Dev Bowly had three great passions. One was public interest law. The second was the restoration of two historic inns in Michigan. The third was the Hyde Park Historical Society. In a 1998 oral history interview, he recalled how, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin law school, he took a job with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, where he worked for some 40 years. Much later, he combined his commitment to social welfare with his growing interest in architecture in a book called The Poorhouse, which outlines the history of subsidized housing in the Chicago area. At the time of his death, he was working on a biography of philanthropist Julius Rosenwald.
The renovation of two inns in Lakeside, Michigan, started as a weekend project. Dev fondly remembered trips to the area as a boy and jumped at the chance to buy a dilapidated lakefront stable. One thing led to another, and he was soon the owner of the two inns, which became a massive restoration project. Today those inns are weekend destinations for many Hyde Parkers.
I first met Dev in about 1970 when he led a bicycle tour of Hyde Park’s historic buildings. For years, he did walking tours of the neighborhood for preservation groups. In the mid-‘70s, casual conversations with Clyde Watkins led to the purchase and renovation of the tiny building on Lake Park that is now the headquarters of the Hyde Park Historical Society. “When we were finished, Muriel Beadle [wife of former university president George Beadle] referred to it as a little gem. I still remember that,” said Dev.
Some years later, Dev led another restoration. He worked with the Seminary Coop Bookstore to turn the basement of a building he owned at 57th and University into another, very successful bookstore.
“I’ve always been a Hyde Park chauvinist,” he said in the oral history interview. “I really can’t imagine myself living any place else.”