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Historical Society Preserves Touhy Avenue Gatepost

December 30, 2013 10:11 AM
Over 100 years ago, the 16-acre parcel of land bounded by Touhy Avenue, Washington Street, Northwest Highway, and the houses on the west side of Berry Parkway was owned by an order of Catholic nuns, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul, whose summer home was on the property.
For years, the Society has responded to questions about the unusual ‘monument’ on Touhy Avenue at Berry Parkway. It is a concrete gatepost, and is the only remnant remaining of those summer home years.
The Sisters of the Daughters of Charity opened the first St. Vincent’s Asylum, or Orphanage, in 1881 at 1100 North Orleans in Chicago. They provided 91 years of service to unwed or poor mothers and their children, to abandoned children, and to thousands of adoptive families, before closing their St. Vincent’s Orphanage at 721 North LaSalle Street in Chicago in 1972. (The Sisters traced their heritage to Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint, who founded the American Daughters of Charity in the early 1800s.)
The nun’s property in Park Ridge became known familiarly as ‘St. Vincent’s Asylum’ in recognition of the nun’s mission. (Even though no orphans were actually cared for in Park Ridge, except for one year, in 1930.) The property was also known as ‘The Villa,’ in recognition of the Italianate architecture of the nun’s modest convent. Long-time Park Ridge residents recall days of ice-skating at ‘The Villa,’ when the grounds close to Touhy Avenue flooded during wintertime.
A gravel lane led from the Park Ridge home to Touhy Avenue, and was bounded by the gate there. The gatepost stood on the property of the adjoining Advocate Heath Care offices. When the Society became aware of the pending sale of this land, it acted to preserve the gatepost as an important artifact of Park Ridge history.
The Society thanks Julie Mitchell of Advocate Health Care in Park Ridge, 205 West Touhy Avenue, for acknowledging the significance of the gatepost and allowing the Society to remove and preserve it for future display. Also salvaged was a small remnant of the iron fence which surrounded the property. This remnant was attached to the gatepost.
The Society also thanks Board Member Kirke Machon for facilitating the removal and relocation of the gatepost, and the Litgen Concrete and Coring Company and Emerald Landscape Contractors for providing removal and moving services.

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