Dawn To Dusk - The Story behind the Pictures

Vol. I No. 2 - WINTER 1988

By: Kathy Gemperle

Last September the Edgewater Historical Society was granted funding through the Chicago Park District’s Innovative Programming Fund for a very special purpose. Entitled “Dawn to Dusk in Edgewater Parks, 1988,” the project constitutes a black-and-white photographic survey of the parks in our neighborhood.

Participants, under the able direction of Antigoni Lambrinides, a photographer and art teacher, have spent the last two months at the Armory learning darkroom techniques for processing and enlarging black-and-white photographs. Their collection of photos will be exhibited at the Broadway Armory Park from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, December 10 and 11. Please be sure to stop in and see the wonderful display. Refreshments will be served at a reception for the artists beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.

Copies of the photographs will be donated to EHS and the Chicago Park District for their historical collections.

The “Dawn To Dusk” photo project, done in cooperation with the Broadway Armory Park District facility, offered EHS the opportunity to research the history of Edgewater parks as well as collect historic photos. We found that procuring recreational places was a serious business.

When John L. Cochran subdivided the area and called it Edgewater, he planned for housing, religious buildings, transportation and also recreational activities. He was the first President of the Saddle and Cycle Club at Foster Avenue, a privately run club for boating, golf, horseback riding and bicycling.

After 1910, when the density of Edgewater changed with the widespread construction of larger apartment buildings, the needs of the community changed.

In 1916, the first “baby park” was established by the Chicago Police Department at the corner of Bryn Mawr and Ashland. At the time it was considered an experiment. In 1930, it was dedicated as the Mellin Baby Park, named after the Republican Alderman of the 50th Ward. The idea of using vacant land for small parks caught on and other neighborhoods followed suit.

Years later, in 1946, the Chicago Park District purchased land for Senn Park in the area bounded by Ridge, Greenview, Elmdale and Clark. Some of this land was the last vacant land in Edgewater, part of the original Kransz farm. Though the plan was for a larger park, the final design shows failure to gain title to all the land in that area. A play area was later planned for the corner of Greenview and Elmdale.

In 1959, per the Uniform Consolidation Act, many vacant lots were transferred from city ownership to the Chicago Park District for development of playgrounds.

Many other playlots and parks were developed in Edgewater because of community interest and lobbying efforts by the Lakewood Balmoral Residents Council, the Winthrop Neighbors and the Edgewater Neighbors North.

The biggest lobbying efforts were focused on the development of recreational activities centers. The Edgewater Community Council took the leadership role in organizing the funds to rehabilitate the Broadway Armory as a jointly used facility by the Chicago Park District and the Illinois National Guard. This tremendous facility opened in April 1985.

When the last large parcel of land on the Edgewater lakefront came up for sale by the Viatorian Fathers, ECC sought funds from the Chicago Park District to purchase the property for public use. It included three acres of land and two early 20th century mansions.

When the Chicago Park District stated their intention to rehabilitate only the south mansion, ECC began to seek funds to save the north mansion for a cultural center. With the help of ECC, a new arts group, the North Lakeside Cultural Center, was formed to move the project forward and operate the site. In fall of 1988, the Cultural Center was opened and site landscaping of Berger Park was completed.

All of these activities were the result of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers in Edgewater.