After almost three years, the Evanston History Center blog has moved! Please visit us at http://evanstonhistorycenter.org/ehc-blog/ for the latest posts.
Written by Jacob Slutsky, EHC Intern.
As a collections intern at the Evanston History Center I have had the privilege of working over the last few months with the records of the Dawes Family Collection. I would like to call attention to two artifacts that center around Charles Gates Dawes’s visit to Boston for Patriots’ Day, 1925. I will take this brief opportunity to connect a figure from our local history with the local and state history of the Dawes family in colonial times, Boston, and Massachusetts.
Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts holiday, was first instituted in 1894. Originally held only on April 19, it celebrated both the Battles of Lexington and Concord on that day in 1775 (“the shot heard round the world”) and the riot in Baltimore on that day in 1861, regarded as the “first blood shed in the war for the Union.”(1) Speaking in Concord on the first Patriots’ Day, Governor Frederic Thomas Greenhalge proclaimed, “I would not limit it by calling it Massachusetts Day, because it is not limited to Massachusetts, but will be taken up by every State and Territory in the Union.”(2) While the holiday never did become nationally celebrated––though Maine did institute it, with the alternate spelling of Patriot’s Day––it marks a state celebration rooted in the birth of the American Revolution. (3)
Today, Patriots’ Day, which is now observed on the third Monday in April, is most closely associated with two events: the early-morning reenactments on the historical battlefields in the western suburbs of Lexington and Concord and the Boston Marathon. The Marathon, which has been held since 1897, runs from the western city of Hopkinton, eventually reaching the major Boston arteries of Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street. (4)
(I would add that for me, Patriots’ Day (also known as “Marathon Monday”) has particular salience. As a student at Boston University, it was a special experience to watch Beacon Street get blocked off and to hear the cheering as the first runners came down the course. I recall the often much-needed day off of school in the middle of April––though I was more likely to use it for working on an upcoming paper deadline than to participate in the Bacchanalia for which the day is known among students. Sadly, Patriots’ Day holds for me, as it does for many others, an additional association. In 2013, while I was living on the northern side of the Charles River in Cambridge, a deadly bombing ripped through the crowd near the finish line in Copley Square, tarnishing what had been a day of unity and pride in the city and state and plunging us into a week of community-wide trauma.)
The celebration of 1925 was a special year for Bay Staters, for it marked the 150th anniversary of the battles, also known in upper-level vocabulary as the sesquicentennial. Then in his second month of the vice presidency of the United States, Charles Dawes seemed a worthy dignitary to mark the occasion. Of course, aside from his high place in government, the Vice President’s invitation likely stemmed from what is perhaps the most oft-mentioned fact about Charles Dawes’s ancestry: he was descended from William Dawes, a member of the Massachusetts militia famous for riding from Boston to warn of the regulars’ advance in 1775. (5) For these reasons, the visit appears to have been a momentous occasion in the history of Patriots’ Day celebrations.
Charles and Caro Dawes arrived in Boston on April 17, reportedly in “a most affable mood.” (6) Two days later, Dawes was present at Faneuil Hall (the historic marketplace) as his longtime friend General John J. Pershing decorated Boy Scout Jimmie Smith, who had rescued a man from drowning in a hole in the ice over the Boston Harbor in February, with a medal for bravery. (7) Dawes and Pershing subsequently visited the home of his ancestor William, who worked as a tanner near the famous market. (8) The following day, April 20, the celebratory exercises commenced in earnest. The day began in Eliot Square in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury. Dawes dispatched the reenactment rider, who was to follow William Dawes’s route to Concord. (9) In the adjacent suburb of Brookline, a Devotion School student named Margaret Stein, dressed as William Dawes’s wife Hannah, presented the Vice President with a pair of gloves belonging to the historical woman. (10) Miss Stein then recited an original poem written by her teacher, Cecile Harris. The poem, told through the voice of Hannah Dawes, included the following:
I’m your great, great grandmother, I’m Hannah Dawes;
I still love a hero, who fights for a cause.
