Esdohr House marker okayed
by BRIAN NADIG
The Jefferson Park Advisory Council at its Jan. 8 meeting approved the installation of a historical marker in front of the park’s first fieldhouse and announced preliminary plans for free summer concerts at the park.
The park building originally was located at 5425 W. Higgins Ave., where it was the home of Henry and Kate Esdohr, but in 1921 the park’s governing board acquired the house and moved it to 4820 N. Long Ave., which is along the east end of the park. Henry Esdohr held several prominent positions in the community, including postmaster and school board treasurer.
The Northwest Chicago Historical Society is paying about $800 to have the marker made and installed in front of the 130-year-old building, and the marker will feature a surface that is designed to protect it from weather and vandalism. The 17-by-15-inch marker will feature renderings which council member Cyd Smillie drew of the house and of Esdohr.
The Esdohr property, which was part of a residential subdivision that no longer exists, had a 2,200-foot-deep well that provided most area residents with their water, council member Frank Suerth said. Suerth, who also serves on the historical society’s board of directors, said that the other homes in the subdivision were either demolished or moved.
After the house was moved to Long, it became the park’s fieldhouse and hosted meetings of the Infant Welfare Society, the Golden Rule Club, the Altrui Club, the Boy Scouts and other community groups.
"It continued to operate as the fieldhouse until the current structure (Higgins and Long) replaced it in 1930," the marker states. "After 1930 the Chicago Public Library utilized the house as a local branch, serving as the Jefferson Park Library. After the branch outgrew this location, the house reverted back to the park district and has had other uses throughout the years."
The house has been closed to the public since it was last used as the park’s craft shop about 15 years ago.
Council president Lionel Rabb said that the building’s gutters have been repaired and that its exterior will be painted. Rabb said that the council also has had discussions with the Chicago Park District about the type of renovations that would be needed so that the building can re-open for park and community events.
The council and the society are planning to hold a dedication ceremony for the marker on Saturday, May 10. The event will feature a performance by actress Betsey Means, who will portray Kate Esdohr and talk about the early history of the community, Suerth said.
Also at the meeting, the council voted to pursue a contract with the Beatles tribute band American English to perform three outdoor shows at the park. Last year the council held several festivals and other events including outdoor movies which attracted about 10,000 visitors.
The council also co-sponsors the "Jefferson Park Sunday Markets" with the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association and the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce. Last year 10 markets, which feature food vendors and artists, were held outside the fieldhouse, but the park district is asking that they be moved to the southeast corner of the park at Lawrence and Long avenues.
It also announced that the council was unable to secure an ice rink vendor for the park, but Rabb said that the council is continuing to research the possibility of ice skating for next winter.
The council will sponsor the showing of the movie "The Incredibles" at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, and a Valentine’s Day party at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, at the fieldhouse. The council also sponsors a chess club, which meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month.
The advisory council’s Web site features an online survey about the council’s proposed 5-year improvement plan, which calls for a band shell, new tennis courts, a dog run and a covering over the pool in the winter. The Web site can be reached at www.jmpac.org.