From the President

Vol. VII No. 1 - SPRING 1996

By: Kathy Gemperle

The Edgewater Historical Museum Center is about to become a reality! On May 9, 1996, the City Council approved the sale of the Fire Station at 5358 N. Ashland to the EHS. Credit goes to Ald. Patrick O’Connor, who dedicated time and effort on our behalf. It has taken many months to shepherd our proposal through the system with this happy result.

Plans include an exhibit area, washrooms and workshop-kitchen area on the first floor with offices and archives on the second floor. But, before the inside work can begin, exterior work must be done. Watch for the scaffolding to go up as soon as we receive clear title to the building!

In anticipation of that event, Mary Lauren arranged for EHS to purchase a conference table and other used office furniture from the Christian Science Church for a very reasonable price. St. Gregory High School seniors Steve Brady and Jim Ausman helped move the items to the Fire Station and to Suzanne Hoffman’s house for temporary storage. Thanks Mary, Steve, Jim and Suzanne!

To bring you up-to-date since the last newsletter, I’ll begin with the Graceland Cemetery Tour on Sunday, July 30, 1995. The day was very hot and humid, so the turnout was less than usual. But those who came enjoyed a wonderful tour, guided by Graceland expert Al Walavich. Thanks, Al!

We had a beautiful day on September 17 for EHS’s Seventh Annual Home Tour featuring the Rosehill area. (See article on page 10.)

The October 21 General Meeting featured the slide presentation, “Chicago’s Changing Lakefront,” by moi. The program began with an 1830 map depicting the original state of the Chicago River’s mouth and traveled through the designation of lakefront land to be “forever open, clear and free.

Building the Chicago lakeshore happened in stages and involved numerous negotiations. The talk focused on Grant Park first, then Lincoln Park and the connection south, next north of Fullerton to Foster, then south of Grant Park for the 1933 World’s Fair and, lastly, the 1952 expansion along the Edgewater shore. Audience participation in the last segment was high as many attendees shared their memories of the construction - and the previous shoreline. Perhaps the most interesting picture was a 1909 photo showing the removal of a sand dune at Foster Avenue Beach.

The program was developed in 1990 as part of the Edgewater Community Council’s Lakefront Art and Design Project with eight Edgewater schools, under a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council.

Throughout the month of December, Chicago Access Corporation ran EHS’s story, “The History Lesson,” on cable TV channel 27, reaching an estimated 347,000 households.

In January 1996, children ages 6 to 10 went on an architectural treasure hunt in Edgewater and Uptown to win prizes in a contest sponsored by the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois. The contest gave photographic and written clues to guessing the identity of twelve historic buildings, six in each neighborhood. The LPCI chose the buildings with help from EHS and Ald. Mary Ann Smith’s office.

EHS celebrated its eighth birthday with a slide lecture, “The Edgewater Beach Hotel, 1916-1970,” by Rosemary Adams, editor of the Chicago Historical Society’s Chicago History magazine, at our February 2 General Meeting. (The magazine’s Fall 1994 issue had featured a photo essay on the EBH.) The presentation proved to be an enjoyable trip down Memory Lane for most of the audience, who had been guests/customers of the hotel at one time or another.

Here are only some of the interesting facts Ms. Adams touched on: For easy transport to the Loop, EBH guests could ride the Hotel’s sea-plane or a shuttle bus which made 14 trips a day to Marshall Field’s State Street store… College night was every Thursday - $1.00 admission… Manager Wm. M. Dewey maintained strict rules of propriety: dancing was forbidden on Sundays, women were not allowed in the bars and couples who were suspected of not being married were strongly encouraged to check out as quickly as possible… Formal attire was required for evenings in the Marine Room… Guest rooms were rather simply decorated compared to the plushness of the public spaces.

EHSer Betty Jaci talked about the Yacht Club - where the gangway entry swayed, a horn sounded, tables “swam” and walls moved. Bill Steinfeld recalled the hotel’s fantastic 4th of July fireworks and its Polar Bear Club. Mary Cramer reminisced about her Immaculata High School prom night. Everyone missed the good of days when Ms. Adams quoted prices from a sample menu: 7-course dinner- $3.50, prime rib- $5.50, martini- 75¢.

Thank you, Rosemary, for a very “interactive” visit! And to members who have never attended the free lecture series at EHS General Meetings, please reconsider - you’re missing out on a lot of fun!

The General Meeting on May 4 included a slide presentation on Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1886-1950, by Rev. Lee Isslieb, retired pastor of the church. The wonderful program featured some of the oldest photos of the community dating from 1886. Congratulations to Edgewater Presbyterian on its centennial year! With further assistance from Rev. Isslieb, EHS hopes to publish a history of the church in an upcoming issue of the newsletter.

That reminds me to back up a bit and offer EHS’s belated congratulations on 1995 anniversaries to St. Ita Church - 95th, the Saddle & Cycle Club (whose 4th president was J.L. Cochran, founder of Edgewater) - 100th and Loyola University - 125th. 1996 marks the 150th anniversary of Swedish immigrants coming to the Midwest, so our best wishes are extended to Andersonville also.

The Society’s Bryn Mawr Avenue Historic District Walking Tour on June 8 included pictures of early Edgewater as well as visiting many of the landmark buildings along Edgewater’s first main street. (See article on page 5).

EHS board member Everett C. Stetson celebrated his 80th birthday this year in January; that was pretty special. But even more special was Sunday, June 30, when a very appreciative EHS held a brunch in his honor at the Edgewater Beach Apartments, to thank him for his many years of generous support and contributions. The engraved plaque we gave to him was but a small token of our deep and abiding gratitude.

The 1996 Lakewood Balmoral Residents Council Annual Yard Sale will take place on Saturday, September 7. Proceeds of all sales at my home will, as usual, benefit the EHS. Please drop by.

EHS’s Eighth Annual Home Tour will be held on Sunday, September 15, 1996 from noon until 5:00 p.m. It will begin at St. Gertrude’s Church, 6200 N. Glenwood, and feature six homes, 1890s to 1924, in the North Edgewater area. Two of the houses were built by Samuel Eberly Gross, a prominent developer of working class housing during the 1880s and 1890s. One is the boyhood home of Clayton Moore, better known to most vintage TV-savvy Americans as The Lone Ranger (see article on page 8). Don’t miss it… and bring lots of your friends! The tour donation is $10.00 per person, well worth the price.

We will need about 25 guides and helpers for the tour and silent auction, which usually offers a few unique older items and special dinner certificates for local restaurants. Volunteering has some special benefits (see “Ghosts” on page 10). So, quick, get on the phone to me!