Shorefront Legacy Center Exhibit

The Shorefront Legacy Center exhibit is open in our Chapel until the end of February! If you didn’t get to see it last Sunday – or you want to see it again – stop in any Sunday in February before or after church, with your small group if you meet at the church, or for our community open houses on February 5 and 26, from
1-3 pm. We are privileged to have the opportunity to house this exhibit which showcases the varied and unique bios of a few of the North Shore’s Black residents. The accompanying photo is of one of the posters you will see; the text from the poster is quoted below.

As early as the mid-1800s, the Smith family moved from Ontario, Canada to settle in Wilmette. Ellen and her husband, John Smith, were the immediate descendants of runaway slaves who had escaped north to Canada. They opened a grocery and candy store at 1428 Wilmette Avenue in Wilmette. They also lived on the upper floor with Ellen’s sister and her husband, James Thompson who came from Lake Forest. The business operated until the death of Ellen in 1925.

John H. and Mary Mitchell, another early African American family, lived at 1822 Walnut Avenue (1917-1918 directory) at least until 1925. Their children (one son and one daughter) attended St. Joseph School.

Most African American residents were live-in domestics and were, for the most part, not listed in the directory. However, according to old census records, they were listed as to whose house they were employed.