From the President

Vol. X No. 1 - WINTER 1999

By: Kathy Gemperle

It’s been a long time coming. The work on the Edgewater Historical Museum began in November with the repair of the roof, parapet and brick exterior walls. The work was done by Supreme Construction, just in the nick of time. The warm weather in December helped to insure the exterior repairs could be done before the freeze and thaw cycle that we are experiencing now. Stage two began just before Christmas with the demolition of the interior walls and ceilings as part of the preparation for the changes in the heating, electrical and plumbing. The expected length of this stage is two months. However, the snow delayed some of the work. Greene and Proppe Design, architects for the project, are monitoring the work. Dan Ford of GPD is ever vigilant on the details.

How we got to this point is a long story. After months of delays by the Building Department our permit application of January 15th (1998) was first reviewed at the end of May. For the next two months it was sent back and forth for corrections (corrections that should have been noted in the first review). By August, the construction season was fast disappearing. Thom Greene of Greene and Proppe (GPD) went back to the Mayor’s Office (where we had sent our original proposal to buy the building) to seek a more direct review of the project and a more efficient process. Things began to improve and Greg Marshall of GPD had succeeded in getting all the various permits when our contractor, Arcoiris Contracting Services delayed the project further. What was missing were various documents certifying the sub-contractors. Everything came together finally and the permit was issued just after Thanksgiving. For a report on the project see Carl Helbig’s report under Committee Reports, Building committee.

Our 1998 Home Tour was a great success with over 250 attendees. Those who visited the eight homes in Lakewood Balmoral know it was a once in a lifetime chance. St. Ita’s was our host for the day. Adding to the fun of the day were two or three summer showers. They forced tourgoers to wait on the many beautiful porches of the 1898 homes on the tour. Our check-in team got the worst of it as they sought shelter in the doorway of St. Ita School. Thanks to everyone who offered their home for this centennial tour and to all those who volunteered both on the day of the tour and in the preparation. Thanks also to Karen McNeel for hosting refreshments at the new shop, South and West.

This past October, the North Lakeside Cultural Center celebrated its 10th anniversary with a dinner at the Sovereign Hotel. In conjunction with that event, I curated an exhibit at the Center featuring the history of the development of the Center from the campaign to Save the Mansion to the opening of the building for arts and cultural activities. The exhibit filled the second floor gallery. Several of the items from the exhibit were damaged by frequent rainstorms that came through the leaking roof. It is disturbing to find that the Chicago Park District, owner of the building, cannot manage to preserve this historic structure.

Although our communities, Rogers Park and Edgewater, raised about $400,000 to make the initial repairs to the mansion, ten years later some serious maintenance is needed on the windows and roof. As you can imagine, a neighborhood arts organization does not have the kind of budget to repair an historic mansion.

Should you want to express your concern, write to the Chicago Park District. The Edgewater Historical Society has hosted several events at the North Lakeside Cultural Center. This beautiful building is a valuable asset that must be preserved.

Thanksgiving in Edgewater is usually marked by a special inter-faith service at one of our area houses of worship. This special prayer gathering was held at St. Gertrude’s Church this year. I was invited to speak about Thanksgiving from the historical perspective. The event included music from three different choirs and a performance by the Ismaili Children’s Drum and Flute band. Alderman Mary Ann Smith read Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation. Every year this event is sponsored by the Edgewater Community Religious Association. Plan to participate next year.

Looking forward to 1999, we hope to move into the museum and have more regular activities there. We will have monthly speakers and special restoration workshops. Volunteers will be needed to catalogue the collections and sort through 10 years of donations. Right now these donations are in envelopes in file boxes in my home. Our photographs are in albums in archival sleeves. Each year we spend up to $500 just to copy photographs that are loaned to us. Since we do not have a volunteer photographer with a darkroom, copying photos can be expensive. We are hoping that some of the new computer technology will help us in maintaining these archives. For the most part we have few original photos since many people want to keep their own historic photos. When we copy photos we sometimes make slides. This is another step in the process. All of this will get more organized when we set up the Museum. For a better idea of what we are collecting read On Collecting in this issue.

The Swift School addition is nearing completion and we are looking for artifacts or photos of the school. A recent request from the school presented a problem since no one has donated even a photgraph of a Swift school class. Most schools themselves are the best source for their own history. But if no one thinks “all that old stuff” is worth saving, the Edgewater Historical Society surely won’t have it. I personally went through a few bags and boxes in a closet at Swift in 1987 (mostly PTA records) but did not take anything for copying except a 1930s photo of the facade. So I’m making an appeal for the loan of anything you might have from Swift School so we could copy it and perhaps produce a written history of this school in our community. And if you have an archival bent and work at a school, take note. Keep one or two copies of everything you publish in a special file. Also, it would be helpful if graduate became famous someone takes notes and keeps a special list. We recently received an updated list from Senn High School.

Our March General meeting will feature author Kenan Heise with his new book, “Chaos, Creativity and Culture.” It will be at the Edgewater Library on Saturday, March 13, with a brief general meeting at 9:30 a.m. prior to the presentation at 10 a.m. Refreshments will be served.