North Shore Area History

The site of Fort Sheridan was established as a French trading post around 1670, and is located on an old trail between Green Bay, Wisconsin and the area that was early Chicago. The trail was used by Native Americans traveling between their hunting grounds and villages in and around Chicago and the trading posts in Wisconsin. As settlers came into the area, they in turn used the trail between trading posts to ship their goods to Chicago. These settlers, mostly immigrants from Ireland, Germany and the Scandinavian countries, never considered the present day site of Fort Sheridan advantageous for farming owing to the deep ravines, heavily forested area and shoreline location.

A small community named St. Johns was settled by the 1840’s. It was situated on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan in the southeast corner of the later Fort Sheridan complex. The village contained logging leather tanning, brick making and iron casting endeavors and had a long pier that was used to ship the lumber that was harvested from the area. St. Johns ultimately became scarred by the production of 400,000 bricks annually from clay deposits along the bluffs and stripped bare by extensive lumbering operations. The village grew stagnant and became largely abandoned around 1865