Ask the Historian
Do You Have a Question About Elmhurst History?
Ask our staff historian a question via email by clicking on this link: Ask the Historian.
Here are some recent questions answered by the EHM research staff:
Q: I have a newspaper from 1966, and the front page is all about the press plant newspaper fire. I would like information on this fire.
A: There was a major fire at the Press Publications building at 112 S York Street (right) on a Saturday night in November 1966. no one was injured, and the fire was confined to the printing plant; however, there was extensive damage. First responders from Elmhurst and surrounding communities, Elmhurst residents and members of the printing profession all stepped up, offered help and assisted with the cleanup. The day after the fire, Press Publication staff members (reporters, pressmen, linotype operators) came to the building to sweep out water, clean surfaces and remove rubble. A paper was published the next week. Damages were estimated at $500,000. In December, Press Publications announced it would build an 11,000 square foot addition to replace the building destroyed by the fire.
Q: For whom is Fellows Court Named?
A: Following World War II, there was a severe housing shortage for soldiers returning from the War. Most of the housing stock in Elmhurst was single-family homes. William Fellows was an Elmhurst alderman 1934-1945 and Elmhurst Mayor 1945-1948. He was instrumental in getting the St. Charles West Apartments and co-ops built. Under William Fellows' leadership, the City of Elmhurst re-zoned a 21-acre site at St. Charles Road and West Avenue and worked with the FHA and a private developer to build the multi-family complex. A municipal committee reviewed applications, giving preference to veterans and teachers. Mayor Fellows died while in office in January 1948. When the road through the housing development opened in August 1948 there was a brief ceremony to dedicate the street as Fellows Court in memory of Mayor William Fellows.
Q: I am a huge fan of Fred Lorenzen. Lorenzen is a Scandinavian name. Does anybody know if Fred Lorenzen’s family came from Norway or Denmark? (sent from Norway)
A: According to the 1930 federal census records, Fred Lorenzen’s paternal grandparents (his father’s parents), were born in Denmark. The museum presented a major exhibit on Elmhurst resident Lorenzen and his impressive acing career in 2012. Lorenzen (pictured left) was a winner of the Daytona 500 and was one of the first northerners to become a professional NASCAR driver. "Fearless Freddie" achieved a lifelong dream in 2015 when he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. To learn more about Lorenzen, check out the biographical feature in our "By All Accounts: The Story of Elmhurst" exhibit in the museum's second floor gallery.
Q: Who is Robert Palmer and why is the underpass named
A: Robert T. Palmer (1915-1989) was Elmhurst’s first city manager from 1953 until 1983. He worked under five mayors and was the driving force behind the success of the Du Page Water Commission and the construction of Elmhurst’s underpass. He received the Jaycees Distinguished Service Award in 1978. Palmer's career was honored when the Kenilworth Avenue underpass, one of the largest civic improvement projects in Elmhurst history, was renamed Robert T. Palmer Drive. He was a veteran who served in World War II. Mr. Palmer is pictured at right with former city manager Tom Borchert (left).
Q: Did an Elmhurst resident used to announce Cubs games on the radio?
A: Yes. Ralph Bertram Puckett, professionally known as Bert Wilson, lived in Elmhurst with his family c. 1951 - 1955. Wilson, a long-time Cubs broadcaster for WIND radio, was known as "The Voice of the Cubs." Wilson, who popularized the phrase, "I don't care who wins as long as it's the Cubs," died in 1955.
Q: Do you know anything about former Elmhurst resident, Carl Geyer, who made French horns?
A: Long-time Elmhurst resident Carl C. Geyer emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1904 when he was a young man. He made musical instruments, horns in particular, by hand. According to the Chicago Tribune, when he first arrived in the United States, Mr. Geyer was the only French horn maker in the country. On Mr. Geyer’s 82nd birthday, the horn section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took their instruments to Mr. Geyer’s shop at 228 S Wabash and serenaded him. Carl Geyer and his wife, Sophie, had three children. Mr. Geyer passed away in 1973 at the age of 92.
Q: I read that Joseph Medill and his wife, Katharine, had a summer home in Elmhurst. Can you verify and/or provide any information about this?
A: Katharine Medill and her husband Joseph Medill, Chicago Tribune editor, leased a summer home in Elmhurst in 1894. The couple lived in the former Lathrop Estate, Huntington (pictured at right), on St. Charles Road between York Street and Spring Road. Mrs. Medill suffered from ill-health, and the family hoped that the clean air away from Chicago would improve her health. Mrs. Medill passed away in Elmhurst on October 1, 1894. According to newspaper coverage following Mrs. Medill’s passing, she was one of the founders of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home after the Civil War; was instrumental in relief work following the 1871 Chicago Fire, and was active on behalf of the Hospital for Women and Children.
Q: Is it true that a famous painter named Healy lived in Elmhurst?
A: Yes, well-known and prolific portrait painter G.P.A. Healy (1813-1894) lived in Elmhurst, then called Cottage Hill, 1857-1863. His subjects included Daniel Webster; Ulysses S Grant; Abraham Lincoln; Andrew Jackson; John Quincy Adams; Louisa May Alcott; Franz Liszt; Elisabeth, Queen of Rumania; Prince Otto von Bismarck of Prussia; French King Louis-Philippe and many more. Healy’s paintings may be found in museums and art galleries throughout the United States and Europe, including Chicago History Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Corcoran Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery.
