Edgewater Historical Society Museum

In 1890, the City of Chicago purchased this site for a fire house to serve the northern part of Lakeview Township, which had become a part of the city of Chicago in 1889. The wooden building on the site included a place to house the horses that pulled the fire equipment to the fires.

In the early 1920s, the City of Chicago developed a plan to widen Ashland Avenue. This plan was the source of many disputes, because it involved the loss of 10 feet of land in front of each dwelling along the street. While some home owners filed a lawsuit to prevent the widening, the city began looking into rebuilding the fire station to accommodate the gasoline powered fire trucks and the street widening.

What happened during this planning stage may have been a coincidence. The businessmen in the Clearing area of Chicago wanted to improve their fire protection but they could not afford to staff a fire station. So they applied to the City to give them fire protection. An exchange of ideas took place and what was negotiated benefited Edgewater. The Clearing businessmen agreed to build three fire stations for the City in exchange for fire protection. The firehouses they built are located at 6411 S. Central, 5758 W. Grace and the one in Edgewater. That station was used as a fire house until 1979, when it was deemed too small to be useful.

From 1979 until 1994, it stood under-used and deteriorating. The City of Chicago Department of Environment used the site for an “air quality testing site” for Cook County. Additionally, the Department of General services used the building for storage. In 1994, members of the Board of Directors of the Edgewater Historical Society sought information about the site and were given a chance to tour the building. Despite its small size and deplorable condition, the Board voted to pursue acquisition of the building for the “right” price.

What followed was a proposal to Mayor Daley including almost 2000 signatures, an act of the City Council to approve the sale (shepherded by Alderman Patrick J. O’Connor) and applications for funding through the City’s Non-Profit Facility Rehab program. In 1999, the Edgewater Historical Society developed a plan for the facility and partially finished the project. Every step of the way brought more delays.

Finally, on October 6, 2002, the Edgewater Historical Society hosted the grand opening of the museum with a ribbon cutting and celebration. Later that fall, the Board of Directors dedicated the main hall to Everett Charles Stetson, who donated most of the funds for the project.

Since the opening, the museum has presented four or five exhibits each year, with topics like Edgewater Hospital; The Edgewater Gulf Hotel and the Magnolia Route; Postcards from Edgewater; and Endangered Edgewater. In addition to exhibits, the museum has also hosted several Chicago authors as guest speakers and the “Those Were the Days Radio Players” several times a year. The front display windows offer a place to show some of the collectibles at the museum, including exhibits featuring the telephone, the radio, ladies’ hats, laundry, Marshall Field’s and wintertime activities.

Although the museum hours are limited to those when volunteers are available, special groups have visited the museum, including the third graders from St. Gertrude’s, students from St. Gregory High School, students from Trumbull School and the Mothers group from Peirce School. Please stop and enjoy the current exhibit, called Edgewater’s Attic, which will be up until the end of September.