The Edward R. James Companies represent the evolution of a family business started by Jeremiah James. As an immigrant in the early 1920s, Jeremiah James arrived in San Francisco with no ability to speak English and nothing more than a strong desire to build a better way of life. After learning the trade of a plasterer, he made his way to Chicago where he had an uncle, and there he started the Crystal Decorating Company. Through this business, which provided painting and plastering services to some of the city’s largest apartment owners, he developed the insights, contacts and capital necessary to start J.S. James & Company in 1949.
From that point, he went on to develop several hundred high-rise apartments along Sheridan Road, in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, and also established a property management and brokerage business before his death in 1958. His two sons, Edward and Kenneth James, in their twenties, transformed and grew the business, beginning with 1630 Sheridan Road, the iconic curved luxury co-op overlooking Lake Michigan in Wilmette.
From there they went to the city and built 1110 Lake Shore Drive, a 40-story luxury high-rise overlooking Chicago’s Oak Street Beach. Following this, they went on to complete numerous other developments including one of the Chicago areas first, largest and best known master planned developments—the award-winning Lake Barrington Shores—a 520 acre, 1303-unit golf course community. Other award-winning communities included Tangley Oaks and Armour Woods, recognized nationally for pioneering tree preservation techniques used to save the trees as part of the development of the former 200-acre Phillip Armour Estate in the North Shore suburb of Lake Bluff, Illinois. Ed and Ken also co-developed several successful projects in southern Florida, and after their nearly 40 year partnership, were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Urban Land Institute’s Chicago District Council.
More than six decades later, the family’s traditions, development philosophy and insights continue with a team that includes both family and professionals committed to sustaining a tradition of excellence for their customers, clients, and communities in which they build.