Q: What can you tell me about Elmhurst resident and magic teacher Harlan Tarbell?
A: Harlan Tarbell was born on February 23, 1890 in Delavan, Illinois and grew up in nearby Groveland. In World War I, Tarbell served as a medic with the 24th Air Company in France. He married Martha Beck in 1920, and they lived at 401 Cottage Hill Avenue in Elmhurst with their children (Harlan Tarbell, Jr. and Marion) until Tarbell’s death in 1960. Tarbell became interested in magic at a young age, and often performed magic shows for family members and friends. He eventually became an internationally acclaimed magician who performed for audiences around the world. Tarbell originated over 200 mysteries, including one of the Hindu rope mysteries. Tarbell’s specialty was Eyeless Vision, also known as Radar Vision, which established him as a successful mentalist. Using Eyeless Vision, he once drove an automobile through the Loop during Chicago rush hour completely blindfolded. Tarbell is known for his multi-lesson correspondence course for magicians, which is still used today by many professional magicians. He was featured prominently in the EHM's 2009 exhibit, "The Magical History Tour." More information
Q: I am trying to find out more about a female drummer of the late 1920s/early 1930s who was from Elmhurst. Her name was Mitzi Bush, and she played drums with the Parisian Redheads and the Bricktops. Do you know anything about her?
A: Frank and Jean Quackenbush moved to Elmhurst with their family circa 1923. Their daughter, Miriam, was a drummer with several all-girl bands, and took Mitzi Bush as her professional name. Miriam Quackenbush Canosa passed away in Elmhurst in 1968 at the age of 64.
Q. I have an etching by Lee Sturges. What can you tell me about him?
A: Lee Sturges (1865 -1954) received his art training in the 1880s while attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He then left the art field temporarily to join the family business, married and started a family. Mr. Sturges, president of Solar-Sturges Manufacturing Company in Melrose Park, balanced his business and artistic careers. Sturges was a member of the Society of American Etchers, a member of the Brooklyn Etchers Society and a founder and chairman of the Chicago Society of Etchers. He won many prestigious awards and honors for his work. Lee and Mary Sturges and their three children lived at 280 Cottage Hill Avenue in Elmhurst 1892-1953, calling their home Shadeland (shown at left). More information about Lee Sturges’ etchings.
Q: For whom is Marjorie Davis Park named?
A: Marjorie Davis Park, located at the intersection of Grantley and Myrtle in Elmhurst, is named in honor of a fifth grade teacher who taught at Roosevelt School for 33 years. The park was dedicated in 1981 and is on the former site of Roosevelt School (pictured at right). Ms. Davis' name lives on in the place where she once influenced many young lives.
Q: Mayor Edward Blatter was elected Mayor of Elmhurst in 1931, and he only served two years. Did he resign while he was on office?
A: The mayoral term of office was only two years in the 1930s. Mayor Blatter ran for re-election in 1933, but he lost the mayoral race to Claude Van Auken.
Elmhurst Places & Neighborhoods
Q: Where did Carl Sandburg's family live in Elmhurst?
A: Circa 1857, when Elmhurst was known as Cottage Hill, Elmhurst carpenter Peter Torode built a home for his family on York Street located just north of St. Charles Road. Within a few years of construction, Mr. Torode moved a 20’ x 24’ frame structure (which had served as a former public schoolhouse) and added it to the back of his house. Over the years, the home (pictured left) was owned by various residents until the family of Carl Sandburg moved in at 331 S York Street circa 1919. The Sandburgs added an upstairs room to serve as Carl’s study. After the Sandburgs moved to Michigan circa 1928, they continued to own and rent 331 S York Street until the Earl Little family bought the property from the Sandburgs in 1949. In late 1964, the First Baptist Church at 343 S York Street was planning an expansion to the north. The church purchased the Sandburg/Little house, which was north of the church property. The church was willing to give the house to anyone free for the asking if they would move it. There were no takers, and the house was torn down in 1965.
Q: I have seen an old photograph of ponds in Wilder Park. What happened to them?
A: Elmhurst Historical Museum has a photograph like you are describing (at right) The image is circa 1936, and the ponds were at the north end of the park which extended to Virginia Street at the time. The Elmhurst Press (June 20, 1951) reported that “the ‘lily pond’ that has grown weeds in Wilder Park for the last 10 years” would become a lawn area. The park board had tried unsuccessfully to apply a waterproof material to the bottom of the pool, and the only water-proofing solution was too expensive. So the park board agreed to convert the pond to lawn space.
Q: Is there any history on Hahn Street? Is it named after someone of that name?
A: Hahn Street is named after Johann Hahn, an early Elmhurst settler, who was born in Germany. When he died in 1906, he was one of Elmhurst’s oldest residents. He was a cabinet maker/carpenter. He built his family’s home at 144 N York Street (left) as well as the original St. Peter’s Church. The 1904 Du Page County Atlas shows Hahn Subdivision between Third Street and North Avenue; and between York Street and Addison Avenue.
Q: I grew up on Fairfield Avenue in Elmhurst in the 1950s. I could have sworn that Fairfield continued on through the (Eldridge) park area, and I see on a map that it now comes to a dead end.
A: You are correct about Fairfield Avenue The Elmhurst Historical Museum has a 1958 street map of Elmhurst, and Fairfield and Hillside go south to Butterfield Road. Elmhurst Park District started developing Eldridge Park in 1960, and those streets were closed off.
