The Park Ridge Historical Society was founded in 1971 to collect and preserve the history of our suburban community.
In the beginning, the focus of the Society’s early leadership was the maintenance of a period home, collecting and displaying furniture, appliances, garments and décor intended to evoke the late 1800’s to early 1900’s Park Ridge, so that all might appreciate the way of life over 100 years ago, and that the style and manner of early life here might heighten the civic awareness of later generations.
We first occupied the Gillick House on Summit from 1973 – 1982. It was owned by the first Fred Gillick, who started his family’s legendary real estate business in a shed at the alley side of the property. It was in disarray when we leased it from the City, and refurbished by us to represent its original early Park Ridge interior. We were displaced in 1983 upon demolition of the building for creation of the new Summit Mall.
We then moved to 41 South Prairie and occupied that house from 1983 – 2009. Again, it was in disarray when leased from its owners, and was completely renovated by the Society to recreate the interior of a Victorian-era Park Ridge house. The Society paid for all taxes and leasehold improvements; but, unfortunately, after 26 years, escalating property taxes, the curtailment of a City stipend and an impending five-year lease renewal, forced the Society to close out its presence there.
In 2009, we adopted the slogan “History on the Move” to describe our move from 41 S Prairie Ave to the Solomon Cottage at what was then known as The Youth Campus.
The Solomon Cottage was built in 1908 as an intake center and dormitory for the Illinois Industrial School for Girls (later known as the Youth Campus), and was named for Hannah Solomon, a renowned social reformer who served as the School’s first President. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and, in 1908, was situated at the entrance of the School’s campus, a 40-acre farm whose purchase was funded in part by a bequest of Park Ridge pioneer Mary Talcott, widow of Mancel Talcott, Jr. For over 100 years, the Youth Campus was a landmark institution for Park Ridge, serving thousands of orphaned and displaced young people in a family-like setting in a community of cottages.
When the Youth Campus ceased its Park Ridge operations in 2012, the Park Ridge Park District acquired the property, created Prospect Park and preserved a small number of historic buildings, including the Solomon Cottage. We successfully entered into a long-term lease with the Park District on November 9, 2016 and began renovating the cottage as the new, permanent home of the Park Ridge Historical Society in the Park Ridge History Center.
The Park Ridge History Center will celebrate the people, places and events of Park Ridge through exhibits, education and community engagement. The building will accommodate our monthly meetings, as well as lectures, community gatherings, concerts and other presentations, and it will also house important archival material from the city’s past.