History in the Making
By: Sandee Remis
Well, family and friends, we’ve certainly got something to be proud of today. With this publication of the Edgewater Historical Society’s quarterly newsletter, our "baby" is speaking its first words!
It seems like only yesterday, back in the Fall of 1985, when a gleam in the "fatherly" eye of Lakewood Balmoral Residents Council (LBRC) inspired the idea for a September ‘86 house tour to raise funds for an Edgewater Historical Society. About the same time, the Edgewater Community Council (ECC) Oral History Project Committee (nee Image Building Committee) was courting the Illinois Humanities Council to gain funds for "mothering" its idea for an Edgewater centennial project.
With additional financial assistance from CityArts I, efforts of that committee culminated in April 1987 in a two-day multi-media celebration of 100 years of Edgewater history, visited by over 600 people at the Berger Park Mansion on Sheridan Road.
The time was ripe for creating an historical society so our history and enthusiasm could endure. More than 12 individuals representing LBRC, ECC and community residents joined together and married their ideas. Nine months later, the Edgewater Historical Society emerged, spanking new and full of life.
Such a day that was! Over 70 friends and relatives gathered to witness the joyous event on January 23, 1988. Ms. Kathryn Gemperle welcomed the happy gathering and introduced the honored guests: Mr. Al Walavich, president-Uptown Historical Society; Ms. Mary Jo Doyle, president-Rogers Park Historical Society; Mr. Richard Bjorklund, past president Ravenswood-LakeView Historical Association; and Ms. Kathy Osterman, Alderman of the 48th Ward. And such lovely speeches followed!
Ms. Gemperle - a great one with plain words, she is - spoke of the need to preserve our history. "Don’t carry our history down from the attic and into the alley," she said.
Alderman Osterman told of her commitment to the Edgewater area since the 1960s when she lived on Sheridan Road with three girlfriends.
Mr. Bjorklund, a former editor of Lerner Newspapers who grew up in Edgewater and always tells such interesting stories (the man is a veritable encyclopedia of facts, figures and anecdotes), admonished us to thoroughly research the validity of information we publish. The purposes of history and our legacy to future generations are ill served by those who mislabel hearsay or personal theory as fact.
Dick also urged that we make preparations for celebrating, in June of 1989, the 100th anniversary of Chicago annexing land (including Edgewater) of more than twice its size, thereby becoming the second largest city in the nation overnight.
On that propitious note, Sr. Mary Cramer moved that we found the Edgewater Historical Society for the purpose of:
- involving the community in the research, documentation, collection, and preservation of Edgewater history
- promoting the study, sharing, and enjoyment of that history, and
- promoting the preservation of landmarks and historical structures.
The vote carried unanimously … the "baby" had arrived!
We sat in awe for a moment or two before realization set in and the room absolutely erupted in applause! A sense of responsibility for the care and nurturing of the infant demanded that a committee be named to prepare articles of incorporation and bylaws. It was also declared that all who joined the society in the first year be known as charter members. Only then did someone remember to pass out the cigars.
Ms. Doyle commented on the Rogers Park Historical Society’s close association with Edgewater and its projects, and presented the newborn with a congratulatory certificate. Ms. Annette Schroeder, President of ECC, and Mr. Jack Markowski, ECC’s Director, were acknowledged and thanked for their support. Claire Conley, Kathy Gemperle, Betty Mayian, Sandee Remis and Lori Reynolds were similarly recognized for their work on the Oral History Project by Sr. Mary Cramer, chair of that historic group.
Sr. Cramer, who was in Mundelein’s first freshman class in 1930 and currently directs the Center on Aging at the college, encouraged us "to preserve our history by recording it now, before it is too late."
Capitalizing on the virtue of Sister’s remarks, Mr. Bob Remer, 48th Ward Committeeman, took the floor and immediately began calling on folks to join the Collections Committee. Talk about spirit and excitement - that man has plenty! In fact, it was a full seven months before the Society came to fruition that Bob plunked down a $50 check payable to the Edgewater Historical Society, so certain was he that it would come to pass. We’re extremely honored to have him as our very first member and patron.
Festivities ended that wonderful and memorable day with a showing of the video "Edgewater: Through the Eyes of Experience," created by the ECC Oral History group. But the fun of watching "baby" grow had just begun.
The family dutifully convened for the christening on February 27, 1988. By-laws were approved and a board of directors elected. A prouder bevy of godparents were not to be seen for miles around! "Baby" cut its first tooth on March 30th with the legal recording of its articles of incorporation. By May 14th, "baby" was ready for its first outing - "An Architectural Walking Tour of Edgewater."
Thinking of "baby’s" future schooling and networking needs, the family naturally applied for North Eastern Illinois Historical Council (N.E.IL) membership on May 25th and was accepted. "Baby" seemed quite pleased with the prospect of having cousins around with whom to work and play, and really enjoyed getting together with the Rogers Park Historical Society on June 1st to sort through piles and piles of old photos. "Baby" could hardly wait to meet even more new friends on its tour of Rosehill Cemetery on August 6th. The flies were pesky but a good time was had by all.
My, how easy it is to run on and on! "Baby" is barely seven months old now and has grown from 40 to 96 members strong. It’s tough these days trying to raise a baby and make history at the same time, but love’s labor surely isn’t lost.