For more than a century, the Evanston History Center’s mission has been to collect, preserve and share stories and artifacts of Evanston’s past. In 1898, a local group founded the Evanston Historical Society, now the Evanston History Center (EHC). The community’s rich heritage comes to life through EHC’s dynamic programming within the landmark Dawes House.
EHC attracts valuable tourism dollars, serving as a destination for visitors, teachers, students, historians and researchers from around the world. In addition to curating exhibits and conducting tours, EHC publishes original research, provides curriculum, assists researchers, and hosts lectures, workshops, and community and outreach events.
A collective past.
History is alive at the Dawes House. Each year, thousands come to explore the questions history provokes, feel the excitement of discovery, and experience the thrill of examining artifacts and reading directly from original documents.
The Charles Gates Dawes House is EHC’s largest, most important artifact. A National Historic Landmark, the house itself is rare and valuable, and tells many stories that offer a fascinating view of the past. Equally important, for more than 50 years it has served as EHC’s home — the safe repository of our collective past.
A wonderful gift, an inviolable trust.
Charles Gates Dawes was a U.S. Vice President, World War I general, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and philanthropist. In the 1940s, Charles and his wife Caro decided to preserve their house and the vanishing era it represented. Their love of history and commitment to philanthropy led them to make a gift of their house and its furnishings to Northwestern University to serve as headquarters for the Evanston Historical Society.
In 2009, Northwestern University generously donated the Dawes House to EHC. Now, all of us share the pride of ownership of this Evanston treasure.
With such a gift comes responsibility. The Dawes’ legacy carries an inviolable trust that those who benefited from their generosity would preserve it for future generations.
View toward the future.
The magnificent Chateauesque Dawes House boasts 25 rooms, including a mahogany paneled library, a vaulted dining room with a musician’s gallery and 11 fireplaces. Completed in 1896, damage suffered over 115 years threatens the building’s integrity and safety of the collections.
The house must be preserved.
According to a 2010 assessment, the building was in urgent need of extensive restoration and systems upgrades to ensure structural integrity and safeguard EHC’s priceless collections. The cost of the work was determined to be $4 million.
We have started an ambitious plan to address and repair the most serious issues outlined in the assessment. Priorities were identified and laid out in three phases of work. To date, Phases I and II of the plan have been completed. Plans for the final Phase III have been started.
Early support from donors made an immediate impact by helping to:
replace deteriorated and hazardous mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems;
modernize by installing sustainable, cost-effective geothermal heating and air-conditioning systems to preserve the collections and provide a comfortable environment.
Ongoing support from donors will help to:
restore eroding masonry to ensure public safety and prevent water damage;
build an endowment for future programming and maintenance.
Evanston’s history. Evanston’s home.
For more than 100 years, EHC has been building a treasured collection from generations of Evanstonians that reflect a strong commitment to remembering, celebrating and honoring our past. Since its first acquisition in 1898 — an early record book rescued from a dustbin — EHC’s collections have grown to more than 100,000 artifacts, including decorative arts, rare books, documents, maps, photographs and oral histories, and a nationally renowned costume collection.
Preserving history is not only about the past. EHC has a decidedly modern focus. With goals of expanding membership, programming, and access to collections, providing innovative ways to interact with history, and using the latest technologies to connect with audiences, EHC is committed to taking a 21st century approach to history.
All of us who care about preserving history have the chance to make sure that the doors of the Dawes House remain open to everyone.