August 3, 2016
Today, our weekly trip through Epstein's 95 year history takes us back to July 1961 for the opening of the 80,000 square foot, three-story Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center located at 3033 West Touhy in Chicago. This project, which was completed for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, provided space for a wide variety of Jewish community programs.
The first level featured a lobby, offices, an auditorium, a large meeting room, and a kitchen. The second floor included an art studio, nursery school rooms, health club, and lounges, and on the third level Epstein designed a gymnasium, swimming pool, handball courts, locker rooms, and snack bar. An interesting side fact about the Horwich Center was that it was the first Jewish Community Center to serve older adults and included a space dedicated to seniors called the Mayer Kaplan Senior Adult Center.
In addition, located on the same lot as the Bernard Horwich Center, Epstein designed the Virginia Frank Childhood Development Center. This facility, which shared common walls and utilities (boiler and water supply) with the Horwich Center, was planned and designed a separate entity to provide social services for pre-school children with emotional issues, similar to what we now know classify as Autism.
The Virginia Frank School featured a plan that utilized a central core containing observational rooms with one-way glass, a kitchen and a child-scaled lunch counter. There were also three class units (each comprised of two rooms), restrooms, storage areas, and, in sign of how far we have come as a society in understanding and supporting autistic children, space was dedicated to so-called 'temper tantrums' which was open to the core. On the south side class units opened on to a covered porch and the fenced-in outdoor play yard. This play yard also included a special play hill, two play houses and a sprinkler pool.
Today, the Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center and the Virginia Frank Childhood Development Center are still a thriving providing space and activities for tens of thousands on a yearly base. The Virginia Frank facility is a nationally recognized pioneer in the field of family-centered child development and the Horwich Center is serves as a major component of many members of the Jewish Community living in Rogers Park, the surrounding neighborhoods and suburbs.