You’ve won many battles, you’ll win many more,
Your courage has come from your kinsman of yore…
So I’ve brought you my gloves as a mascot today,
May they aid in your struggle that right shall hold sway. (11)
At Harvard Square in Cambridge, amid the salutes of bugles, cannons, and thousands of people, Dawes dug a hole for planting an offshoot of the recently dead Washington Elm, attempting to give up his battle with the frozen ground but for the photographers in the crowd. (12) As a spring snow fell over Arlington that morning, another Dawes descendant, Dorothy Dawes of that town, presented the Vice President with a tax bill paid for $1.50 by an ancestor in the eighteenth century; he responded by saying that he could imagine what President Coolidge might say “if he were speaking relative to what the taxes were in years gone by and to what they were today.” (13) In the early afternoon, General Dawes attempted to make an appearance at the commemorative parade in Lexington, but due to its delay from Concord, both he and Pershing left the reviewing stand, unwilling to be drenched by the melting snow atop its canvas. (14) The vice president was able to make a less taxing appearance at the Concord Armory that afternoon, where he was cheered by 2,500 people. (15)
At least two items in the Dawes Collection relate to this celebratory occasion. The first is a gavel made of wood from Faneuil Hall and presented to Dawes by Boston mayor James Curley in the old market on April 19. Mayor Curley told Dawes that he hoped the gavel would allow him “to bear it in on even the senators that there are certain essentials to good government which rise superior to the success of party politics.” (16) Dawes spoke briefly and graciously, calling the gavel
precious to me, because it comes from sacred timber––timber from this hall that has been, that is, the great intellectual battleground of America, a place for the establishment of principles through discussion, and my message here is to ask you here to rededicate yourselves––here in this holy place––to the preservation of those principles which your ancestors died to establish. (17)
The second item is a gold Key to the City of Boston. The elegant key, whose bow forms the letters “CB” for City of Boston and has the words “Boston, Mass” engraved on its shaft, features the Old North Church in its handle’s design work, the building where Paul Revere ordered two lanterns hung to warn of the attack by British regulars on April 18, 1775. (18) Keys to the City of Boston were also presented that year by Mayor Curley to the Belgian ambassador and the Chinese consul general. (19)
In this event, we see the intersection of our own local history, embodied in one of Evanston’s most famous individuals, with not only the local history of Boston and the state history of Massachusetts in celebrating their role in the American Revolution, but with federal history in the visit of a Vice President of the United States to an institutionalization of our national narrative. Through our local collection, based largely on events and lives of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, we can relate, admittedly through several levels of mediation, to events that took place hundreds of miles away at the time of our nation’s inception.
Carr, Marietta. “Keys to the City.” State Library of Massachusetts Blog, March 5, 2010 <http://mastatelibrary.blogspot.com/2009/11/keys-to-city.html>. Accessed April 1, 2015.
Nesmith, James Earnest, The Life and Work of Frederic Thomas Greenhalge, Governor of Massachusetts. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1897.
“The Midnight Ride of William Dawes.” The Paul Revere Heritage Project. 2007, <http://www.paul–revere-heritage.com/midnight-ride-william-dawes.html>. Accessed April 1, 2015.
“Vice President Dawes in Boston for Celebration.” Boston Daily Globe, April 17, 1925, A1.
“Gen Pershing Gives Medal to Boy Hero.” Boston Daily Globe, April 19, 1925, 1, 15.
“Pershing and Dawes Plead Nation’s Cause.” Chicago Daily Tribune, April 20, 1925, 1.
“1500 See ‘Dawes’ Start From Eliot Sq, Roxbury.” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 11.
“Dawes Given Gloves Worn by Great-Great-Grandmother.” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 23.
“Dawes Shovels Cambridge Dirt.” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 23.
“Tax Receipt of His Ancestor is Given Dawes at Arlington.” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 11.
“Vast Throng in Lexington,” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925. 1, 17.
“Dawes Cheered by 2500 in Armory at Concord.” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 8.
1 James Earnest Nesmith, The Life and Work of Frederic Thomas Greenhalge, Governor of Massachusetts (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1897), 295-296.