Q: Can you please tell me about the Wilder Mansion?
A: The home (pictured at right) was built circa 1868 for Seth and Elizabeth Wadhams, who named the estate White Birch(es). It was a two-story square building with a central hall, parlor and bedroom on the north, a sitting room on the south side and a dining room in the southwest corner, and four bedrooms upstairs. The kitchen and the pantry were in an L on the south side of the house. The second residents of the house, Mr. Henry W and Mrs. Aurelia King, took ownership circa 1890. They enlarged the house, adding a wing on the north side as well as a veranda on the east and north sides. It appears that Harry (or Henry) and Rosalie Selfridge owned the property next, although they did not live in the house.Thomas Edward and Annie Wilder purchased the building and property in 1905 and moved in with their family. The Wilders named the property Lancaster Lodge, after Mr. Wilder’s hometown in Massachusetts. Mr. Wilder passed away in 1919, and Mrs. Wilder remained in the house for about a year before moving to Lake Forest, IL to be near her grown children. In 1921, the newly-formed Elmhurst Park District acquired the Wilder estate and offered the former Wilder residence and the surrounding one-acre of land to the City of Elmhurst for $14,000. The former Wilder home housed Elmhurst Public Library from 1922 to 2003. The Wilder Mansion was remodeled inside and out 1936/37 as part of the Elmhurst Centennial program. The library made an addition to the west of the Wilder Mansion in 1965, which was torn down in 2008 as part of the Elmhurst Park District’s renovation of the Wilder Mansion. As the result of an intergovernmental agreement in 2000, the Elmhurst Park District now owns the Wilder Mansion and it is used for special events and programs.
Q: How old is the water tower at Route 83 and St. Charles Road?
A: The water tower (pictured at left) was built circa 1955, at the same time as the water towers in Butterfield Park and Berens Park.
Q: What information do you have about the hill/concrete tank
bomb shelter in Ben Allison Park?
A: The City of Elmhurst had plans to convert a former water reservoir on Scott Street into a Civil Defense Communications Center in 1962; however, it did not carry out the plans. A well was built for the City of Elmhurst at Scott Street and St. Charles Road circa 1927. In 1934 a WPA project built a 200,000-gallon reservoir at Scott Street about 900 feet from the well. The structure in Ben Allison Park is a former water reservoir. When a water tower was built on the southeast corner of St. Charles Road and Route 83 circa 1953/54, the reservoir was no longer needed. In the late 1950s City crews knocked a hole in the former reservoir for the purpose of establishing a civil defense center. Architectural plans were drawn up to convert the reservoir into a Civil Defense Headquarters, but they were never carried out past the initial construction phase and the project was abandoned. The Elmhurst Historical Museum has a copy of the architectural plans to convert the old water reservoir into an Emergency Operating Communication Center on Scott Street, dated November 15, 1962.
Q: Would you know where the Wilder family lived after selling the mansion?
A: According to Anna (Mrs. T. E.) Wilder’s obituary in the Elmhurst Press, Mrs. Wilder moved to the North Shore to be closer to her sons circa 1920, a year after her husband’s passing. Mrs. Wilder was living in Lake Forest when she died in 1940.
Q: What does the stone marker on the NE corner of Cottage Hill and St. Charles Road commemorate?
A: Hill Cottage stood on the north side of St. Charles Road at Cottage Hill Avenue for many years. It was built circa 1842 as a tavern, hotel and rest stop for a stagecoach route that went from Chicago to the Fox River Valley. It also housed the first post office in the community. Hill Cottage later became a private home. In the early 1890s, the house was moved to 413 S York Street where it remains today as a private home. In 1936, when Elmhurst was observing its centennial, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed the marker on that site (pictured at left).
Q: I am doing a report about Pioneer Park, and I was wondering about its history?
A: Elmhurst Park District purchased 4 acres of land at Mitchell Avenue and Prairie Path Lane in 1974. The park district held a Name-A-Park contest. Out of more than 60 submissions, a citizen’s advisory commission selected Pioneer Park as the winning entry. The naming ceremony was held on Labor Day, 1974. For more information on Pioneer Park, please go to http://www.epd.org.
Q: What can you tell me about the Great Western Railway depot in Elmhurst?
A: The depot (pictured at left) at 511 S York Street served the Chicago Great Western Railway from its founding, as the Minnesota and Northwestern Railway in 1887, until service was discontinued in 1968. The CGW primarily transported freight, with some commuter service. In 1971 the Elmhurst Park District purchased the depot and the railroad right-of-way and developed Wild Meadows Trace. The renovated depot was dedicated at a community-wide celebration of the United States Bicentennial in 1976.
Q: My mother recalls being placed in the Elmhurst Cradle after her mother’s death in 1922. Where was it located?
A: Elmhurst did have an orphanage from 1920-1924; however, there is no record of it being called The Cradle. It was located on the former Thomas B. Bryan estate on the southwest corner of York Street and St. Charles Road, and it was run by the Sisters of St. Mary. The St. Mary’s Home for Children was an Episcopalian institution. When the Elmhurst facility closed, the children were moved to an orphanage at 2822 Jackson Boulevard in Chicago, which was also maintained by the Sisters of St. Mary.
Q: Please tell me the history of the Bicentennial Fountain in Elmhurst.
