It was January 23, 1988 when a group of 71 Edgewater residents assembled at the Edgewater Branch Library to form the Edgewater Historical Society. To begin the meeting, Kathryn Gemperle welcomed the happy crowd and introduced the honored guests: Al Walavich, President of the Uptown Historical Society; Mary Jo Doyle, President of the Rogers Park Historical Society; Richard Bjorklund, from the Ravenswood-Lakeview Historical Association; Kathy Osterman, then Alderman of the 48th Ward; Annette Schroeder, President of the ECC, and Jack Markowski, Executive Director of ECC.
Ms. Gemperle then urged the assembly to think about what they could do to help preserve our community history by saying "Don't carry our history down from the attic and into the alley."
After several of the guests spoke words of encouragement, Sister Mary Cramer, B.V.M., made the motion to form the Edgewater Historical Society for the purpose of involving the community in the research, documentation, collection and preservation of Edgewater history promoting the study, sharing and enjoyment of that history, and promoting the preservation of landmarks and historical structures. The vote carried unanimously at 11:09 A.M..
Following this momentous vote the assembled gathering watched a video about Edgewater that had been produced in 1987 by the Centennial Committee of the Edgewater Community Council. Meeting attendees then began to join the fledgling organization. At the close of the meeting Ardell Nickels announced that 41 people had signed up.
This founding day at the Edgewater Library was the culmination of a determined effort by a small group of activists to make the history of the Edgewater community more well known.
The project began like this. In 1986 the Edgewater Community Council formed a Centennial Committee to plan a celebration of the 100th year anniversary of Edgewater's foundation as a suburb of Chicago. The committee created a number of activities for a year of celebration. One of these activities was an Oral History Project, headed by Sister Cramer and funded by the Illinois Humanities Council. Working with her were Claire Conley, Kathy Gemperle, Elizabeth Mayian, Sandra Remis, and Lori Reynolds. Funds for this project were used to train community volunteers to record over 25 oral interviews, which were then painstakingly transcribed.
Next Claire Conley found a video producer, Bob Solomon, to join the project with funds from another grant through the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.
The Centennial Committee assayed all of the interview transcripts and created a script from their favorite quotes. Then, with script in hand, Kathy Gemperle set about the task of garnering photos from churches and interviewees that showed the various events and places mentioned in the interviews.
Besides these still pictures the video crew went out on the streets of Edgewater to give the video some live action which brought the story a feeling of the changing times in city life. The voice-over was added next, when a group of carefully selected people from Edgewater gathered at a sound studio to record the script. The last, most daunting task, done by producer Bob Solomon of Skyline Productions, was editing and fitting everything together.
The result was production of a video report on the Centennial Oral History Project entitled, "Edgewater: Through the Eyes of Experience." This video history of our community is still available through Skyline Productions (773) 878-1988, for $19.95 plus tax and shipping, or at Books Off Berwyn, 5234 N. Clark.
Once the two Centennial projects were completed, the committee and additional supporters pursued further discussions with the Edgewater Community Council as to creating an independent organization to further the goal of preserving Edgewater history. It took many, many hours of discussion to create the blueprint for an organization with a defined mission and bylaws. The meeting on January 23, 1988 celebrated a job well done.
Now ten years later, we have even more cause to celebrate. Our collections and membership continue to grow, and we are in the middle of a new project to create a neighborhood history museum. Please join us in celebration at our Annual Meeting at 9:30 a.m. on March 28 at the Edgewater Library, 1210 W. Elmdale, and in May at our special birthday gala.