2 Ibid., 296-297.
3 Maine Revised Statutes, Title 20-A, Chapter 209, §4802, 1: Unconditional Holidays (1981).
5 “The Midnight Ride of William Dawes,” The Paul Revere Heritage Project, 2007, <http://www.paul-revere-heritage.com/midnight-ride-william-dawes.html>, accessed April 1, 2015.
6 “Vice President Dawes in Boston for Celebration,” Boston Daily Globe, April 17, 1925, A1.
7 “Gen Pershing Gives Medal to Boy Hero,” Boston Daily Globe, April 19, 1925, 1, 15; “Pershing and Dawes Plead Nation’s Cause,” Chicago Daily Tribune, April 20, 1925, 1.
9 “1500 See ‘Dawes’ Start From Eliot Sq, Roxbury,” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 11.
10 “Dawes Given Gloves Worn by Great-Great-Grandmother,” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 23.
12 “Dawes Shovels Cambridge Dirt,” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 23.
13 “Tax Receipt of His Ancestor is Given Dawes at Arlington,” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 11.
14 “Vast Throng in Lexington,” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 1, 17.
15 “Dawes Cheered by 2500 in Armory at Concord,” Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925, 8.
16 “Pershing and Dawes Plead Nation’s Cause,” Chicago Daily Tribune, April 20, 1925, 18.
18 “Old North Church,” National Park Service <http://www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/onc.htm>, accessed April 1, 2015.
19 Marietta Carr, “Keys to the City,” State Library of Massachusetts Blog, March 5, 2010,<http://mastatelibrary.blogspot.com/2009/11/keys-to-city.html>, accessed April 1, 2015.
Lori Osborne, Director of Archives & Outreach at the Evanston History Center, in celebration of Women’s History Month in March, joined Paige Harrington, Executive Director of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, Dr. Rosalyn Terborg Pen, University Professor Emerita, Morgan State University, and Kristina Myers, Program Director at the Alice Paul Institute, for a discussion on how the temperance and woman suffrage movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries created opportunities for women to organize for social, economic, and political change. Support for the temperance movement through the largest women’s organization, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, opened the door for women to work not only for temperance, but for issues including improved working conditions for wage-earning women, improved public education, and political equality. The discussion provides a fascinating look at the individuals who participated in both movements, the organizations they created, and women as the driving force behind significant change in the United States.
To view the discussion, click here. You will be taken to the US National Archives YouTube page.
Written by Jill Kirk, Director of Development.
Each year, members of the Evanston History Center “family”– trustees, volunteers and staff – join forces to decorate the Dawes House for the holidays. This is no small task and not for the faint hearted!
Three trees (including a towering 12 foot one in the library) are all decorated with ornaments representing different periods in history.
The tree in the library is decorated a la 1920s with elaborate ornaments and electric lights similar to ones available by that time. The Dawes’ servants decorated a large tree in the library at night on Christmas Eve with lights, tinsel and German-made glass ornaments, topped by a Santa figure with real fur and whiskers.
The tree in the east parlor is decorated with original and replicated ornaments from the 1890s and electric “candles.” Originally trees were lighted with wax candles held on the branches of the tree with small metal clip candleholders. The candles were lighted on Christmas Eve for only a few minutes and a bucket of water or sand stood by to extinguish any accidental flame.
Look closely and you will see under the tree a toy Prussian soldier and an elephant pull toy that belonged to Dana Dawes.
The feather tree on display in the Great Hall by the fireplace is part of the EHC’s collection and dates from the 1930s. Feather trees were produced by Germans as early as 1840 and were still in production through the 1930s. This tree represents the earliest period and is decorated in the sparse Victorian Christmas traditions of the 1870s.
The bags of food were the generous donations from individuals for EHC’s 9th annual food drive, which we do in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
The Dawes House is open for tours during the holiday season on Thursday-Sunday from 1pm-4pm, except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
A special holiday tour, Brighten the Nights, will be taking place on Wednesday, December 17 and Thursday, December 18. Click here to learn more about the tour!
Written by Kris Hartzell, Director of Facilities, Visitor Services and Collections, as well as our resident architectural historian.
