee Plan Crowds Free City Beaches,” Evanston News Index, July 27, 1931.

[81] “Foster St. Beach for NU Only,” Daily Northwestern, July 8, 1941.

[82] ‘ ‘Sun Bathing’ Charges Bring 7 Into Court,” Evanston News-Index, July 27, 1931.

[83] “Beach Fences in Evanston to Rise this Week,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1931.

[84] “Oil Fails to Calm Evanston Bathing Beach Troubles,” Times Herald, July 17, 1931.

[85] “Dean Wigmore Attacks City’s Beach Fee Plan,” Evanston News-Index, July 2, 1931.

[86] “Dean Wigmore Attacks City’s Beach Fee Plan,” Evanston News-Index, July 2, 1931.

[87] “Dean Wigmore Attacks City’s Beach Fee Plan,” Evanston News-Index, July 2, 1931.

[88] “Cooler Weather Makes Evanston a Generous Neighbor,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1931.

[89] “Good Beaches in Evanston Fenced Off from Workers,” Daily Worker, July 3, 1933.

[90] (E[dwin] B. Jourdain, Jr. to W.E.B. Du Bois, February 17, 1939, W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312) Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries, http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-b088-i365.

[91] “Evanston Wants Jim Crow; Fights For It,” Chicago Defender, February 16, 1935.

[92] Shorefront Legacy Center, Conversation with Spencer Jourdain, 2018.

[93] “State-Wide Battle on Illinois Jim Crow,” The Crisis, February 1937, 43.

[94] “State-Wide Battle on Illinois Jim Crow,” The Crisis, February 1937, 43.

[95] “Wins Point in Northwestern Jim Crow Suit,” Indianapolis Recorder, December 5, 1936.

[96] “State-Wide Battle on Illinois Jim Crow,” ​The Crisis,​ February 1937, 43; ​See also Jenny Thompson, The Takeover 1968: Student Protest, Campus Politics, and Black Student Activism at Northwestern University (Evanston: Evanston History Center Press, 2019),​ 35-36.

[97] “Wins Point in Northwestern Jim Crow Suit,” Indianapolis Recorder, December 5, 1936.

[98] “Northwestern Loses Point in Lawsuit for Discrimination,” Chicago Defender, December 5, 1936.

[99] “Services Set for A. Foster, Business Man,” Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1968.

[100] A.L. Foster, Letter to the Editor, Chicago Bee, August 2, 1942.

[101] National Urban League. Dept. of Research and Community Projects., and Evanston Council of Social Agencies, Economic and Cultural Problems in Evanston, Illinois, As They Relate To The Colored Population: A Study (Evanston, Illinois: The Council, 1945), 78. In 1932, it was reported that only one of Evanston’s five beaches was free. Charles E. Reed, Charges and Fees for Community Recreation Facilities and Activities of Public Park, Recreation and School Systems (New York: National Recreation Association, 1932), 40.

[102] “Summer Play for Evanston’s Youths at Hand,” Chicago Tribune, June 20, 1948. By 1953, all but one of Evanston’s six public bathing beaches were restricted. “A beach at Greenwood St, included with the Dempster Street beach for planning purposes, is free while the others are on a fee basis; However, all are restricted to residents and their guests,” reported the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Shore Beach Erosion Control Study, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1953, 110.

[103] “Legal Aid Charges Evanston, Others Unfair in Beach Rates,” Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1968.

[104] Steve Bogira, “A Law Abiding Judge,” Chicago Reader, March 4, 2005.

[105] lana Arougheti, “Evanston to Offer Three Free Weekly Beach Days After Advocacy Against Token Sales,” Daily Northwestern, May 25, 2021.


[i] The vast subject of beach erosion and the work that has been done physically to Evanston’s shores are not the focus of this article.