We spoke with LeRoy Blommaert from The Edgewater Historical Society this evening to learn a bit more about how all our Edgewater block clubs & neighborhood organizations formed. If you are curious about yours, check out all the great information from EHS below.
The entire territory of Edgewater is organized into block clubs (aka as neighborhood organizations). In the majority of cases the boundaries are defined by major arterial streets. The organizations vary in organization complexity, membership support, and viability. Some like the Lakewood Balmoral Residents Council have been in continous operation from the beginning and enjoy strong membership support from the residents in the area. Others are looser in structure and have less residential support. As one would expect, the areas west of Broadway that have a sizeable number of single family homes are stronger than those east of Broadway that have very few single family homes and many rental apartments and are more transient in nature.
EGA Neighborhood Association Beginnings
The formation of the Edgewater Glen Association was the first initative of the Edgewater Community Council to form a block club / neighborhood association. The Lakewood Balmoral Residents Council was already a few years old, and the East Andersonville Residents Council was in its infancy. The organizer was LeRoy Blommaert who had just been elected to the ECC board of directors. He distributed flyers within the neighborhood advertising a meeting to discuss forming an association for the area. A small number of residents became interested and formed a steering committee. That steering committee led to establishing the Edgewater Glen Association. The Glen derives from the intersection of two streets at the center of the neighborhood: Glenwood and Glenlake. It followed the model adopted by the neighbors further south in naming their neighborhood and organization Lakewood Balmoral, except that it used only the first four letters of both streets. It is not known who first suggested the name.
Among the members of the steering committee were Mary Donlan and Patricia Waters. Syril Schoss was also one of the persons involved in the initial organizing efforts.
A membership form for the still unnamed organization was found among ECC documents; it was dated July 1972. The first newsletter was dated October 1973.
EARC Block Club Beginnings
The East Andersonville Residents Council was the second Edgewater block club/neighborhood association to be formed, LBRC being the first. It was the result of an initiative of two individuals: Marge Britton of LBRC and LeRoy Blommaert, then an unpaid consultant to LBRC. Both believed that the success of LBRC should be shared and that the best place to start was the neighborhood immediately to the west of Lakewood Balmoral. They began their initiative in 1972 or 1973. One of the first meetings was held at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Richard Gayne on Rascher. According to the June 1974 ECC newsletter, Richard Gayne became chairman of the steering committee that led to the formal organization of EARC as well as its first president.
It is not known who first came up with the name “East Andersonville” but it was a logical one, being east of what by then had become known as the Andersonville commecial district.
Frank J. Schwerthhoffer, who also lived on Rascher, was one of the founding members of the organization.
ENN Block Club Beginnings
Edgewater Neighbors North started as an informal group of neighbors led by the late Annette Schroeder. It had no by-laws, no board of directors, no meeting schedule–and no elections. Meetings were called by Annette Schroeder when she determined that there were issues that needed attention. During this period she was the force that convinced Alderman O’Connor to down zone the ENN area from R-4 to R-3.
When in 2001, Annette became ill, a number of neighbors came to the conclusion that they needed a more formal organization, and so they formed one. Martha Kubin became its first elected president. It is not known who coined the name Edgewater Neighbors North, although the word “north” was a logical one to incorporate in the name.
EPIC Block Club Beginnings
EPIC was created in 1975 as a result of an initiative of the Organization of the North East (ONE). An organizer from this organization worked with a few neighbors in the area to form the block club/neighborhood organization. This initiative followed the successful initiative of the Edgewater Community Council (ECC) in assisting neighbors to form the Edgewater Glen Association (EGA). At the time ECC and ONE were rivals.
One of the persons recruited in the organizing effort was renter and mother of two young sons named Kathy Osterman. She became EPIC’s first president. She would go on to become president of the Edgewater Community Council, alderman of the 48th ward, and the head of the City’s Department of Special Events under Mayor Daley.
The name, Every Person Is Concerned, and the resulting acronym EPIC is unique among Edgewater community organizations in that it has no geographic element. All the others incorporate some geographical element in their name, e.g. Lakewood Balmoral Residents Council, Edgewater Glen Association.
The person who suggested the name is unknown though it may well have been Kathy Osterman herself. The name of the ONE organizer has been lost to history.
LBRC Block Club Beginnings
In late February 1969, a group of neighbors met at the home of Hal and Marge Britton, 5414 N. Magnolia, to discuss the possibility of organizing the neighborhood. The agenda called for an examination of several proposals: the formation of block clubs through the Uptown Chicago Commission, increasing local membership and representation on the Edgewater Community Council, formation of an independent organization of the area, or the delegation of representatives to both Uptown and Edgewater organizations to bring information back to the area.
A proposal for a first action was to investigate the effect of renewal in Uptown with special emphasis on the location of the proposed Junior College.
