From the President

Vol. XII No. 2 - SUMMER 2001

By: Kathy Gemperle

This issue has been delayed by my sudden exit on a trip to China. It was a once in a lifetime chance to see the country and learn more about the history and art work. While I was gone everything ran smoothly thanks to our active Board of Directors who pitched in on a variety of activities.

We were delighted with the success of our three tours this past spring. We are working on an Andersonville tour in October.

Our Museum project is still in the bidding stage. We have received partial bids on the windows, electrical, wallboarding and flooring. We have received one bid on the whole project, way beyond our budget which is now limited to $120,000. When we started we thought that would be all we would need. That was before the building department of the City of Chicago delayed the permit for 11 months and at the last minute added things like moving interior walls, adding doors and piercing our new roof with 14 air vents. Obviously we could do nothing but add the work onto the project. We have now formed a strategy to focus on the second floor and get it finished before the first floor. With the second floor done we can begin moving in the archives that are stored in many places. Then we can begin to organize what we have and see to its proper storage. So that’s the plan as of August 2001.

During one of my many visits to the Museum I made an attempt at pulling some of the tall weeds in the back yard. Last year after the City delivered the wood chips and the St. Gregory High School student’s spread them around the yard things looked pretty good. If you are interested go to our web site, and click on the museum site. But as the growing season began this year the prairie plants and mint seemed stronger than the wood chip mulch. The 40th ward sent over a mower just after Carl Helbig, Property Committee Chairman had found someone to go in with a mower. We were thankful for the help. In the process we learned that the little house next door is to be torn down and replaced with something new… we are waiting to find out what.

It appears that our efforts to educate Edgewater residents on the value of their community history have failed once again. Recently the ETNA group met with developer Jim Byrne to hear and approve his proposal to tear down the homestead of the McManus family which has stood on Ridge Avenue (5776) since 1903. It was the home of Dorothy McManus for 93 years until her death. The family sold it to a woman who has now sold it to Byrne. The complaint about the property is that it would take too much to fix it up, new roof etc. to make it worthwhile reselling. Mr. Byrne has done this before on Early Avenue, across from where he lives. He replaced a 2-story wooden house with a 4-level condo.

Apparently the members of the neighborhood organization are unaware of the history of the home and the family in Edgewater. After all it’s just a wooden house that won’t make it to its 100th anniversary. It’s not even a mansion of Sheridan Road and we know what has happened to those buildings.

Historic preservation can take two directions, either the architectural significance of the building makes it worth preserving or the place is the home of someone who has made significant contributions to the community. It is the mission of the Edgewater Historical Society to educate the community on its own history and work towards the preservation of that history. There are few homes in Edgewater that can be associated directly with the development of the community. Besides opening the first grocery store Mr. McManus was involved in the founding of St. Ita’s. His first grocery store was in the Guild Hall (built by J.L Cochran in 1886) where St. Ita’s first families met together to pray using crates to create an altar. The second Edgewater Grocery burned down in 1936. The McManus family stayed in Edgewater in the same house. For history in Edgewater this is as close as it gets.

Another wooden house in the ETNA area is also slated for demolition- it was the original farmhouse for that area but has been abandoned for some time. It does not have the redeeming qualities of the McManus home. If you want to take a look before it is gone it’s near the corner of Hollywood and Glenwood.

It looks more like we need an EHS representative on every board of directors of every neighborhood in Edgewater. All we would like to do is make sure that all the information about a home is available to those who might approve its demolition. All the wooden homes in Edgewater are vulnerable to the developers who intend to increase the density of our community and add to our traffic and parking woes. Cement block condos are not necessarily better than old wooden houses. One thing’s for sure, they have no history.