The Old Water Tower by Louise Barwick, 1893. Located, in the artist’s own words, “200 feet north of 103rd Street between Hoyne and Seeley,” the water tower was constructed circa 1888 as part of a much-needed water system that included a windmill. The then modern achievement became redundant when the area was annexed to Chicago in 1890, when water and other utilities began being supplied by the City.  

By Linda Lamberty,  

Historian Ridge Historical Society  

Leading into the upcoming art-centric exhibit, “Louise Barwick’s Lost Ridge” at the Ridge Historical Society, here is a brief sketch of the history of art on the Ridge:  

The uniquely beautiful Blue Island Ridge was a draw to artists at least as early as the 1880s, when considerably fewer residences were surrounded by far more natural beauty. Newspaper accounts tell of it being a destination forartists and others appreciative of the views.  

The Prairie Club (1908) that traipsed far and wide across this region, including the Ridge, numbered artists of all kinds — painters, sculptors, architects, landscape architects, plus naturalists and high-placed enthusiasts who ultimately helped Cook County set aside its forest preserves, including our precious Dan Ryan Woods.  

By 1910 to 1920, with each burst of development and building the Ridge was blithely sacrificing its natural beauty bite by subdivision bite, but the arts scene was thriving as more artists became residents. Besides myriad arts-related groups that have come and gone, the John H. Vanderpoel Art Association (1913), the Beverly Arts Center (1968) and now the wildly fun and beneficial Beverly Area Arts Alliance (The Alliance – 2014), continue to feed our community’s cultural wants and needs.  

The Alliance’s prolific and creative programming has brought a much-needed shot in the arm to what had lapsed into a more staid and quiet neighborhood. A noticeable uptick in dining and music alone — and the younger population drawn here by them — can be directly tied to the activities of this dynamic group.  

Thanks to The Alliance’s annual Beverly Art Walk, the Ridge Historical Society has been mounting September exhibits that focus on the art and artists long interwoven in local history. This year stunning and educational watercolors depicting the Ridge between 1893 and 1905, by local resident, artist and teacher, Louise Barwick (1871-1957), will offer both panoramic and intimate views of a Ridge lost to time.  

In the Spring of 1892, Louise Barwick’s family moved to the charming home at 10330 S. Seeley on the Ridge, an area that only two years earlier was annexed to Chicago. The house was just under 20 years old at the time, and is today one of the oldest in Beverly/Morgan Park. Louise graduated from and later taught at the Cook County Normal School — a public university that pumped out enlightened Progressive Era educators — which ultimately became Chicago State University.  

Also in 1892, Louise began work on a crowning achievement: The creation of an enormous (17 feet high, 10 feet wide) relief map of the State of Illinois for the Columbian Exposition, the World’s Fair held in Chicago in 1893. This commission, remarkable recognition for a woman in that day, became an attraction in the State of Illinois Building, was later removed to the Illinois State Museum and has since disappeared.  

Louise also made a mark for herself as an illustrator of geography publications and became a teacher in local public schools, all the while continuing her own artistic pursuits. Louise never married, and with various family members lived throughout her life in a number of homes in Beverly/Morgan Park.  

The new exhibit at Ridge Historical Society, 10621 S. Seeley, will be mounted in stages, and by the day of the Beverly Art Walk will show Barwick’s work and words, and tell her own remarkable story. The Art Walk will also feature a local railroad Station Agent’s family, wild birds and where they could be found here, kite photography and local residents experimenting with it, land history including the golf course once located where homes stand today, and the famous naturalist who spent time on the Ridge and brought one local resident into an inner circle that included titans of Industry and US Presidents.  

The Ridge Historical Society is open Tues. and Sun., 1 to 4 p.m., and by appointment at 773-881-1675 or ridgehistory@hotmail.com. Visitors can watch the Barwick exhibit progress over the summer, or see it in its entirety beginning Sat., Sept. 23 on the Beverly Art Walk. Visit Ridge Historical Society on Facebook for great local history stories and conversations. 

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