Berwyn is a community incorporated in 1902 and located approximately 20 minutes to the southwest of the Chicago Loop. The south end of Berwyn today was originally made up of three communities: LaVergne, Upsala or “Swedetown,” and Berwyn. This entire area was bounded by 31st Street, Ogden, Lombard, and Harlem Avenues. At roughly the same time, still another community was developing on the north side of present day Berwyn – South Oak Park.
The city now known as Berwyn had its real beginnings when two attorneys and real estate partners, Charles E. Piper and Wilbur J. Andews, purchased 106 acres from the Field syndicate for development near the CB&Q tracks. In those early days, rail lines had a major impact on the development of suburbs in the Chicago area. Piper and Andrews asked the CB&Q to build a station at Oak Park Avenue, but the railroad refused, saying there were already stations at LaVergne and at Harlem Avenue. Undaunted, the two developers built a station themselves and the railroad agreed to stop there.
With a growing subdivision and railroad station to serve it on the way, Piper and Andrews needed a name. They sought out the CB&Q’s passenger agent, P.S. Eustis, who gave them a set of railroad timetables. After poring through them, they came across Berwyn, a small town about 18 miles west of Philadelphia. Berwyn, Pennsylvania, was a beautiful and affluent village noted for its fine gardens and scenic setting. Since this was exactly the sort of community that the two developers hoped to replicate in Illinois, Piper and Andrews decided that Berwyn was the perfect name. On May 17, 1890, the Cicero Town Board gave its approval and Berwyn, Illinois was born.
Soon, a general store and office building costing about $6,000 was constructed, followed by a small post office. Homes quickly followed and gradually, eight miles of streets were macadamized and sidewalks were laid. In those early years, Piper and Andrews were actively promoting their growing community, advertising extensively in Chicago newspapers. Typical ads boasted of Berwyn’s convenient location – just 9-1/2 miles or 28 minutes by CB&Q train to Chicago’s Union Depot – while others pointed out Berwyn’s many churches, splendid schools, water, sewers, electric service, and lack of saloons. Many choice lots and modern residences, the ads stated, were still available at prices ranging from $3,000 to $10,000.