As the meeting got underway, Charles Bromann [for whom Bromman park was subsequently named] identified himself as the president of the Lakewood-Balmoral Zonal Center founded in the 1940’s to preserve the community strict zoning regulations. He related that the Zonal Center’s first meeting had been held at 5414 Magnolia when the home had belonged to Dr. & Mrs. John T. O’Donahue.
Among those attending that first meeting were Frank Gusinde, Joe Donnelly, Marion Volini, Martha Kraeger, Ron Rhyce, and Pat Lawson. They sent a letter inviting representatives of each block to attend another meeting March 13th at Gusinde’s. On April 12, 1969, papers were filed with the State of Illinois to form a not-for-profit corporation, the Lakewood-Balmoral Residents Council.
A call to action was sounded shortly after that when a hearing was set before the zoning board of appeals to request a variation so North Shore Baptist Church could have a parking lot on the northwest corner of Lakewood and Berwyn. The church withdrew its request at the zoning board hearing when 60 neighbors arrived, prepared to testify against granting the variation.
Through the months from February to May, a steering committee headed by Frank Gusinde was busy writing a constitution, establishing boundaries and creating interest in the new organization.
On May 27, the first general meeting was held at North Shore Baptist Church. Frank was elected president by the 170 plus people who attended.
WANT Block Club Beginnings
The West Andersonville Residents Together block club/neighborhood association was formed as a result of an initiative of the Edgewater Community Council’s Edgewater Safety Program. A female organizer whose last name was Shipiro (but whose first name is lost to history) worked with a small group of residents in the area to form a neighborhood organization. The year was either 1977 or 1978. At the time of the initiative, three or four other neighborhood organizations had already been formed. They were the Lakewood-Balmoral Residents Council, the East Andersonville Residents Council, the Edgewater Glen Association, and the EPIC block club.
Since the area east of Clark and west of Lakewood-Balmoral had already taken the name, East Andersonville, it was logical for the area west of Clark to take the name West Andersonville, although it is not known who first suggested the name. The name Andersonville to represent the commercial area along Clark Street was created in the early 1960’s and was well established.
And unsigned document chronicalling the beginnings of the organization was found among the organization archives and is reproduced below. Having a such a document written shortly after the events is a rare, but fortuitous event. The document was dated 1978.
A flyer was distributed throughout the neighborhood in early to mid April announcing an April 20th Thursday 7:30 pm meeting to be held at St. Gregory cafeteria. There were 113 people in attendance. Harold Haywood of Balmoral was the designated chairman at this first and subsequent meetings.
The May 11th meeting was announced via a flyer. 125 people attended. There had been 500 surveys distributed in the neighborhood in early April. 200 people responded. Three names were considered for the area.
1. West Andersonville Neighbors Together
2. West Andersonville Community Organization
3. West Andersonville Residents
A vote was taken at the May meeting as to which name was most popular. WANT won 40-0-16 meaning 51 people were undecided.
It is unclear when the June meeting was held but it must have been very early since the 1st garage sale was set for June 24. Discussed at this meeting was signs of some kind defining the area and the 1st of many, many complaints/discussions/and possible solutions regarding the ever present DOG-POOP!
There were no formal meeting in July or August but many small meetings were taking place in regards to forming a steering committee leading to by-laws an official organization.
At the September meeting Gerry Urbanus made the motion to name this organization W.A.N.T. motion 2nd and carried. A steering committee was officially formed. Harold Hayward named chairman.
The 1st official Steering Committee meeting was October 9. It was decided to mail a notice to everyone who had attended an earlier meeting, using the ECC Permit stamp (#8426) notifying them of the November 21st meeting at Ebenezer Church.
A WANT X-MAS party was held Dec 19th at the 1st Free Church. The 1st official newsletter was mailed this month.
During this 1st year the cost of doing flyers and refreshments were paid for by Harold and a small contingent of neighbors. The printing and mailing was underwritten by ECC. Ms. Shapiro of ECC was very instrumental in her support and advice this year.
WEAR Block Beginnings
The first planning meeting to form a neighborhood organization for the West Edgewater neighborhood took place in December 1992. Those in attendance were Dinise Berry, Mary Fergus, David Hanna, Wayne Moonen, Gertrude C. Olsen, Mr. & Mrs. Keven Reilly, Alex Siapno, and Ron Massengill, past president of WANT. The following persons joined the above group to form a steering committee: Just Janice, Dennis Rattinger, Art Means, and Joe Dranz. The steering committee wrote the by-laws and served as the group’s nominating committee. The first general meeting took place in April 1993.
Ron Massengill was the person who urged some of the above individuals to get together and form a neighborhood association for their area.
Note: There are a few missing here. If you have more information on yours feel free to send it in! firstname.lastname@example.org
For more detailed information on each block club area: http://www.edgewaterhistory.org/ehs/local/organizations-block-clubs
Edgewater Historical Spring Benefit Dinner: http://www.edgewaterhistory.org/ehs/content/ehs-spring-benefit-dinner