Festooned with a paper skeleton, toy bat and stuffed cat, a tall ladder stood in the northeast corner of the private dining room of Montgomery Place, a life plan community at 5550 South Shore Drive. To those who are superstitious, the open ladder might spell doom, but a nearby sign welcomed “13ers,” residents who live on the high-rise building’s 13th floor. Some 13th floor neighbors dressed in costumes, but all chose to poke fun at superstitions, especially those associated with the number 13, which they consider lucky.
Since May of 2015 on the 13th of each month, residents of Montgomery Place’s 13th floor have dined together to share news of their “neighborhood” and to get to know each other better. The dinners unite them as a sort of high-rise block club. Meals are prepared by Executive Chef David Glasse, and residents bring bottles of wine and chocolates to share.
“There are lots of ways for people to get to know each other here, and this one is very special,” said Sylvia Steen, who looks forward to these monthly dinners. She moved to the 13th floor of Montgomery Place in December of 2015.
The group toasted fellow 13th floor resident Mae Wygant, who initiated the monthly dinners. Wygant, an artist, retired teacher and activist, first reached out to her neighbors by slipping notes under their doors and following up with hallway conversations.
“Having this club removes any awkwardness if we need help or find ourselves having to knock on doors,” said Wygant. “It helps us keep each other informed—plus we get to have a little fun.”
For a typical dinner, anywhere from 14 to 16 residents attend. While some opt out for dinner with family members or out-of-town trips, most of those residing on the 13th floor have attended far more gatherings than they’ve missed.
During one dinner, for instance, the group spent a good 10 minutes bantering about the fact that several Chicago high-rises have no 13th Floor. “Even the Illinois Bar Association’s building, which was built recently, doesn’t have a 13th Floor,” said Don Reynolds, a retired patent attorney who moved to Montgomery Place in June 2010 from Presidential Towers in the west Loop.
Residents explore a wide range of topics: local and national politics, family news, book club selections, onsite Sunday concerts and religious services, lectures given by fellow residents, and field trips to plays and concerts. Throughout the seasons they also compare views from their apartments, which overlook Lake Michigan, Chicago’s cityscape to the north, and the Museum of Science and Industry campus to the south. Mary Williams enjoys watching the moonrise, as well as taking daily walks around the Museum of Science and Industry.
Reynolds said he enjoys the intellectual stimulation of conversing with fellow residents like Gene Gressley, a retired archivist and professor of Western American History at University of Wyoming at Laramie. “My fellow ‘inmates’ are very bright,” Reynolds joked. “I love it here.”
Williams agreed, “I feel blessed by how compatible our group seems to be in our interests. I think our monthly dinners are a great idea.”