We’d love to say that Ashburn got its name from a beautiful grove of ash trees that flourished here until its tragic destruction during the Great Chicago Fire. However, since ash trees are not even native to the Midwest, we have to admit that the name has nothing to do with trees or tragedies. The fact is, Ashburn earned its moniker because it served as a dumping ground for Chicagoans’ furnace and fireplace ashes during the 1800s. Oh well, life can’t be all romance!
Even after it was annexed by Chicago in 1889, its lowly status, marked by scattered pyramids of soot and ash, kept the area sparsely populated for decades. In the mid-1890s struggling immigrants from Holland, Sweden and Ireland established a presence here, constructing a couple dozen homes, but it hardly represented a notable building boom.
By 1905 there were still fewer than 50 houses in Ashburn. The Chicago and Grand Trunk Railway laid down its tracks through the heart of the community but failed to inspire much related construction. In addition, Chicago’s first airport, the Ashburn Flying Field, kept 67 acres on the west side of Ashburn from being developed for homes or businesses until the 1950s. It wasn’t until the post-WWII era that Ashburn’s exploding population, growing from 7,000 residents to around 40,000 in a single decade, finally forced a transformation of the Ashburn neighborhood into the respectable, stable neighborhood that it is today.