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Ravenswood Manor Improvement Association Preps for Centennial

By Patty Wetli | October 9, 2013 7:02am
 The Ravenswood Manor Improvement Association is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014.
Ravenswood Manor Improvement Association Centennial
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RAVENSWOOD MANOR — The Ravenswood Manor Improvement Association is getting ready to party like it's 1914.

The association will turn a spry 100 in 2014, and plans are under way for a year-long celebration of both the organization and the neighborhood it serves.

"There's a lot of history we're revisiting," said Thomas Applegate, co-chair of the centennial steering committee along with Kathy Monk.

Nods to the association's past include "Curious Manor," which will delve into Manor myths and oddities, and centennial plaques that would be used to mark the neighborhood's 100-year-old homes.

"It's about having a deeper connection to where you live," Applegate said.

Walking tours and a big bash tentatively set for next June are also in the works, though Monk emphasized, "We're very much at the start of the process" and fresh ideas — and volunteers — are welcome.

"We hope that people will learn about their neighborhood," she said. "We want this to be for the neighborhood, by the neighborhood."

Founded in 1914, five years after Ravenswood Manor was originally subdivided, the improvement association was created as a way for residents to uphold the guiding vision and principles of developer William Harmon, whose sales office was situated where a pergola now stands in Ravenswood Manor Park.

With its tree-lined streets, low density and minimal commercial activity, the Manor is purposely sleepy, and the association has worked to keep it that way.

Early endeavors were aimed at staving off large-scale development that would overwhelm the Manor's predominance of single-family homes. At one point, association members pooled their resources to buy a corner lot that was in danger of being sold to a speculator intent on putting up an apartment building, according to a history written by Manor resident Richard Bjorklund.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the association successfully fought plans to extend McCormick Boulevard south through the Manor. The roadway would have split the neighborhood in half.

"There's great value to cohesiveness," said Monk, a 22-year resident.

Which isn't to suggest that the Manor's stability should be mistaken for insularity.

New businesses such as First Slice Pie Cafe and Peterson Garden Project's Learning Center have been "wonderful" and "positive" additions, according to Monk.

Applegate, who moved to the Manor a mere five years ago, said he was instantly embraced by his new neighbors on Leland Avenue.

"They invited us to a block party before we even lived there," he recalled. "We knew we were in the right place."

So it would seem that the association has more than fulfilled its initial mission of preserving the Manor's character.

That said, how does the organization remain relevant as it heads into its second century?

Rallying neighbors around a hot-button issue is easy, Applegate said.

"The more difficult challenge is maintaining [the association] when everything is nice," he said.

In the absence of any pressing controversy, the association has shifted its focus to building community and promoting neighbor-to-neighbor interactions through events like a summer concert series, an annual Easter egg hunt and an Independence Day bike parade for kids.

"We haven't just fought the battles," Applegate said. "We've always done those things that activate and engage, that bring the neighborhood together. Things that make the neighborhood livable."

The association's semi-annual meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Urban Homes, 4668 N. Manor Ave. Discussion of the centennial celebration is on the agenda.