The "Swedish Cathedral" Celebrates 100+1 Years
By: Gloria L. Evenson
Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1650 W. Foster, with its tall spires and hourly chimes, has long been a familiar part of Edgewater’s landscape.
The congregation began in 1891 when a small group of Swedish immigrants (17 adults and 16 children) realized the need for a Swedish-speaking Lutheran church in the Summerdale and Edgewater district (a.k.a. Andersonville). Assisted by Rev. C.A. Evald of Immanuel Lutheran Church (then at Sedgwick and Hobbie), and funds from a women’s sewing circle eventually known as the Dorcas Society, Ebenezer was officially chartered January 22, 1892. Its name means “Thus the Lord has helped us.”
The early years of this steadfast Swedish congregation were a struggle, with four pastors in ten years. The first, Rev. C.P. Rydholm, stayed only a few months.
Ebenezer first occupied a rented frame storefront at 1610 W. Summerdale (now home to a German piano instructor). A new church was built at a cost of $619 on lots belonging to John Bengtson at Berwyn near Ravenswood in 1895. It was moved to a lot, purchased by the church, at Winnemac near Ravenswood in 1898. The cornerstone for the present Gothic limestone structure at Foster and Paulina, designed by architect Andrew Norman, was laid July 24. 1904.
A June 28, 1992 attempt to open the cornerstone proved Swedish craftsmen really made things to last. After working two and a half hours, masons still could not pull the stone and finally gave up! A list of the stone’s contents includes names of first members and early church groups, a Luther’s Small Catechism, an Augustana Synod constitution, various news publications of the day and records of McKinley and Roosevelt.
The most recent addition to Ebenezer’s magnificent edifice is a new Kimball Viennese Classic grand piano for the sanctuary. Many enjoyed the romantic sounds of Prof. John F. Strauss of Luther College (Iowa) at a September 13, 1992 piano dedication.
Ebenezer has long reflected its Swedish heritage, still holding an annual Luciafest on December 13 and Julotta service in Swedish each Christmas morning. Sweden’s King Karl XVI Gustaf attended Easter services at Ebenezer in 1976.
The church today is committed to serving the needs of Edgewater’s diverse ethnic community as it begins a second century with the motto, “Forward in Remembrance.” Current pastor, Rev. Paul F. Koch, is also President of the community action group, Organization of the Northeast (ONE).
A series of music recitals by guest performers, coordinated by Music Director Timothy Welch, were among 100th anniversary highlights at Ebenezer. Many fond memories were shared at an October 24, 1992 reunion banquet at the Lincolnwood Radisson and special services were held at the church on October 25.
The Edgewater Historical Society happily extends our belated but hearty congratulations to the Ebenzer congregation!