By John Fitzgerald
On a sunny and warm afternoon, Sunday March 8th, over sixty RP/WRHS members and guests held their annual meeting in the “greenhouse” room of the new NorthTown Library, concerns over the spreading novel Coronavirus notwithstanding. Shortly after 2 p.m. host Kay McSpadden welcomed everyone and turned the meeting over to society President Ken Walchek. Ken reported on society finances, showing that the 2019 revenue shortfall had been kept to less than 5% due to increased sponsorship by local businesses.
This, despite a slight falloff in individual memberships, led to an improvement in the overall financial picture from the prior year. He urged people to attend upcoming society events such as cemetery and house tours and to bring their friends. (Unfortunately, these events were later cancelled because of the Covid-19 Stay-at-Home order enacted later in the month.) He also introduced the society’s new service, the Property History Quest, in which volunteer researchers trace the histories of individual homes for a fee of $125. As the annual meeting was the time for election of officers and board members, Ken oversaw that business, which was properly presented and approved smoothly. All four members of the board whose terms were expiring agreed to stand for re-election and were unanimously voted in: Kay McSpadden, Frank Valadez, David Kalensky and Andrea Keirn.
Glenna Eaves then led an update on the progress of the turnover of the society’s papers and documents to the Chicago Public Library. This multi-year activity began when the society recognized the diffculty of properly storing, preserving, and protecting its growing collection of materials and historic items. Handing over such responsibilities to a professional partner was deemed necessary to accomplish these goals and to make the collection more accessible to the public. Turnover of two-dimensional materials has been substantially achieved. The recipient-partner in the transaction is the Northside Neighborhood History Collection of the Chicago Public Library, housed at the Sulzer Branch on North Lincoln Avenue. Two representatives of the Sulzer Library, Julie Lynch and Allyson Smally, described the archiving process, showed photos of the current state of the boxed and labeled items at Sulzer, and encouraged all to visit and examine the resources available there. For now, the society will retain its photos and 3-dimensional materials, and the board is examining ways to make more of these materials publicly available as well.
The presentation phase of the meeting proceeded under the guidance of former RP/WR board member Larry Shure. He has a well-regarded blog, Ultra-Local Geography, that examines neighborhood history in a special way. His illustrated presentation was entitled “Historical Architecture and Development in Rogers Park/West Ridge: Selected Entries.”
Examples of his exploratory journeys into local history were fascinating and varied-from comparing the rise of similar structures of multi-family unit building developments to the artistic design of doorway capstones and the use of alleys and easements in subdivision construction. His mapping techniques tracked the increasing density of neighborhood development over time and showed how building practices created patterns of dwellings easily replicated by contractors but pleasantly deviating from rigid sameness by occasional variations on a theme. He transitioned easily into showing illustrations of historical settings such as local intersections and scenes of lurid crimes. After whetting people’s appetites for more information and answering numerous questions, he gave his website for all to follow: http://ultralocal.blogspot.com/.
After almost two hours, Kay McSpadden thanked all for attending and asked people to stay, enjoy some snacks, renew their memberships and friendships. Little did we know it would likely become the last in-person meeting of the year. We are looking forward to next year’s meeting, already scheduled for Saturday, March 6. Details to follow.