From the President

Vol. XXIV No. 1 - SPRING 2013

By: Robert Remer

25 Years of Service and Renewal - Then and Now

Today is January 23, 2013. The temperature is in the teens. It is exactly 25 years from another bone chilling day, when your community unanimously formed the Edgewater Historical Society. It’s cozy today at home, good to reminisce about that other cold day in 1988.

Scores of local residents braved the chill to attend our first public meeting at the bursting Edgewater Library, itself not yet 15 years old, a tribute to years of community organizing. That was home for our first 15 years, holding programs and meetings, and maintaining exhibit cases we shared with the library staff.

Founding President Kathryn Gemperle laid the ground work, endeavoring for years getting there – organizing a home tour in Lakewood Balmoral (later becoming an Historic District), corralling like minded devotees to collaborate on multi-media celebrations and oral histories of Edgewater’s centennial, and showing us our history was important and could be fun.

Ever prescient, she admonished us that morning, “Don’t carry our history down from the attic and into the alley.” Visions of our future museum, perhaps?

Joined by supportive dignitaries and neighboring historical societies, the hardy throng responded to Mundelein’s beloved Sister Mary Cramer, who proposed the vote on the EHS mission: 1) involving the community in the research, documentation, collection, and preservation of Edgewater History, 2) promoting the study, sharing, and enjoyment of that history, and 3) promoting the preservation of landmarks and historical structures. Looking back today, that seemed like a tall order.

Our museum then was our well guarded basements and attics (with spousal consent!); we did not know that, 15 years later, we would open a wonderful museum facility that today is brimming. We knew our history, but we did not know what the future would hold. We raised a few dollars that day, and we started on this long road. Many dollars later, with your considerable support we are still here, still following the mission laid out in 1988.

I could trot out impressive statistics about thousands of people who attended our dozens of home tours, exhibits and programs over the intervening years, and thousands of items catalogued and scanned on our archives’ computer data base. Edgewater now has three National Historic Districts, several landmarked buildings, several locations on the National Register of Historic Places and, sadly, quite a few buildings demolished before they could be saved. Especially essential have been thousands of volunteer hours devoted to our mission, and keeping open your museum, free to the community. Volunteers make this all possible. Edgewater’s fascinating, extraordinary and productive citizens make our history worth knowing and preserving.

As we begin the 25th year celebrations, we will shine a light on community volunteers and exceptional citizens who made Edgewater a special and memorable place to live. Recently we reported on the Edgewater Living Treasures project that will recognize people for historic accomplishments to improve and sustain the Edgewater community. We want to recognize and memorialize citizen involvement in our history. Because there are so many of you, this will be an ever ongoing project for EHS. We look forward to your recommendations.

We planned a robust year of programs and events, culminating with a 25th Anniversary Gala in November, to recognize some very special history makers.

One of our founding members, cheering us on at the library that day was our own exuberant Alderperson, Kathy Osterman – someone rising from block club president to head the Edgewater Community Council, then to elected official, and eventually to the city’s Director of Special Events. Kathy’s life was cut too short only four years after that special day, but she left behind an enormous legacy of accomplishments, including Berger Park, the Broadway Armory Park and a better Edgewater.

To honor Kathy’s legacy, the EHS board established the Kathy Osterman History Maker Award, “for individuals who have made major and lasting positive contributions to the history and success of the Edgewater Community.” The first of these awards will be presented in November at our Gala. We hope you will join us for a night of celebration.

By then the new, much bigger and better, Edgewater Library will have opened. We hope to renew our terrific relationship with the great library staff and to hold public meetings in the expanded spaces. Renewal is an historic theme and is something we take seriously.

For 25 years you, our members and supporters, made it possible for us to thrive, renewing us with your dollars and time. Looking ahead, we will need that continued support, and especially your time. Some of us may not make the next twenty five years, but we know that among you are lovers of history and Edgewater. We ask you to help us on the next leg of the journey to get involved, and consider taking positions of leadership, so we can continually renew our purpose and keep the Edgewater Historical Society a vital part of our community. Thank you for letting us serve you.