A Different North Shore Top-10 List: Where We Are Knit Together

Every suburb or neigborhood has places where people feel comfortable and unselfconscious. These are the places where community flourishes. What's your favorite "social seam" in the northern suburbs?


Every community has places where people feel comfortable and unselfconscious. These are the places where community flourishes.  In the Corona neighborhood where I grew up in Queens, New York, all of us kids flocked to the candy store on the appropriately named Junction Boulevard to buy our bazooka bubble gum and leaf through the latest comic books.  Regardless of whether we were rich or poor, or what color or religion we were, this was our mecca.

It turns out that there is a technical term for the places that knit us together: social seams. 

In their 1998 article on what makes for stable racially and ethnically diverse communities, Chicago-based authors Phil Nyden, Michael Maly, and John Lukehart wrote:

"'Social seams' are those points in the community where interaction between different ethnic and racial groups is “sewn” together in some way – a concept used by Jane Jacobs in The Life and Death of Great American Cities (Jacobs 1961, 267).  The most common seam is a grocery store of strip of stores.  Even where people of different races and different ethnicities come together on a daily basis and where parents interact in the course of parent-teacher association activities and regular school events.  Parks, special community-wide events, and neighborhood festivals can also serve as seams."

Social seams are not only the wellsprings of community, but should be more consciously used by government entities or community groups to build civic leadership, or simply to make sure that everyone’s voices are solicited and heard on public issues.  For example, this past fall on Chicago’s North Side, community members and the City of Chicago gathered residents together at the local YMCA to get everyone’s input on the redevelopment of an old rail bed into the “Bloomingdale Trail.”  Check out the project’s web site – a model of engagement born in a social seam.

For me, as a Skokie resident, the Skokie Public Library fits the bill.  It’s a gathering place for everyone.  If I want to hold a meeting in Skokie that will attract a good cross-section of this multicultural village, this is where I’d hold it.  It could be nicknamed a “comfort zone”. 

What are your “social seams” in the northern suburbs of Chicago?

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Lori Goldstein January 13, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Community members of New Trier Township are fortunate to have many opportunities to meet and discuss social emotional issues relating to school, parenting, and life. Thanks to local organizations like Family Awareness Network (FAN), New Trier High School's Ethical Conduct and Global Citizenship (ECGC) Committee, and others, we benefit from presentations by top experts, workshops, and "town meetings." Organized and grass roots parent and community groups often continue the discussion. You can find many events right in/near your hometown on the Parent Education Consortium (PEC) calendar. Lori Goldstein (Wimette)
Jennifer O'Neil January 13, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I would add the Farmers' Markets in Skokie and Evanston. I live in that area that's between and part of both communities so I have taken advantage of both. Great diversity is evident at both markets and there is always a great deal of socializing along with the shopping. Now Evanston has extended the market through the winter which provides an opportunity year-round!
David Schechter January 13, 2012 at 08:47 PM
For me, the highlight of every week takes place at the Weber Center (on Church just a few yards west of Gross Point Road) in the boardroom on Wednesdays from 9:30 to 11:30. There the Skokie Senior Men's Group holds forth on various topics. It is a veritable Town Meeting presided over by three expert moderators. We talk Politics. We talk Religion. Our biggest failing is that we have not offered admittance to women. But I am sure that blessed day will arrive.
Sherman Beverly January 25, 2012 at 05:43 PM
The Deerfield Public Library is a welcoming and comfortable place to visit. I visit it at least three times a week. First Monday, a group of men and sometimes women, has met there once a month since its beginning in 1995. We've always been made to feel at home by its staff. The library is frequented by all ages. Seldom do I visit there without seeing someone I know or meeting someone I'm glad to know. The Patty Turner Senior Center also welcomes many people to its varied activities for Deerfield's seniors. Talk to most seniors in the community for any length of time and the Patty Turner Center is mentioned. My wife and I moved to Deerfield in 1967 with the clear intention of returning to Chicago after our three girls were on their own. We've been empty nesters now for almost 20 years and are still in Deerfield--our home.
puran stevens January 31, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Thanks for your email and thought provoking questions. > I shared the question with my fellow Baha'is in Wilmette. > We all agreed that the Baha'i House of Worship is the magnet that draws > people of every race, class, and religion to gather together. It is not a > place to practice Baha'i belief only, but it is open every day of the year > for individual prayers and meditation upstairs, and conversation and visit > downstairs and in summer time in the gardens. > We also thought the Wilmette Public Library is a location where some > people > from out of town may come, but it is mostly for the Wilmette residents. > Of course the grocery stores, malls, restaurants, movie theaters are the > locations where everyone is welcome. > Warmest greetings,


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