v27-1 From the President

Vol. XXVII No. 1 - SPRING 2016

By Robert Remer

Edgewater Beach Hotel Centennial 2016

Who doesn’t love picture postcards? Our own long gone iconic Edgewater Beach Hotel (EBH) ranks among the most prolific photogenic sites in Chicago’s pantheon of picture postcards. As I write, there are over 250 currently on sale on Ebay – more than a quarter of those for all Chicago sites. They tell the wonderful story from the hotel’s opening on June 3, 1916 to its closing in the late 1960s.

As you can surmise, the hotel’s centennial is upon us and EHS will be celebrating with, among other activities, a delightful exhibit of our extensive and unmatched collection of EBH memorabilia that includes a wide assortment of picture postcards, particularly the early black and white RPPCs (real photo post cards). Our collections chair LeRoy Blommaert, himself an eminent expert and author on post cards, will raise the curtain on our treasures from silver tea settings to postcards; he will also share his time lapse slide show of the difficult and lengthy demolition of both buildings. Kathy Gemperle, our chair of exhibits, plans to bring the hotel back to life in our gallery – get ready to party!

Since the end of the 19th century, picture postcards have told the history of our world, starting in force with Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, when postcard popularity proliferated along Chicago’s picturesque lakefront.

The allure of that lakefront endures and EBH evokes a wide range of those emotions, experiences, and aspirations. That is why we think this will be one of our more fun and popular exhibits. If you have any memories or items from the Edgewater Beach Hotel, please let us know and share them with us so we can share them with the larger community. We would love to hear your stories about proms, weddings, dances, or special personal occasions at the hotel – your story can become part of the exhibit or our archives.

Annual Meeting and Immigration Exhibit Programs

While we plan for the next one, our current exhibit, Voices of Edgewater (ending May 28), continues to make a major contribution to our understanding of the impact of immigrants on our community and of the varied backgrounds they came from. To help us better understand those experiences we are sponsoring a series of programs to hear firsthand the stories of immigrants and refugees.

Please join us on March 19th at 10 a.m. at the Edgewater Branch Library (6000 N. Broadway) for our annual meeting. We will be electing board members and hearing of our plans for the coming year. We have a distinguished speaker, Ms. Jean Mishima, President of the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, who will speak about her and her family’s experience at the World War II internment camps. That was a terrible time of war hysteria, when America rounded up immigrants and loyal American born citizens of Japanese descent and sent them to special detention camps in the U.S. They lost their homes, their businesses and their livelihoods. In the current exhibit, one of our Japanese American honorees included among her displayed artifacts a copy of the reparations check she received and an apology letter from President Bush many decades later.

(In the meantime, a current presidential candidate points to the internment camps as some kind of beneficent model or historic example to support drastic restrictions on one ethnic religious group. I wonder what grades he received in history classes.) It is interesting to note that given Chicago’s distinct first century welcoming immigrants, at the beginning of World War II there were only about 300 people born in Japan then residing in Chicago. By the end of the war that number had reached many thousands who settled on the North Side, primarily in neighborhood along Clark Street. They came to Chicago during the war from the camps as part of a resettlement program. In Chicago, there were a few employers who agreed to hire Japanese Americans, and those few included the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Please join us on the March 19th at the Library.

We will have a number of other interesting programs planned this year, including a panel on better understanding of the refugees’ experiences; we will also have programs on Latino immigrants, the different waves of Jewish immigration and the special circumstances of the Bosnian immigrants and refugees. Let’s celebrate, better understand and appreciate our Edgewater neighbors from abroad.