A: Elmhurst had a three-day celebration to observe the United States’ Bicentennial in 1976. Saturday’s events included a parade, memorial service, drum and bugle corps competition and a Free Street Theater performance. The festivities continued on Sunday with a Pioneer Picnic at Eldridge Park and an outdoor concert, followed by fireworks, at Berens Park. The festivities culminated on Monday, July 5 with the dedication of the Bicentennial Fountain (pictured right) and the restored Chicago Great Western Railway Depot in Wild Meadows Trace.
Q: I have lived on Harbour Terrace since 2004. My understanding is that the street is named after Frederick Harbour. What can you tell me about him?
A: Frederick C. Harbour was a prominent Du Page County attorney and long-time Elmhurst resident who served as Elmhurst City Attorney under three different administrations: 1910-1911, 1929-1931 and 1933-1939. Although an active Democrat, according to Elmhurst Mayor Claude Van Auken, “In all of his long service, Fred Harbour was never known to let partisan political considerations influence his opinions or decisions. When his counsel or interpretation were asked, he gave his answer based solely on what he believed to be the facts and the law, regardless of whether or not such interpretation was popular with political interests or the public…” Mr. Harbour and his family lived at 229 Cottage Hill Avenue. When Mr. Harbour passed away in 1943 at the age of 75, he was the oldest practicing lawyer in the county, and had been in the legal profession for 50 years.
Q: I was reading a book about the history of the Fire Station that was on Schiller Street (in Elmhurst) back in 1924. Are there any pictures before it was torn down?
A: Elmhurst’s original Village Hall/City Hall (pictured at left) was built circa 1885 on the south side of City Street (later renamed Schiller Street), one-half block east of York Street. Circa 1921, the frame building was remodeled to be used by the Elmhurst Fire Department. The building was torn down in 1954 to make room for a new fire station. According to a newspaper report (Elmhurst Press, July 7, 1954) the demolition of the building revealed Elmhurst’s original stone jail cells.
Q: What information do you have about the Brynhaven subdivision?
A: Brynhaven is an Elmhurst subdivision built circa 1954-1958 (pictured at right). It was a $12 million building project with over 400 homes on approximately 132 acres extending from Poplar Avenue east to County Line Road and from St. Charles Road north to Park Avenue. An article in the Chicago Tribune dated April 1, 1954 stated that “Homes are to be priced at $17,500 to $25,000. There will be ranch and new bi-level type homes, with two and three bedrooms. A.J. Del Bianco is the architect.” An advertising brochure boasts, “Located in an exclusive residential area. You can be proud of your surroundings…beautiful homes, curved streets, large mature shade trees, elegant landscaping…everything you’ve ever wanted in a fine neighborhood.”
Q: What can you tell me about the history of the Elmhurst Golf Club?
A: Founded circa 1900, the Elmhurst Golf Club was a popular venue for golf, dining, card games and social events. Mr. Thomas Edward Wilder was one of the founders and the first vice-president of the nine-hole golf course, which was located west of the Elmhurst College campus and north of Elm Park Avenue The Hammerschmidt Cup (at left, from the Elmhurst Historical Museum collection), was the prize for the 1914 Labor Day tournament which was won by Mr. Wilder. For more information on the Elmhurst Golf Club, visit the Historic Highlights section.
Q: Can you tell me any history of Meister Avenue?
A: According to Elmhurst: the Origin of Names, following a 1962 annexation of land in north Elmhurst, the city had two streets named Lorraine. To avoid confusion, the city council voted to change Lorraine between Vallette and York, to Meister Avenue. George L. Meister was an alderman for the City of Elmhurst 1929 - 1952 and the station master of the Chicago Great Western Railway. Lorraine Avenue runs east and west between Route 83 and West Avenue, a few blocks south of Lake Street.
Q: I lived in Pick's Subdivision in Elmhurst until December of 1945. We often went to the Elmhurst Airport. Can you confirm its location and tell me more about the airport?
A: Elmhurst Airport was bounded by Lake St., Illinois Route 83, Grand Avenue., and Church Road For more information on the Elmhurst Airport, go to: Historic Highlights(PDF).
Q: Was the Illinois Prairie Path originally a railway?
A: The Aurora Elgin and Chicago Railway (later renamed the Chicago Aurora and Elgin, pictured at right) started passenger operations in 1902 with Elmhurst stops at Spring Road and York Street. Using a third rail for power, the railroad provided “fast, frequent and electrified service.” A thriving business district and neighborhood grew as a result of the Spring Road Stop. Passenger service ended in 1957. Today in Elmhurst, the Illinois Prairie Path follows the former route of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin.
Q: Was there a Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railway station at Poplar Avenue?
A: Yes, originally there were two CAandE RR stations in Elmhurst - one at Spring Road and one at York Street. However, with the development of the new subdivisions of Crescent Park and Tuxedo Park in the late 1920s, City Council initiated a move to build a third station to serve the growing population in southeast Elmhurst. With the approval of the Illinois Commerce Commission, the new depot was built at Poplar Avenue in 1931.
Q: I live on May Street in Elmhurst. What can you tell me about my neighborhood?
A: Your house is in Cherry Farm Subdivision, which extends from St. Charles Road south to South Street and from York Street east to Poplar Avenue. Before subdividing the land circa 1907, John R. Case had a cherry orchard with 1,000 trees as well as an apple orchard. According to an early real estate brochure for Cherry Farm, some of the amenities of the subdivision included sidewalks, best of drainage, trees and hedges on every lot, and close proximity to four railroads.
