Lili-December 10, 2018
The Danish Home will host its monthly birthday celebration next week on December 19. My friend Farfar is especially excited because residents and staff are also going out that evening for a tour of Norwood Park’s spectacular holiday lights.
“Did you see the house out there?” Farfar asked me on a recent visit. I looked at him quizzically. “Which house?” I asked. “This one!” he said. “The Danish Home; it’s all decked out in front.” At that, I dashed outside for a peek. I’m in such a hurry this chilly time of year, I usually make a beeline from my car to an indoor destination.
“Wow, it sure it!” I said when I joined Farfar back in the gathering room, festooned with a sparkly tree and cheery poinsettias (Julestjerne, or “Christmas Stars”). “I just love all the lights and decorations this time of year,” Farfar said. “And since my cataract surgery a few years ago, it’s all a lot brighter.”
While I may have dashed through the snow, as it were, to get inside The Danish Home on this particular visit, I did give the Norwood Park area a good bit of thought on the drive down here.
What must it have been like 127 years ago, when The Danish Home’s founders envisioned this neighborhood to be the safe haven it has been for generations of older adults?
Throughout the years (and still today,) Norwood Park has been inhabited by hard-working Chicago police officers, firefighters, construction workers and various other city and non-municipal workers, who, like many Chicagoans, take great pride in their neighborhood home.
I often wonder what brought the 12 Danish Home founders, one of whom is my great-great-grandmother Margrethe Olsen, to this area. It is steeped in such rich history, I decided to look further into it.
I discovered that English farmers settled here in the 1830’s, and in 1833 Mark Noble purchased land and built a house known today as the Noble-Seymour-Crippen house, the oldest extant house in the city of Chicago and just around the corner from The Danish Home!
It wasn’t until 1893 that the village of Norwood Park was annexed to Chicago. Developers hoped it would become a resort area, given its scenic landscape. But construction threatened this tight-knit community in the 1940s when a main artery, the “Avondale Superhighway,” was proposed. Steely residents banded together to thwart this effort, however, and their beloved neighborhood was kept intact.
Although the Kennedy Expressway (completed in 1960) now runs parallel to Norwood Park, the neighborhood sits to the east and is as quaint and quiet as ever.
When I consider all the history that has literally unfolded beneath my feet as I walk the halls and grounds of The Danish Home, I am truly humbled. It is because of all the hard work and determination of those before us that it is here today.
While exciting plans for expansion and improvements are currently underway at The Danish Home, its history in Norwood Park is indelibly rooted in care, commitment and community.