Berwyn Incorporated as a City
Berwyn’s growth was such that soon some form of local government was necessary and, in 1902, it was incorporated as a village. Six years later, on June 6, 1908, Berwyn became a city, receiving its official charter from the State of Illinois. The 1910 census recorded Berwyn’s population as 5,841.
The first two decades of the twentieth century saw Berwyn develop in much the same way as other Chicago suburbs. It was a place in which, as “The WPA Guide to Illinois” states, “harried commuters relaxed in the evening, weeded gardens, set hens, and mowed their lawns.” In 1921, the central Bungalow portion of the city began its rapid development. Large numbers of Czechs moved from the Pilsen area on Chicago’s near West Side to Berwyn and its neighbor on the east, Cicero. Literally thousands of new homes were built each year. The population growth and the infill of vacant land finally brought the two parts of Berwyn together.
Many newcomers found jobs at Western Electric’s huge Hawthorne Works in Cicero, commuting via trolley. On July 24, 1915, Berwyn was plunged into mourning when the steamer Eastland, chartered for a Western Electric company excursion, rolled onto its side in the Chicago River, claiming 812 lives. Many in Berwyn lost relatives, friends, or neighbors in the disaster.
Early Residents Build Quality Homes, Neighborhoods
Berwyn’s construction boom continued into the Roaring Twenties, as farms and fields gave way overnight to new homes. Entire blocks were built at once, with contractors digging all basements simultaneously, then bringing in crews to lay foundations, followed by carpenters, bricklayers and plasterers. Block after block of bungalows rose as Berwyn’s population swelled; from 14,150 in 1920 to 47,027 in 1930 - an increase of 222% in just ten years.