Wednesday, September 28, 2011


This coming Saturday (Oct. 1, 2011) the Scottish American History Club will share its time with the Illinois St. Andrew Society and the Scottish Home as they celebrate “100 Years in North Riverside.” The meeting begins at 2:00 p.m. and reservations are necessary (708-447-5092). Attendance is limited to 125. There will be refreshments: “special teas, coffee, scones with clotted cream, shortbread, muffins and an array of finger sandwiches.” I will be repeating a presentation on the history of the Scottish Home given at the North American Leadership Conference last year. If you have never visited the Scottish Home this would be good opportunity.

The Scottish Home was originally located on Chicago’s south side, close to the lake. The two story brownstone was small and located next to the railroad tracks that run along Lake Michigan. It was decided to move further away from the smoke-filled air to the countryside. We do not know who located the five acres for sale in Riverside.

The land was owned by Mary V. Hughes and the asking price was $2,500.00. It was described as "on a ridge 1,000 feet east of the Des Plaines river, is well wooded and has flourishing apple trees as an attraction.” The Board of Governors approved the purchase on June 8, 1909, and Dr. John McGill donated the money. (Older Society records indicate that Dr. McGill owned the land but that does not appear to be accurate.)

Riverside was the first planned community in the United States and had train access to Chicago. It also served as the summer home for a large numbers of families. When the Great Fire occurred in 1871, many of those families moved permanently to Riverside. The Riverside Golf Club was established in 1893 and at least one Scot served on that original board. It is said that a fresh water spring ran near the first tee and here local residents obtained their drinking water. The Des Plaines River was also a popular attraction being used for fishing, camping and boating. I have been told that one of the boat docks was at the end of 28th street and that was one of the prime reasons for extending the street past the Scottish Home.

When the Columbian Exposition occurred in 1893, a local newspaper reports that much of the top soil in the area now known as North Riverside was removed and used for the floral displays at the Fair. During Prohibition the area was used for making illegal whiskey and was often raided by the Feds. In May 1928, just north of the present Village Hall, two carloads of gangsters ambushed the Chief of Police and two others as they drove down Des Plaines Avenue. Melody Mill located where the Village complex now stands was a very famous dance hall with a skating rink in the basement, Rumor has it that it was owned by Al Capone. When bicycle clubs were popular, group trips to Riverside were often on the calendar.

The Annual Report of the Secretary of the Board of Governors for the year 1913 states: “During the year, the village authorities at Riverside admitted that a certain street adjacent to the Home on the south end which had been enclosed by a fence, be removed and placed back on the block line, which took seventy-nine feet of the space on that end of the ground.” The Administrator, Mrs. Cora J.Cummings was very unhappy about this loss of property.

The cornerstone of the new building was laid May 21, 1910. Many Scots were present with John Williamson, Rev. James MacLagan, Rev. Balcom Shaw, James B. Forgan, and Horace D. Nugent, British consul general, participating in the program. Involved in raising money for the Home were members of the United Scottish Societies but they quickly withdrew from ownership and the project was turned over to the St. Andrew Society. Residents moved into their new home in October and the Scottish Home was dedicated on November 5, 1910.

The Scottish Home was destroyed by fire, March 17, 1917, but was quickly rebuilt.

North Riverside was incorporated in 1923 and consisted of 50 homes and 200 residents. The population in 2009 was 6,203.

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew's Society

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