Everything Evanston: Citizens commemorate town anniversary

Serena Brown, Reporter



For Evanston’s 160th anniversary, community residents and city officials share testimonies regarding their experiences and relationship with the town.

SERENA BROWN: Evanston proudly boasts a rich tapestry of residents representing diverse backgrounds and aspirations. From those who have established their lives here with the intention of laying down strong roots, to those who have come here to pursue their education at Northwestern University, to those who have chosen to embrace retirement in this vibrant locale — Evanston thrives as a community brimming with a multitude of perspectives.

To gain a deeper understanding of this town, The Daily Northwestern sought out stories from residents about how their unique experiences have shaped their perception of the Evanston community.


SERENA BROWN: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Serena Brown. This is Everything Evanston, a podcast about the people, business and goings-on in Evanston, Illinois.


SERENA BROWN: What is your name?

DANIEL BISS: My name is Daniel Biss.

SERENA BROWN: What is your occupation?

DANIEL BISS: I am the mayor of Evanston.

SERENA BROWN: How long have you been in Evanston?

DANIEL BISS: I moved to Evanston in the summer of 2006.

SERENA BROWN: What is your favorite thing to do in Evanston?

DANIEL BISS: I mean, I’m gonna give a very boring answer here. I just, I feel so, so fortunate that we have the lakefront. I just love to be on the lake. I love to be on the beach in a bathing suit, but I also love to walk on the lake all times of the year. You know, my family, we go to the lake every Christmas.

SERENA BROWN: The lake is a favorite spot for many Evanston residents.

KATE SCHWARTZ: Here’s the best memories: the beach, the beach, the beach, the beach.

SERENA BROWN: That’s Evanston resident Kate Schwartz.

KATE SCHWARTZ: But everybody calls me Cookie.

SERENA BROWN: What is your general perception of Evanston?

KATE SCHWARTZ: This is a town that on the surface looks really good, but just underneath are a myriad of problems that for the longest time, the city simply wouldn’t address, pretend it didn’t exist, made sort of vague attempts to do something to ameliorate things.

SERENA BROWN: After spending more than 25 years here in total, how have you seen Evanston change?

KATE SCHWARTZ: I would say there’s a greater divide now between people who have some money and people who don’t. When I moved here in 1978, this was a funkier place. There were wealthy people, to be sure, but fewer.

SERENA BROWN: Long time resident Cheryl Judice has deep roots in both Evanston and at NU.

CHERYL JUDICE: I have two occupations. Hecky was my husband, and I’m now the president and owner of Hecky’s Barbecue since my husband passed. I’ve had to take over, but I also teach at Northwestern. I’m a professor in the School of Education and Social Policy.

SERENA BROWN: What do you teach at Northwestern?

CHERYL JUDICE: Well, right now I’m teaching a class called Contemporary Issues in Social Policy. I also teach the practicum for juniors that are in SESP as well.

SERENA BROWN: What is your favorite part about Evanston as a whole?

CHERYL JUDICE: I think this is one community where you have people that are very much interested in being involved, as I said earlier, with making this a great community for everybody. We are very much social justice-oriented. We try and be fair. We try and balance the needs and the wants of all the various people that live here. That’s what makes this community strong as well as somewhat unique. I have lived here (for) 48 years, almost, and I have no intention of moving.


SERENA BROWN: Mark Jones, the owner and lead designer at Saville Flowers and Gifts, talked about how he’s seen Evanston change over the years.

SERENA BROWN: How long have you worked in Evanston?

MARK JONES: The business has been in Evanston for 81 years this year. It was a family business, so I basically grew up, you know, here in the store. My mom owned it while I was a kid. So, (it’s) hard to gauge how long I’ve been. I would say I’ve never physically lived here, but I’ve also been working at the store full time for 11 years this year.

SERENA BROWN: What do you think about Evanston?

MARK JONES: We definitely see a lot of empty storefronts around here and I think the city is really working, especially with our (Evanston) Thrive(s) community program. Evanston is investing a lot back into the city and how we can continue to progress as a downtown area and a mix of that cosmopolitan, kind of suburban nature.

MARK JONES: So I really am hopeful and excited that we are trying to bring in vendors and attract different opportunities that can help us continue to morph into a new generation, and a new style of how downtown (can) serve their residents and serve their communities.

SERENA BROWN: Mayor Biss also spoke on many areas that he hopes to see improvements in regards to the Evanston community.

DANIEL BISS: I’m spending a lot of time these days thinking about how isolated we are, and how that isolation that I think in many respects comes from modern technology is hurting us. It’s hurting our mental health, it’s hurting our communal fabric and it’s hurting our capacity for productive, complex interaction.

DANIEL BISS: I think the city government has a lot to say about that by providing vibrant, attractive and safe events and spaces for people to be together. Reclaiming the public space as a community convening spot I think is really, really valuable right now.

SERENA BROWN: What do you think about the University and its impact on Evanston?

DANIEL BISS: We’re different than other suburbs. We don’t feel the same. We don’t look the same. We have this giant of the University that’s been in our community for as long as the city has been incorporated, and so (it) is a big part of making it what it is. I think we need to just name that and acknowledge it and, frankly, celebrate it. And I think we should be clear with ourselves about the fact that Evanston won’t thrive without a thriving Northwestern, much like how Northwestern won’t thrive without a thriving Evanston.

SERENA BROWN: How do you think NU and Evanston can strengthen their relationship?

DANIEL BISS: I just think there’s a lot more opportunity for the University to directly financially support the city. There’s more opportunity for organizations to partner and tap into the knowledge and expertise that exists on campus to help us achieve our shared goals, particularly in areas like sustainability. So I think there’s a lot of good there, but there’s also just a tremendous untapped resource that I want to make sure we begin to take full advantage of.

SERENA BROWN: Jones had a similar sentiment when asked what Evanston’s greatest asset is.

MARK JONES: I think Evanston’s strongest asset is, like, being in a university, college area. It’s very progressive. Still, obviously, you see our policies with also being the first city in the nation to do reparations. Just being progressive with a lot of our policies and hosting Northwestern here I think is a very cool asset and I think speaks a lot to the diversity and just kind of the inclusion and nature of how we hope — I personally hope — America to be progressing.

SERENA BROWN: Despite acknowledging its imperfections, the collective pride felt by residents like Schwartz, Judice, Jones and Biss show the dedication Evanstonians have to bettering the community they call home. Happy Birthday Evanston!


SERENA BROWN: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Serena Brown. Thanks for listening to another episode of Everything Evanston. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Mika Ellison, the digital managing editors are Ava Mandoli and Erica Schmitt, and the editor in chief is Alex Perry. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @SerenaBrown0

Mayor Daniel Biss talks town-gown relations at Northwestern, UChicago event
Hecky’s Barbecue owner honored with street name
Local businesses strive to attract NU students