100 Years of Small Town Tradition

Vol. II No. 3 - SPRING 1990

By: Gloria L. Evenson

The postcard below was written by a 40-year member of the Summerdale Community Church and is typical of the love and pride many Edgewater residents feel for their places of worship.

At the time Summerdale Church was formed in April 1890, Edgewater was basically rural, having been part of the City of Chicago less than a year.

A May 3,1967 letter Gertrude Johnson, my grandmother, received from an Elisabeth Patterson describes the area as it existed in the 1880s: “(My aunt) Augusta Thalberg built a two-story house on 1705 W. Foster Avenue, then named N. 59th Street. (The neighborhood) was called Summerdale, being a suburb of Chicago. When we moved out to Summerdale, it was just like moving out to the country. It was restful.

“Across N. Paulina Street east was a farmhouse (the current site of Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1650 W. Foster). Cows were grazing in the meadow. Across from Foster Avenue north was a large cabbage field. There were very few houses.”

The letter goes on to say that “transportation to Chicago was not good,” and describes a two-horse car that came no further north than Clark and Lawrence. It continues, however: “After some years Summerdale became a part of Chicago, (and) then a car line was laid on Clark Street north to the Evanston line at Howard Street.”

As a side note, the house at 1705 W. Foster was the place where another area church, Bethany United Methodist (now at Ashland and Winnemac), was founded in 1891. The house was eventually sold to Signe Carlson Bakery and replaced with a parking lot now adjacent to Let Them Eat Cake.

The St. Gregory Story, published in 1954 by St. Gregory the Great Church at 1634 W. Gregory, describes the community in 1904 as “…a sprawling area of truck gardens with an occasional house. The streets were all laid out and paved with macadam. There were even sidewalks, some of them concrete. But there was no gas, no electricity… From Rosehill Drive to Lawrence Avenue, there were no more than 20 buildings on Ashland Avenue.”

While Summerdale Community Church has seen many changes in its neighborhood in 100 years, it still retains the quaint country charm of days gone by. The two-story, white frame structure has a small sanctuary on one level and a multi-purpose social hall (complete with stage and kitchen facilities) in the basement.

Two popular annual events are a spring rummage sale (May 19 from 9:30 to 4:00 p.m. this year) and a Christmas bazaar the first Saturday of December. In addition to fantastic bargains, one can enjoy a delicious lunch prepared by church cooks Linda and Heidi Reeves and, perhaps, find someone to sit back and chat with.

A 100th anniversary banquet will be held Sunday, April 29, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at DiLeo’s Restaurant, 5700 N. Central. Reservations are $26 and music will be provided by the Palmer Ensemble, a talented local group consisting of flute, piano and strings.

An open house at the church will be held Sunday, May 6, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., and the community is most cordially welcome to attend. Call for further information.