Liam – October 1, 2019

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.”
—Henry Ward Beecher

Tradition plays an important role as we navigate our lives. It keeps us anchored when the winds of change are howling. The Danish Home of Chicago was founded on Danish traditions, and it has thrived because of them. The Home has welcomed new traditions as well over its 128 years of serving thousands of families. All this tradition has helped generations of residents feel comfortable in a vibrant senior community setting. But there would be no traditions for any of us without an affinity for history. So it’s fitting that The Danish Home has called one of Chicago’s most historic neighborhoods its home since day one.

Norwood Park is nestled in Chicago’s northwest side. Its Victorian homes and quiet, tree-lined streets make it feel almost suburban, if not for its accessibility to the city center. The neighborhood organized as a township in 1873, taking its name from the 1868 Henry Ward Beecher novel Norwood, or Village Life in New England. The “Park” was tacked on after organizers learned that Illinois already had a Norwood post office and needed to avoid confusion. The township became a village in 1874, and Chicago annexed Norwood Park in 1893.

A sepia-toned book cover titled Henry Ward Beecher: Norwood

Historic Norwood Park takes its name from Henry Ward Beecher’s novel, Norwood.

Norwood Parkers couldn’t have known at the time that their neighborhood was already on track to becoming one of historical significance. Sixty years before being annexed, Mark Noble, one of the first non-indigenous inhabitants of the Norwood Park area, built a modest farmhouse. In 1868, the small house and surrounding land was purchased by Thomas Hartley Seymour, who turned it into a sprawling mansion. In 1916, the Seymour family sold it to Stuart and Charlotte Allen Crippen. The Crippen family owned the home until 1987 when they sold it to the Norwood Park Historical Society (NPHS).

The Noble-Seymour-Crippen House (pictured above), as it is now known, is located on the 5600 block of North Newark Avenue in Norwood Park’s historical district and is considered the oldest existing building in Chicago. It was declared a Chicago landmark in 1987 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

The Danish Home, which opened its doors in 1891, two years before Norwood Park became part of Chicago, is a long-time dedicated supporter of the neighborhood’s historical preservation efforts. It is participating in the NPHS’s annual Holiday House Tour, which offers guests an opportunity to walk the floorboards of history during a self-guided tour of the mansion on December 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Danish Home was also a proud sponsor of the NPHS’s Stems and Steins on September 7. The event raised money to support the Noble-Seymour-Crippen House. It offered three-and-a-half hours of socializing while enjoying tastings of 50 different beers and wines. It’s a little ironic that the NPHS hosted a beer and wine tasting when you consider that when it was founded, the Village of Norwood Park prohibited the sale of alcohol. And to this day, you’d be hard pressed to find a traditional Chicago tavern in the ’hood. In 2016, the area quietly welcomed its first liquor store in 50 years.

A Victorian home is pictured next to the words Norwood Park Historical Society

The Danish Home is a proud partner with the Norwood Park Historical Society,

Dry or not, preserving the history of their neighborhood is enough to whet the whistle of many Norwood Parkers.

Because history matters. Tradition matters. In Norwood Park and at The Danish Home of Chicago, there’s no escaping either. Who among us would want to? When my great-great-grandmother Isabella Sandler helped found The Danish Home, I’m sure she hoped it would become a place that was safe and familiar for years to come. She and the other 11 founders succeeded in that respect. However, they likely could not have known how intertwined the Home and its home, Norwood Park, would become in Chicago’s history.

Or maybe they did know. Maybe offering a boutique retirement community in the heart of a budding community of European farmers and entrepreneurs in the late 19th century was precisely the ingredient the founders wanted for The Danish Home. If not for the quiet, but vibrant historical neighborhood, The Danish Home of Chicago would feel out of place.

Instead, it is the perfect haven for residents, their families and members of the community to be amidst tradition steeped in history that is still very much alive.