HPHS seeks donations to save cable car building

The Hyde Park Historical Society, 5529 S. Lake Park Ave. – Spencer Bibbs

Staff Writer

The Hyde Park Historical Society (HPHS) is reaching out to the Hyde Park community to raise funds to restore its historic cable car building, 5529 South Lake Park Ave.

Michal Safar, HPHS president said the organization began to see “deterioration of the building’s façade, doors, and windows in 2014.”

She said other areas in the building also needed to be repaired or upgraded. The HPHS Board at the time came up with a five-year plan and asked a preservation architect to assess the building.

The following year, to cover the cost of hiring a preservation architect the HPHS asked for donations from its membership. The architect, in turn, developed a long-range plan for the entire building. The building also had accessibility and infrastructure issues that needed to be addressed. The total cost of repairs came to be $100,000.

Most pressing of the work required for the building included a new furnace, masonry restoration window, and door refurbishment. In 2016, the HPHS was able to raise $20,000 from board members to start the work. This year the furnace was replaced and a masonry contractor was hired.

Safar said, HPHS board members “have been working on various fundraising programs, notably the rowhouse tour last fall and our annual dinner in February.”

The repair costs are too large of a sum for the organization to raise on its own so Safar said the HPHS felt “it was time to engage the entire Hyde Park community.”

To date the organization has raised $25,000 Safar said most of the funds been were used on the preservation architect and the furnace the HPHS needs $75,000 more to reach their goal.

By the end of the summer, Safar said the group must raise an additional $30,000 to cover work that needs to be completed before the winter. HPHS has been discussing some fundraising activities and hopes to have a fundraiser this summer, Safar said.

The Chicago City Street Railway constructed the cable car building in 1893 or 1894, and it is believed to be the only building surviving in Chicago that was a part of the cable car system.

The Hyde Park cable line ran along 55th Street, and it served for a short time as a terminal rest stop for the trolley system. From 1898 to 1952 Turney Keller and members of his family operated the building as a restaurant. Later, it was known as Steve’s Lunch under the management of Steve Megales, who was a Greek immigrant.

Currently, the HPHS is used for meeting, programs, and exhibits.

To make tax deductible donations to preserve the cable car building make checks payable to: Hyde Park Historical Society and mail it to Hyde Hyde Park Historical Society c/o Michal Safar, 5530 S. Shore Drive, Apt. 9A, Chicago, IL 60637. You can also email Safar at msafar@ameritech.net. To make donations through PayPal visit hydeparkhistory.org.