The work on keeping up an historic house is never done and problems come in all sizes, great and small. The historic sink in the first floor bathroom is original to the house, the only sink that Dawes did not replace when he updated the house after purchasing it in 1909. The sink is marble with beautiful brass fixtures. The fixtures date from 1894 when Robert Sheppard built the house. One of the faucets has not worked for several years. Steve Brunger, our intrepid building engineer, has made every effort to restore the faucet to functioning order. Needless to say, however, parts are not easy to come by. Years of searching and calling plumbers came up dry. But we are a dedicated staff and we are always carrying the Dawes house with us in our hearts. This past weekend, while browsing a flea market in Wisconsin, Steve’s trained eye fell upon the identical faucet in a pile of plumbing fixtures. For $5 he came back with it. Upon presentation to the rest of the staff, we all began to speculate: was it exactly the same? There were differing viewpoints. No, the handle is longer. No, the spout is longer. No, it doesn’t have the finial on the top. Steve maintained that it was identical. So, we all trouped into the bathroom to compare. Bingo! Steve was right. Not only is the fixture identical in style, but it is the proper orientation as the one that is malfunctioning – with the handle on the right. Bravo!!! And now we even have an option. The ideal would be to swap out the inner parts so that the original fixture that was originally installed in the house remains in place. If that does not work, we can always swap it with the replacement fixture. Here is Steve in his moment of triumph.
Written by Eden Juron Pearlman, Executive Director of the Evanston History Center and admirer of all types of architecture.
The experience of working at the Evanston History Center is a mix of many experiences from daily life. It is part work (of course!), part family, part fun and part school. Actually, it is a lot of school. We work in a very collaborative way and are always learning from each other. Because there is so much school within our work we decided to take a field trip.
On October 8th Lori Osborne, Janet Messmer, Kris Hartzell, Karen Alvarez and I visited the Farnsworth House in Plano, IL. The drive took about an hour and a half. The house is one of the most important structures in American architecture (No – I’m not exaggerating). None of us were disappointed with the visit or the experience.
All of us had studied the Farnsworth House, but only Kris had previously visited. For those of you who don’t know, the Farnsworth House, or as we like to call it: the Dr. Edith Farnsworth House, was designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1945 and constructed in 1951. After visiting the house, I can honestly say there is no better example of modern architecture’s juxtaposition of the sleek, streamline design of Modern structure with the natural environment. The house is essentially a glass box sitting in nature with a perfect view of the Fox River.
I have wanted to visit the Farnsworth House since first learning about it as an undergraduate student. I’m not sure why it took me so long to visit, but I am so glad that I did. In closing, I have two recommendations for you. First, visit the Farnsworth House, it is well worth the drive and admission price. Second, if you have always wanted to visit someplace and it is within your reach, don’t wait, just visit.
Sometimes in our work here at the Evanston History Center the past seems more present than at other times. Two great examples of this can be found right now on the north side of town.
The first is the new construction that’s been going on all year on what was the Kendall College site bounded by Lincoln, Sherman, Colfax and Orrington streets. It is rare in Evanston these days to see whole blocks under construction, but this is exactly what many areas of Evanston looked like in the early 20th century when so much construction was underway on vacant land all over town. By the 1960s most land in Evanston was built on and it was hard to find even one vacant lot. Drive by and see for yourself what vacant land looks like as it slowly fills up with new houses and garages, fences and alleys.
The second happened just last week – a house being lifted off its foundation and moved from its original location, rather than being torn down. The house at 1318 Isabella had sat on its Wilmette lot for more than 80 years until purchased by a developer who intended to tear it down for new construction. Designed by architect John Van Bergen, who worked in the studio of Frank Lloyd Wright, the prairie style house became the focus of preservationists who lobbied for saving it. The developer agreed to hold off on demolition, as long as a buyer could be found who would move the house to a new location. And this is how on a sunny October Friday, one could visit Isabella Street and watch one section of this house travelling from its former to its temporary home in the old Dominicks parking lot.
