The Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society collects, preserves and shares the story of the diverse community of Chicago’s far north side. Established on July 28, 1975 by local residents who believed their part of Chicago was a place with much to celebrate, the Society today serves the community through its publications, architectural tours, and various educational and outreach efforts.
A Charter from the State of Illinois as a not-for-profit corporation was granted to the Rogers Park Historical Society on Wednesday, March 17, 1976. Then, on Wednesday, April 27, 1994, the Rogers Park Historical Society officially changed its name to the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society. The Society is organized to operate exclusively for charitable, educational, religious, or scientific purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.
During the course of its history, the Society has offered many programs featuring a range of presenters who have spoken on topics relating to our community, city, state, and nation. Since 1985, an annual house tour has been conducted to highlight the unique architecture and dedicated preservation of local residences.
As the centennial of the annexation of Rogers Park and West Ridge approached, Society members needed to plan the Society’s participation in this historic event. Because Mary Jo Doyle’s house wasn’t convenient for conducting and planning purposes, an immediate search for office space was initiated. On Saturday, September 28, while attending an event for S.P.A.C.E. (A Special Place for Arts, the Community, and Education) Mary Jo Doyle and then 2-year Board Member, John Arcand, were offered desk space so they could have a central place to plan and organize Society events. They accepted the offer and on October 1, 1991, the Society moved into the Art Deco building designed by William C. Presto, an associate of Louis Sullivan, at 6424 N. Western Avenue. Presto also designed the building on the southeast corner of Devon and Western Avenues.
In April 1993, the communities of Rogers Park and West Ridge celebrated the 100th Anniversary of their annexation to the City of Chicago. The Centennial began in April 1992, with a parade and a community gathering, “Hands Across Ridge.” Due to the Society’s successes during these two years, the dream of opening a museum became a reality in April 1994 when our Museum and Educational Research Center opened in the 6424 N. Western Avenue location. With the concurrence of the Board of Directors at that time, a fund raising was held and we finally purchased that building in October 1995.
The Society has published its newsletter since Spring 1986. It began as the RPHS Newsletter and maintained that identity until the Winter 1994-1995 issue when it was renamed The Historian. The Historian received the 1997 Award of Merit for publications from the Illinois Association of Museums.
During 2000 we celebrated our 25th Anniversary and published our award-winning historical book entitled, Chicago’s Far North Side: An Illustrated History of Rogers Park and West Ridge. Close to 6,000 copies have been sold and the second book,Neighborhoods Within Neighborhoods: Twentieth Century Life on Chicago’s Far North Side, was published in March 2002. It is in its second printing with almost 3,000 sold. Clearly the story of Rogers Park and West Ridge is still unfolding, with the Society as its storyteller. A third book is presently in the planning stages.
The Society sold its long-time residence (13 years) at 6424 N. Western on September 30, 2003. A search for a new home was then initiated. We followed what might be considered a historical precedence and moved into the recently vacated quarters for the 50th Ward Regular Democratic Party. (Our old home at 6424 N. Western was also once occupied by the 50th Ward from about 1940-1970.) So it was that on May 1, 2004, a three-year lease was signed. In July 2004, the Society moved to an interim location at 7344 N. Western Avenue and then to another interim location at 1447 W. Morse Avenue on December 12, 2010. In late spring 2015, Board members located a potential permanent space at 7363 N. Greenview Avenue and the RP/WRHS relocated there at the end of August. The RP/WRHS hopes to be at 7363 N. Greenview for many years to come.
For more about the importance of history and history education, check out the History Relevance Campaign.