Ida Girsch

Mrs. Ida Girsch Interview*

History of Uptown, Summerdale District/Period around 1887, Document #27a

Source: Mrs. Ida Girsch, 5149 North Clark Street, wife of an early settler in Summerdale. Interviewed in November, 1927.

We moved up here from our home further south on the north side in 1887 and located on Ashland Boulevard near Summerdale Avenue in the building I now live in. The people then had truck gardens. Everyone had a garden behind their house, even if they did not sell things. Reinberg’s flower shop used to give away slips from rose bushes and so we all had roses and our yards look real pretty. Reinberg was the thing in this district in those days. He held public offices but I don’t remember which ones.

At first there were stores on Clark Street except across from the St. Boniface Cemetery. I could look out of my back door and see my friends driving on Clark Street. Another woman and it used to take our sewing and sit under the trees on Clark Street just north of Foster all afternoon. This land was called Zero Park by the man who owned it, Zero Mark. Between thirty and thirty-five years ago a pool room and barber shop opened on Clark and Summerdale and the west side of Clark. There was another one at Foster and Clark. Clark Street had no sidewalks in those days so we walked along paths til we came to Lawrence. Rainbo Gardens used to be a saloon, but it was the sort of place where it was alright to go. We ladies had our lodge meetings upstairs and the church had picnics there. The Andersonville school was on the southwest corner of Foster and Clark for a long time. My boy went there but he reached fourth grade he had to transfer to the Goudy School way over at Foster and Winthrop. In 1901 Johnson opened his grocery and meat market near us on Clark and other stores began coming in too. Before that we went to Lincoln Avenue and to Halsted Street for our meat and staples. There were no stores at St. Boniface either in the first days up here.

In the summer time it was grand up here. One of our neighbors had a horse and buggy and we piled all the kids in it and six or seven families would spend the day on the beach. We generally went up to Devon because that was such a good beach. We did this up till twenty years ago, dressing behind the bushes because there wasn’t a soul in sight. Then we had picnics at Berwyn and Ashland and other picnic places around us. Thirty-nine years ago a bunch of us started a social club and six of us out of the first members still spend the day together once in a while. Swedish people had picnics in the Berwyn and Ashland ground too. Then we went to church. Some of the Catholics went to Mt. Carmel before Father Clausen organized the church in Summerdale. St. Ita’s came after Father Clausen’s church. My youngest son was the first boy christened in St. Ita’s. [Editor’s note: St Ita Church was organized before St. Gregory’s, Father Clausen’s church.]

When we first moved here there were wooden sidewalks in front of the houses but they did not go all down the street for there weren’t that many houses. We had wooden fences around our lots. About forty years ago the wind blew our house over and all the neighbors came to help me settle my things and even fed my family will we were straightened around again. The winds were pretty strong when we first came. They blew straight north or northeast.

It would have been better for Uptown if they hadn’t been annexed to the city for our taxes went up right away. Jim Pease was an assessor a time back. Our taxes on this lot in 1890 were $2.56. The abstract shows that our lot was transferred to the United States to some named Teigal Trader on October 1, 1839, but this was not recorded in Cook County. In May, 1839, the land was filed by the wife of the deceased Tekal Trader as they spelled the name then. In 1847 it was sold for taxes and then in 1851 it went to Richard K. Swift. In June 27, 1835, there in the abstract you can see that eighty acres was sold for $152. When we bought it the land was in the Louis E. Henry re-subdivision. In 1901 our taxes were 22.80. That’s the story of out north in Uptown. All the land has gone up high.

* Ida Girsch was born 31 December 1873 in Illinois to Edward and Amelia Varges, both born in Germany. Her father was a fireman who worked and lived in Summerdale as early as 1892. In 1902 she married Martin Girsch, born 1873 in Illinois. Her husband died before 1910, leaving her with a daughter and two sons to bring up on her own. She died 16 February 1938 and buried at Rosehill Cemetery.

Cover page: Documents: History of the Uptown Community, Chicago. Prepared for the Chicago Historical Society and the Local Community Research Committee, University of Chicago. Research under the direction of Vivien M. Palmer; staff investigators Marion Lindner and Beatrice Nesbit. These documents contain data just as it was secured form old residents and from existing documents. A final check of the data will appear in the volume of the Social History of Chicago.

Format: Photocopy of a typescript without page numbers in the Chicago History Museum library; volume 2 of a 6-volume set containing documentary information on 20 Chicago community districts/areas.

Publication date: 1925-1930.