Many Evanston homes were moved to new locations in the late 19th and early 20th century for just the same reasons. Someone would want a new, more modern, usually larger and grander, house at a location and the small, older house would be in the way. Rather than simply tear it down, house movers would be called in and permits would be issued which would dictate the route the house would take as well as the day and time of the move. (Side note: we have copies of these permits in our research collection. Do you know if your house was ever moved?)
In our much more disposable-minded age, house moving is very uncommon. Most of the time the older home is simply leveled for new construction. But thankfully for the Van Bergen house, wiser forces prevailed and this historic home was saved. We can’t wait to see how it looks once it is pieced back together and in place at its new home.
By Lori Osborne, EHC Archivist and Director of Outreach
We are pleased to share EHC Docent Matthew Marchione’s blog of his recent trip to Washington, D.C.. Matt brought along his years of experience interpreting the Dawes House for our guests, combined with his training in historic preservation – and his camera – to give us a virtual tour of many of the wonderful historic museums in the area.
From Lincoln’s Cottage to Clara Barton and Mary McLeod Bethune, you can enjoy a visit to an interesting mix of historic sites beyond the beaten path. And, we love his women’s history focus. Thank you, Matt!
By Thomas Kingsley. Thomas Kingsley is a retired attorney who is inspired by the character and history of Charles Gates Dawes, and by the extraordinary architecture and interior design of the Dawes House. As a volunteer docent, he shares his enthusiasm with our visitors.
As we are proud to acknowledge, Charles Gates Dawes, the 30th Vice President of the United States, resided at his magnificent chateauesque residence on Greenwood Street from 1909 and throughout his professional life. Thereafter, he ensured that the stately home would be preserved as a legacy to the community of Evanston.
As we also know, this imposing house was conceived and built by Robert D. Sheppard in 1894 as a home for his family and as a place by which to further his professional aspirations at Northwestern University.
In 1909, the house was sold by Robert D. Sheppard to Charles Gates Dawes. It is believed that there was no further contact either personally or professionally between the Dawes and Sheppard families for over one hundred years…….until now.
Just prior to our scheduled Ice Cream Social, we received a telephone call from George Wing, Grandson of Dorothea Sheppard, Daughter of Robert D. Sheppard. To our surprise and delight, Mr. Wing advised us that his Daughter, Jessica Smith from the State of Washington would be traveling in the Chicago Area on the weekend of July 26, 2014, and would love to pay a visit to the former residence of her Great Grandfather. We were quick to respond that the Great Granddaughter of Robert D. Sheppard would be truly welcomed at the Dawes House.
On the day of the festive Ice Cream Social, Jessica Smith, her husband Phillip and their lovely daughter Rebecca arrived at the Evanston History Center, were warmly greeted by members of our staff and were given a private tour of their family’s previous home.
It is always a delight to share the unique features of the exquisite interior of the home with guests, whether it be the wonders of the coffered ceilings, the stained glass, the wood paneled Library, the carved moldings, or the extraordinary design of the Dining Room, Music Gallery and, of course, the Great Hall.
In this particular instance, however, the opportunity to share the decorative and lasting interior art of the home’s design with a direct descendant of the very person who conceived and built it , was an extraordinary moment.
As we toured the house together frequent reference was made to one of our important publications: AT HOME IN EVANSTON: THE CHARLES GATES HOUSE, published in 2000. The chapter by Mark Burnette pertaining to Robert D. Sheppard was of enormous significance to Mrs. Smith. She had never seen the early photographs of her family, some of them taken more than one hundred and twenty years ago. The photograph of her Great Grandfather posing as Santa Claus next to the Christmas Tree and his family and taken in the Great Hall was a wonderful moment. It was explained to her that the tradition of the Tree in the Great Hall was continued by Charles G. Dawes and even to this day by the Evanston History Center.
Similarly, Jessica Smith had never seen the photograph of her Great Grandfather leaning against the east terrace wall in a stately, though relaxed posture of 1900. The photograph taken of the entire Sheppard family in 1898, when her Grandmother Dorothea was only 8 or 9 years of age brought tears to all of our eyes.