Q: Is there a concrete ornament left over from the Chicago Fire in Wilder Park?
A: Yes, there is a roof finial from the Chicago Courthouse in the southwest corner of Wilder Park, west of the conservatory (pictured at right). The Courthouse burned in the 1871 Chicago Fire, and a resident brought it to Elmhurst as a souvenir.
Q: I am interested in history of the Wagner Community Center.
A: The Elmhurst Park District opened a Community Center in the former Eldridge School at Madison Street and Berkley Avenue in October 1978 (the school closed due to declining enrollment). The facility was moved to the former Madison School at 130 W Madison and reopened as the Elmhurst Community Center in January 1984. The park district leased the property from Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205. Joanne B. Wagner, a 29-year member of the Elmhurst Park District Board, passed away in July 1987. In September 1987, the Park Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to rename the Elmhurst Community Center in her honor due to Ms. Wagner’s “dedication to developing parks, providing recreational opportunities for Elmhurst residents and serving the leisure interests of the community.” The Joanne B. Wagner Community Center at 130 W Madison was dedicated on May 20, 1988. In 2003, the Park District purchased the property formerly owned by MacCormac Junior College at 615 West Avenue in 2003, and transformed the facility into the Joanne B. Wagner Community Center which was reopened on September 6, 2003.
Q: I recently visited the Veterans' Memorial in Elmhurst and noticed a boulder with a plaque dated 1927. What do you know about it?
A: In 1926 the United States Congress passed a resolution calling for the observance of November 11th with appropriate ceremonies to mark the 1918 end of World War I. The following year the American Legion dedicated a memorial in the northwest corner of Wilder Park to honor three Elmhurst residents who were killed in WWI - Ernest Timrott, Richard Hintz and Kinsley Buck. The 1927 plaque is now located at the Veterans' Memorial, south of the Wilder Mansion. For more information on Veterans' Day(PDF).
Q: I live in a MacDougall house. Who was MacDougall?
A: Robert MacDougall moved to Elmhurst with his family in 1948. At the time, MacDougall was in the building trades working all over the Chicago area. The family bought a lot on Evergreen Avenue and built their home on weekends with assistance from other tradesmen and friends. MacDougall then slowly started to purchase one or two lots, build homes on them, sell them, and re-invest the money on more lots. In 1951, MacDougall started building homes full-time on scattered lots in Elmhurst, Lombard and Glen Ellyn (sample pictured at right). In 1954 MacDougall and his brother-in-law, George Patterson, became partners in the newly-formed MacDougall Builders. The company built about 100 homes in south Elmhurst 1955-56. The company developed Elm Estates between Madison Street and Butterfield Road, building about 300 homes in ranch, bi-level and colonial styles 1957-1963. MacDougall Builders, Inc. went on to build MacDougall’s Stratford Hills Estates, Atwood Estates, and the Royal York at 110 W Butterfield Road in 1969. The MacDougalls moved to Florida in 1970.
Q: I noticed Amtrak used to have a train station in Elmhurst. Where is the site of the station?
A: In the late 1970s there was a small flag station along the Illinois Central (Canadian National Railway) Railroad between York and Vallette Streets, on the north side of the tracks. It was an un-manned station, and passengers literally waved at the passing train if they wanted it to stop. The “Blackhawk” ran daily service between Chicago and Dubuque, Iowa.
Q. How did the City of Elmhurst end up with the Glos family's house and property?
A: Henry and Lucy Glos built their home, 120 E Park Avenue, in 1892-93 and lived there until they passed away. Henry Glos was a prominent civic leader in the early years of Elmhurst, serving as Village President for 19 years. In 1939, Mrs. Glos presented the mansion, the property on which it stood, and seven lots across Kenilworth Avenue to the City of Elmhurst with the provision that she could live in the house until she died. At the time the gift was announced, a participant stated that the property transfer was fulfilling the wish of the late Henry L. Glos (Elmhurst Press, July 13, 1939). Mrs. Glos lived in the house until her death in 1941. The building served as Elmhurst’s Municipal Building from 1946 until 1970, and it has housed the Elmhurst Historical Museum since 1975.
Q: What was the original name of Prairie Path Lane?
A: Prairie Path Lane, which runs from Mitchell Avenue to Rex Boulevard, was originally known as Railway Street because it ran parallel to the Chicago Aurora and Elgin (CAandE) railway tracks. After the CAandE stopped operations in 1957, and after the Illinois Prairie Path was established, the street was renamed Prairie Path Lane in 1981.
Q: I heard that Elmhurst City Hall used to be at 132 Addison Avenue.
Is that true? If so, when was it there?
A: Elmhurst City Offices were located at 132 Addison Avenue 1926-1946 (pictured at right). The Elmhurst Historical Museum has a newspaper article announcing the move of the City offices from 132-134 Addison Avenue to the former Glos Mansion at 104 S Kenilworth Avenue in March 1946.
Q: Was the Crescent Park subdivision originally planned as a cemetery?
A: Yes, according to a newspaper headline, “Historic Glos Farm once platted as a cemetery, to be most exclusive residence district in Western Suburbs.” The article was written after the late Adam Glos’ 128-acre farm was sold to a Chicago syndicate for the development of a subdivision, which became known as Crescent Park.
