Change is always going on around us, but anyone who has been around this area long enough can tell how dramatically the area around Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road has evolved.

Back in 1864, David Gage — who among other things was director of the Riverside Improvement Company, manager of the Sherman House Hotel and president of the City Railway Company — acquired 1,600 acres of land south of 22nd Street and built on it  what came to be known as the Gage Farm. 

It included most of present-day Riverside, the mall and main shopping areas of North Riverside and even a bit of Brookfield.

Gage was elected treasurer of the City of Chicago in 1869 but was defeated in his reelection bid by Daniel O’Hara in 1873. In turning over the assets, he was found to be over $500,000 short. The city seized the farm as recompense, and one of the original farm buildings was sold and moved to where it still remains at Longcommon and Selborne roads in Riverside.

In 1916 the newspaper headline read, “Chicago tries new punishment for its bad boys.” Where the mall now sits was then home to the Cook County School for Boys, the thought being there would be no bars or cells which might promote a better way of life. The campus-like school with its various buildings was closed in 1932 and replaced by a tuberculosis sanitarium, which remained there until 1963 when it closed.

The land was then purchased by the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church and became Concordia Teachers College.

Over time, the Harlem/Cermak area became very desirable for development and was purchased by the Indianapolis firm of Melvin Simon and Associates, which built the North Riverside Park Mall in the 1970s.

From a farm, to a bad boys school, to a TB sanitarium, to a college, a shopping mall with dozens of businesses and restaurants. Time keeps moving on.