From the President

Vol. XX No. 3 - FALL 2009

By: Bob Remer

We’re pleased to report that the Edgewater Historical Society and Museum accepted the generous pro bono offer from the law firm of Seyfarth & Shaw to represent EHS, and the named defendants on our board, in our lawsuit.

We were initially sued for $1.1 million for exercising first amendment rights supporting saving an “orange” rated building at 6018 N. Kenmore. The impact of losing could still be immense, but we are confident that we are right and we hope to prevail. This case has chilling implications for free, robust and democratic community discussion of development and planning issues we’ve come to cherish in Edgewater and the 48th Ward. This case could be just as threatening for all of Edgewater’s community groups that engage in vigorous debate over development issues, as for EHS.

We are immensely grateful to David Christian, partner at Seyfarth & Shaw, who came to our aid when we sought help from the community. He and his team of attorneys very much support our position and will provide a most vigorous defense, as the case now seemingly continues on the path toward trial. We also thank Richard Friedman and the law firm of Neal & Leroy for first taking our case and furnishing substantial pro-bono support through the initial hurdles.

Scores of EHS members, attorneys and community members came to our aid and support when we put out the word about our dilemma. We don’t have room to thank you all, but your suggestions and words of support really helped to sustain us during that early period of uncertainty about the prospects of legal fees or major judgments imperiling our mission. We are grateful to all of you who came forward and signified support.

Nevertheless, EHS and the museum face considerable risks; we may still incur considerable court cost expenses (transcripts, depositions, fees, copying, etc.) even in the best of circumstances. We already spent several thousands of dollars on various costs related to this case. With our annual operating budget under $30,000, this is a very costly amount that could otherwise have gone to education, programs, collections, exhibits and programs.

Until we know more about how far this case will go, we can’t accurately project our needs for a defense fund. We will, however, keep our membership posted about progress, and we will sound the clarion call as the prospect of a trial becomes more real and we have a better estimate of our needs.

We have good news from our Annual Home Tour – one of our best yet. As our major annual fund raiser, the results exceeded our budget and we almost set a record for attendees. Good (i.e. no rain) weather held almost until the last hour, but even that did not discourage many tour participants from all around the Chicago area to see Edgewater homes. We must credit the gracious hospitality of the owners who opened their lovely homes to the community and also the volunteers who worked as docents at the homes or toiled at a very busy registration desk all afternoon. And we can’t forget the wonderful sponsors who took out ads in the program book, again a wonderful keepsake thanks to the thoughtful research that LeRoy Blommaert and Kathy Gemperle do for the tour, and the extensive community signage about the tour that LeRoy Blommaert coordinates.

Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church was not only a site on the tour, but graciously hosted our pot luck dress rehearsal dinner the night before. Special credit goes to Betty Mayian, who also chairs our fund raising committee tirelessly shepherded just about every aspect of the tour; and a special nod to hubby Ara Mayian for pitching in wherever and whenever. To build on our success, we are looking for a volunteer to spearhead the ad book for next year. Any volunteers? This is a fun and very worthwhile project that helps support the museum and show off our great Edgewater to the rest of Chicago.

December marks the completion of another year of wonderful programs from the Those Were the Days Radio Players at the museum. These programs are funny and popular with that old fashioned humor and situation comedy. In the spring we will be scheduling more and we hope more of you will stop by for the fun. If you’d like to get involved just contact us through the web site or give us a call.

Good progress is being made archiving and cataloging our considerable collection of materials about Edgewater. Your board of directors has made a top priority to put budgetary resources into this. As reported last month, under the leadership of Tom Murphy and LeRoy Blommaert, the board hired Laura McDowell as part-time Collections Manager, supervising a wonderful group of Loyola interns and volunteers. We’ll hear more about them and their progress in later issues. We want you to know that future accessibility of our collection is a top priority; also, that this is a very labor intensive activity that requires patient, careful, and professional attention to detail. This is a long term commitment and process, but we know the effort is worth it.

We hope you will like the round up of exhibits and programs for 2010. We’re extending our acclaimed lakefront exhibit until the end of January. Then we will begin a new exhibit of photos by Greg Borzo, author of a wonderful book “The Chicago ‘L’.” He will also be speaking and we will reprise some of the museum’s interesting material about Edgewater’s stations. Also sit in an old streetcar seat, courtesy of LeRoy Blommaert.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Edgewater Community Council, we will have an exhibit and programs about important ECC initiatives including Operation Winthrop Kenmore and the rightful designation of Edgewater as Community Area 77.

Many Chicago and Illinois politicians will be nominated in February and elected in November. Between elections, we will liven up the old fire house with some interesting history, programs, political memorabilia, banners, posters and buttons. Did you know that two Chicago reform mayors lived in Edgewater? Do you have any old local campaign memorabilia you would like to loan for the exhibit? We hope to have fun.

Keep on the lookout for these and other interesting programs in 2010.