Q: What is the origin for the street name "Vallette"?
A: The Vallettes were an early family in Du Page County, which lived in Wheaton and Naperville. James Vallette and John Vallette were surveyors. James Vallette was one of the surveyors for the 1904 Du Page County Atlas in the museum’s collection.
Q: Didn't there used to be a lumberyard by the tracks near Elmhurst College (I remember it from my childhood)?
A: Elmhurst College purchased the Hammerschmidt and Franzen Co. lumberyard (pictured at left) in 1977 and leased it out until 1988 when the property was demolished. It was on the southwest corner of Park and Prospect Avenues.
Q: I was driving on North Avenue in Elmhurst recently, and came upon this amazing sign that said "Mack's Golden Pheasant." What can you tell me about the history of the restaurant?
A: Mack’s Golden Pheasant Restaurant, located at 668 W North Avenue, is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. It opened in 1948 and is one of the oldest family-operated restaurants in Du Page County.
Q: My business is located in the Elm Square building. Do you have any history on it?
A: The building (pictured at right) was under construction from 1952-53 on the southeast corner of York and Schiller Streets. Walgreens Drugs was the first-floor tenant from the time the building opened until circa 1989. The upper floors were offices for professionals. The first floor was essentially empty 1989 - circa 1994 when the Jewelry Exchange moved into the space. The upper floors were faced in glass circa 1994.The Community Bank of Elmhurst opened a City Centre branch on the first floor of the building in 1998.
Q: I recall that there was a golf driving range on the north side of Lake Street between York and West. Do you have any information on this?
A: The Elmhurst Press had an advertisement for Wilson Crain’s Stop and Sock Driving Range one block west of York and Lake in July 1957. The facility offered miniature golf, a driving range, private golf lessons, and golf equipment.
Q: I remember a dance club on the northwest corner of North Avenue and Route 83. Can you provide the name?
A: The location at 675 W North Avenue had several businesses over the years, including businesses (in alphabetical order): All Stars Sports Bar and Grill, Bojangles, Great American Outdoors, La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries, McGregor’s, Shadoz Café and Nightclub, and WE Auto Parts Mart.
Q: Back in the ‘80s, there was a restaurant next to Mack’s Golden Pheasant on North Avenue. My family and I went there on many occasions when I was younger. I recall the sign having a duck on it, but I cannot remember the name of the restaurant.
A: Café Parisien opened in 1972 and was located 696 W North Avenue. They were known throughout the region for their signature dish - duck flambé. The restaurant closed circa 2000, and the building burned in 2002.
Q: A friend remembers shopping at a grocery store on the north side of St. Charles Road just east of Route 83 during the1950s. Do you know the name of it?
A: It may have been High-Low Foods (shown at right), which was at that location and opened in 1954.
Q: My parents disagree about the name of a bar that used to be where the Arena is currently (2015) located. Do you know of any of the previous bars that used to be there?
A: The Arena is located at 630 W Lake Avenue Previous establishments at that address include Hudson's, The Hurricane, and Oliver's Pub.
Q: I worked for a department store on York Road in the 1980s. The top level was for teens and Madonna's "Like a Virgin" record was playing there. I believe the store was Ruby's?
A: Ruby’s, later known as Ruby’s Family Fashions, opened at 149 N York Street circa 1946. It opened as a store that sold women’s and children’s clothing, but later added menswear. It was a family business founded by Irvin Ruby and run by his widow, Gertrude, following his passing. Son, Jerry Ruby, joined the firm in 1962.Ruby’s closed in 1999. As for your reference to Madonna music playing there, a Chamber of Commerce publication ran an article about Ruby’s (July 21, 1993) which noted “The Elmhurst Ruby’s junior department features fun shopping for the younger set, enhanced with neon décor and music videos.”
Q: What is the name of the old banquet hall that was at the corner of North Avenue and York Street?
A: The Ambassador Restaurant opened on the southwest corner of North Avenue and York Street (110 W North Avenue) in 1979. When the business opened, they served lunch, dinner and banquets. It became The Ambassador Banquet Halls circa 1985. The business closed in January 2001.
Q: What was the name of the diner directly south of the York Theatre?
A: There have been several businesses in that space (pictured at right), including: Andes Chocolate Shop, Aunt Jenny’s Snack Shop, Elm Café and Restaurant, Elm Snack Shop, Old Elm Café, Robbins Candy Shop, York Candy Shop, York Confectionery and Yorkhurst Family Restaurant.
Q: I am trying to find information on Swanson’s Hardware Store.
A: The business started as Walter Swanson Feed Store and Hatchery, where customers could purchase several varieties of baby chicks. The store was ¾-mile west of York Street with entrances on both Butterfield Roosevelt Roads for many years. Over time the store added a full line of hardware stock and toys. When the business closed in 1959 it was known as Swanson’s Feed Seed and Hardware Store and had been in operation for twenty-eight years.
Q: I remember going to Soukup’s Hardware, and my dad always said that if you couldn’t find something at Soukup’s, you wouldn’t find it. Can you tell me anything about this business?
A: Soukup’s Hardware Store (left) operated at 116 N York Street in Elmhurst from 1920 to 1998. The building was expanded and remodeled over the years to handle the growing inventory of merchandise including toys, hardware, appliances, home decor, lawn and garden care, gifts, tools and sporting goods. The building was razed in 1999.