The most important and perhaps seminal moment of this special tour occurred toward the end of their visit. Marian McNair is, of course, a special friend of the Evanston History Center, one of our revered benefactors, and one who frequently attends and participates in the numerous social and professional activities presented by our staff. Marian McNair is also a Great Granddaughter of Charles Gates Dawes. To our delight, Ms. McNair was also attending the Ice Cream Social on that day and our staff arranged to introduce her to the Jessica Smith family, a warm and amiable exchange which took place in the East Parlor. The historic significance of this moment was palpable as the Great Granddaughter of Robert Sheppard and the Great Granddaughter of Charles Dawes stood together in this beautiful home. For the first time in over one hundred and ten years, the two families who were responsible for the design and construction of this wonderful chateau, and for its preservation and legacy, were reunited at last. This important chapter in the history of our wonderful House will not be forgotten.
By Lori Osborne. Lori is the Director of Archives & Outreach at the Evanston History Center.
You may have seen the headline in the past month or so in Crain’s Chicago Business – When Did Evanston Get Hip? The article highlighted Evanston’s new “foodie” culture where suddenly you can get farm fresh produce, fresh baked bread and farm-raised meat in our small city without blinking an eye. You too may have noticed that traffic has picked up, restaurants are packed, the movie theater is busy at all hours, even the library is bustling with activity. I love Evanston, so of course I’m glad to see a thriving day and night scene here. It is good for all of us to live in a place that is growing, changing and bringing in new people.
But here at EHC we know that this is not really a new thing. Evanston may be “hip” now in a new way, but it has been “hip” before and here’s where a little history makes the story more interesting.
In its earliest days, when Northwestern University had newly located to the patch of high ground along the lakefront and mapped out the surrounding town, Evanston proved attractive to those who wanted to escape the chaotic frontier city of Chicago. In the 1850s and 60s, Methodists, abolitionists and temperance advocates thought “Heavanston” the ideal place to live. They laid out streets, built homes, planted trees, started churches, the library, and the fire and police departments, and in general laid the foundations of the community we still live in today.
Some years later, after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, a new group of people found Evanston “hip.” These people came here for the suburban feel of the town – commuter trains running to and from Chicago, tree-lined streets, parks and good schools. They built the grand Victorian-style homes that are so common in the neighborhoods near downtown. And they contributed their time and resources to make Evanston a beautiful and wholesome place to live.
At the beginning of the 20th century, and especially following World War I, many African Americans found Evanston a desirable place to live. Good jobs could be found in the city’s growing west-side industrial area, and to some extent the racial tensions of Chicago could be avoided here. African-Americans had lived in Evanston starting in the 1850s, but by the 1930s a thriving business district and dozens of clubs, organizations and churches served this large and vibrant community. This same phenomenon proved true for immigrants from Poland as well. The neighborhood around Florence Avenue was the center of their community. Both of these communities suffered greatly when Evanston’s industrial economy collapsed in the 1960s and 70s.
In the 1920s, Evanston found itself “hip” in a new way when it became known as the “Shopping Center of the North Shore.” Downtown Evanston had several mid-sized department stores, including a Marshall Fields at the corner of Sherman and Church (where Panera is today), as well as lots of small businesses and restaurants. Female shoppers with the freedom of time and resources found it an attractive place to spend the day. Traffic and parking became such a problem that the city implemented one way streets and the original fountain in Fountain Square (which stood in the center of the intersecting streets there) was moved out of the way. Downtown Evanston retained this status until Old Orchard Mall was built in the 1950s.
Of course, Evanston’s current “hip-ness” is not the same as it was. The biggest difference is that in all those earlier years, Evanston was a dry town, meaning that no alcohol was served at any public establishment. That, of course, is not true today, when breweries and distilleries seem to be cropping up on every Evanston corner!
But, many of the reasons Evanston was attractive back then are still the same. Our tree-lined streets, beautiful lakefront, good schools and lovely homes, still bring people to live and work here. Welcome to all those who’ve just discovered how “hip” an old town can be. And, for more on Evanston’s “hip” history, visit the Evanston History Center!