Edgewater Museum celebrates 10 years
By: Kathy Gemperle
On October 6, 2002, the Edgewater Historical Society began a new phase in its mission to research and share the history of Edgewater with the opening of a museum at 5358 North Ashland. The event featured a ribbon cutting, tours of the building, an exhibit of photos of Edgewater streets, two antique fire trucks and refreshments. About 300 people attended and celebrated the work of six years. Under the direction of President Kathy Gemperle, the time was used to acquire the building, raise the funds and rehab the derelict firehouse into a beautiful museum. Perhaps no one realized how much the museum would effect its members and the community.
In the years since the opening, we have presented 26 exhibits at the museum including: The Edgewater Streets; Let it Snow; At the Beach at Edgewater; Postcards of Edgewater; the Edgewater Gulf Hotel and the Magnolia Route; Endangered Edgewater; Then and Now in Edgewater, House History; Maps of Chicago; The Plan of Chicago; Edgewater’s Lakefront; Edgewater Hospital; Unbuilt projects for Edgewater; Chairs (in cooperation with the North Lakeside Cultural Center); Edgewater Grocery Stores; Edgewater’s Attic; Edgewater’s Kitchens; Politics in Edgewater; 50 Years of the Edgewater Community Council; The Andersonville Historic District; and Crime and Community.
The museum has also afforded us a place to have over 30 informative programs, including 16 authors speaking about a variety of Chicago topics. The museum has also hosted many community groups, such as the Board of Directors of the Edgewater Community Council, the members of ECRA, the WANT neighborhood association, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, the Chicago Bungalow Association, a bike tour group and Northwestern Journalism students.
Neighborhood schools have enjoyed many exhibits at the museum, including the students from Trumbull, St. Gregory High School, Lake Shore Schools, St. Gertrude’s of the NCA and Peirce School. The mothers of Peirce School visited the museum, as did a group from the Breakers and Hartwell house.
Although we have limited public hours, our doors are always open for special group tours. An additional group found a home at the Museum, the Those Were the Days Radio Players, Chicago North chapter, who offer free programs three times a year at the museum. The museum has hosted the Plein Air Painters in a special exhibit as part of Andersonville Arts Weekend.
There are many assets at the museum and there are daily efforts to share the information gleaned from the collection of archives. Among the prized objects at the museum are the photographs, many donated by area residents, the archives of the Edgewater Community Council and the North Lakeside Cultural Center and the North End Women’s Club plus family collections from the McManus family and Frances Posner. Through the effort of many, there is a good collection of postcards of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce donated its collection of photos. The Kransz family has donated photos and two paintings of original Kransz family members who lived in Edgewater. Other neighbors have brought in unusual donations like the Swedish Christmas village from Ann Basye. All these things are under the watchful eye of LeRoy Blommaert and two part time archivists who are organizing the information.
So, after 10 years, we are ready for 10 more. Though it seems we have outgrown our space we continue to examine and evaluate donations and hopefully find even more. Thanks to the internet, we found a collection of photos of the construction of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Thanks to Mark Harding, we have a rare copy of the Stickney School brochure. What we have not found is a photo of the Edgewater School on Winthrop or photos of the many homes demolished for the construction of the Sovereign Hotel and the Edgewater Beach Hotel. We are still searching for photos of the Beauty Salon in the Edgewater Beach Hotel and photos of the Lain Funeral home at Clark and Catalpa or photos of any farm buildings in the area before it was subdivided. History is a mystery and collecting history just helps us to focus on the stories of the people who were here before us. If you are interested in telling your story, we are ready to listen; if you have something in your attic that tells something about Edgewater’s history, we are prepared to evaluate it and collect it. We are here to serve you and preserve the history of our community. It’s been a wonderful 10 years.