Q: What was the name of the independent book store located on Park Avenue in the late 1960s and '70s?
A: I believe you are referring to Bican’s Book Shop. After being at 107 Adelaide Street and 118 S York Street, the book shop moved to 112 W Park Avenue on January 1, 1972. It closed in 1986.
Q: Can you provide the history of the former bank building on South York Street (the 500 block)?
A: York State Bank opened at 529 S York Street in 1927. It remained there until it moved to a new building across the street at 536 S York Street in 1951. Today Carousel Florists is located in the former bank building at 529 S York Street.
Q: Can you tell me when the Elmhurst Sears store was built and when it closed?
A: Sears opened a retail store (pictured at left) on the northwest corner of York and Second Streets in 1937. The store carried a full range of merchandise including sporting goods, hardware, appliances, radios and automotive supplies. The store grew with the community, and by 1951 the store’s 35 employees served a 25-mile area. The Sears store in Elmhurst closed in the mid-1960s after Sears opened at Oak Brook Shopping Center. Unique Travel Service now (2012) occupies the building.
Q: I am looking for information on a Tea Room that was in Elmhurst in the late 1920s. It was run by my grandmother, Leota Arnold. I think it was near train tracks.
A: According to an article in the Elmhurst Press (April 8, 1929), Mrs. Arnold became the owner/operator of La Casa Tea Room at 117 E First Street in 1929.
Q: I recall a small grocery store that used to be on Addison Avenue around Second or Third Street. What was its name and when did it close?
A: I believe you are referring to Market Place at 178 Addison Avenue. It was a popular independent grocery store that was in operation 1975 - 1994.
Q: Does anyone at the museum remember the store Robertson and Ruth?
A: The Knill family of Elmhurst started a part-time business in their home in 1954. Known as Robertson and Ruth, it eventually grew to a national mail order business with two showrooms; one at 395 W Lake Street in Elmhurst and one on Ogden Avenue in Downers Grove. The business provided catalog sales of general merchandise. The company closed in January 1978.
Q: Do you have any info about the Cottage Hill Café on First Street?
A: The Cottage Hill Restaurant at 117 W First Street opened in 1929, serving a daily Business Lunch for 50 cents. (Elmhurst Press, June 21, 1929) According to a history of the business (The Elmhurst Story, 1960), the restaurant installed air-conditioning in 1936 when it was a new innovation. Customers came from miles around to experience the comfortable setting. The owners added a dining room in 1936 to accommodate their customers, and in 1950 the owners modernized the establishment. The Lions Club met there for lunch every Monday for many years. Other regular diners included members of the Elmhurst College staff, business groups and religious organizations. The Cottage Hill Restaurant closed circa 1982.
Q: Do you know anything about the architect who designed the Mahler Block in downtown Elmhurst?
A: The Mahler Block at 124-126 W Park Avenue (pictured at left), was designed by Oak Park architect H. G. Fiddelke and built circa 1902. Fred Mahler had his tailor shop in the back of the building. Other businesses included Mahler’s Drug Store, Park Avenue Variety Store and a barbershop. There were family apartments on the second floor and a large hall for club meetings, recitals and social gatherings to rent as needed. As of 2012, the building is home to “That” Coffee Shop.
Q: Where was the Sky-Hi Drive-In originally located?
A: The Sky-Hi Drive-In Theater was on the southeast corner of Butterfield Road and Roosevelt Road. When it opened in 1948, it was the first drive-in movie theater in Du Page County.
Q: What is the history of the closed Stevens Steakhouse? I remember my grandparents often going there.
A: Stevens Steakhouse (pictured at left), 476 N York Street, opened circa 1958 on the southwest corner of York and Lake Streets. A few years after the restaurant opened, I-290 opened close-by, increasing the restaurant’s visibility and business. The family-owned restaurant was open seven days a week, offering daily lunch and dinner specials. The restaurant offered live entertainment, banquet facilities for 200, and rooms for business luncheons. The restaurant closed in 2006.
Q: When was the business district on Spring Road developed?
A: The Spring Road business district developed as the population grew in West Elmhurst. Robertson and Young developed and sold lots in four Spring Road Subdivisions circa 1912 - circa 1920. The Chicago Aurora and Elgin RR had a stop at Spring Road, and the area was annexed to the City of Elmhurst in 1915. All of these elements resulted in the growth of the Spring Road business district. The Elmhurst Press (August 19, 1927) featured an article about the economic and physical growth in the Spring Road area, noting nearly $3 million in construction of homes and commercial properties. The 1928 Elmhurst City Directory listed 22 businesses in the two blocks of Spring Road north and south of the railroad. View the City of Elmhurst annexation map(PDF).
Q: Do you have any information on the name of a Kaiser-Frazer car dealer located on Spring Road in the late forties and early fifties? My Dad bought Kaisers from him during that time because he was worried that the Korean War would cause shortages similar to WWII.
A: Spring Road Motors (pictured above right), 465 Spring Road, was a Kaiser-Frazer dealership operated by Jack Moore in that time period.
Q: I recently found a bottle in my backyard with the name "Rabe's Dairy"on it. What do you know about the dairy?
A: Rabe’s Dairy (pronounced “rabies”) was one of the earliest home-based industries in Elmhurst. In 1910, German immigrant and dairy farm manager Fred Rabe opened his own family-operated dairy in basement of his home. Located at 139 East First Street, Rabe’s Dairy bottled and delivered approximately eight cans of milk per day. A stable was built on the premises to house horses and delivery wagons, and the milk was acquired from dairy farmers in the Elmhurst vicinity. By 1917, growth of the business led to the building of a separate dairy facility at 135 E First Street and expansion became necessary within five years. The plant was upgraded to modern standards, and according to a local newspaper account in the late 1920s, the dairy was “one of the most modern in northern Illinois. For more information, go to the Historic Highlights(PDF) section.
Q: What was the name of the restaurant located where the Silverado now stands?
A: The following businesses have been at 447 Spring Road before the Silverado Grill - not necessarily in this order: Florentine House, The Great Italian Food and Beverage Co., Greenbriar Coffee Shop, Hennessy’s, Le Bon Vivant, Nicky’s Restaurant and Sandy’s of Elmhurst.
Q: What was Industrial Drive before businesses moved there?
A: Generally speaking, the area now known as the Elmhurst Industrial Park in northwest Elmhurst used to be mostly open, undeveloped land, with a few homes and farms. Although the property was zoned for light industry in the late 1950s, development began in the early 1960s. Elmhurst annexation map(PDF) that shows extensive annexation in the Industrial Park area in the 1960s.
Q: When did Ollswang's department store (which was located just south of the train station) close?
A: Ollswang's Department Store was sold on October 20, 1961 to Mid-States Department Stores of Milwaukee.
Q: What is the history of 126 N York Street?
A: In 1900 German immigrant Fred Wandschneider built the Hotel Edelweiss at126 N York Street. Fred and his wife, Anna, operated the boarding house and bar until their passing, and then their children ran the business. At some point the Hotel Edelweiss closed. In 1926 Christ and Christine Chipain opened Elmhurst Fruit Market at 126 N York. After the repeal of the 18th amendment in 1933, liquor was added to the merchandise and the store was called Chipain Fruit and Liquor Store. Circa 1947 the store became Chipain’s Sporting Goods, a wholesale and retail sporting goods store. (see Q and A below) Since the early 1990s, the space has been occupied by a photography studio. According to the museum’s records, the original store front was set back seven feet from the property line and had wooden steps leading into the building. The building still has arched windows at the second floor with keystones, brick lintels and recessed panels over the windows.
Q: What was the sporting goods store in downtown Elmhurst during the 70s and 80s?
A: I believe you are thinking of Chipain’s Sporting Goods (pictured at right), which was located at 126 N York St. circa 1947 - 1994. They had a full line of sports equipment including school jackets (Willowbrook, Addison Trail and York); trophies; guns and ammunition; fishing equipment; track shoes, hockey equipment; swim suits, jump ropes, gym shorts and shirts, gym bags; table tennis paddles and camping gear.
Q: I purchased a really cute vintage china water pitcher with matching lid. On
the bottom it says: "Midwest China Company, Elmhurst, Ill." Could you provide any information on the company?
A: The Midwest China Company opened at 355-357 N York Street in September 1936. The company, which did both retail and wholesale business, had 1,800 feet of floor space covered with displays. According to the Elmhurst Press the store carried “the newest innovations in dinner sets from the leading American potteries. Also included in the firm’s stock on display are the latest creations from abroad.” (September 24, 1936) By 1942 the company had moved to 296 W Lake Street. Elmhurst residents Fred Lester Stoker and Sue Stoker owned the store for thirty years. The postcard at right is from the EHM collection.
Q: I was wondering if you had any information of previous businesses at 152 N York - the current home of the Elmhurst Olive Company. I seem to recall a jewelry store at that location now stands?
A: There have been several businesses at 152 N York over the years, particularly because there was retail space on the ground level on York Street and offices upstairs. Some of the businesses that have been at the address are, in alphabetical order: Delmar Studios (photography), Elmhurst Jewelers, Elmhurst Jewelry and Optical Shop, The Elmhurst Leader, Irving Giese, Illinois Liquidating Corporation, Let’s Have a Party, London Jewelers, McGrath’s Elmhurst Jewelry and Optical, Piper Studio of Photography, Public Service Company of Northern Illinois, The Shopping News, Frank Snite, Theatre Historical Society of America, George Wermuth and York Studio (photography).
Q: Do you have any information about the Weber’s Bakery Building on York?
A: The G. Weber Building, 110-112 N York Street (pictured at left), is one of the earliest buildings remaining in Elmhurst’s central business district. Built for Gottfried Weber circa 1906 in a Queen Anne style, this commercial block retains many original features. The building served as a bakery for almost 60 years. As of 2012, the building houses Tannin's Wine Bar and Boutique.
Q: I just completed restoration on a 1964 Corvette and was told it was sold in 1964 from Zepflak (sic) Chevrolet in Elmhurst. Can I get the original address or any other information for the history of my car?
A: Zepelak’s Chevrolet opened on Roosevelt Road, ½ mile west of York Street in July 1963. A full-page advertisement in the Elmhurst Press (July 18, 1963) urged readers to “See Us At The Newest - The Largest - The Most Beautiful - The Greatest Chevrolet Dealership…ZEPELAK’S".
Q: What business used to be at 119 N York Street?
A: The large brick building, which still stands at 119 N York in 2011 was built circa 1955. Since its original construction, it has housed W T. Grant Co. (pictured at right), Aetna Life and Casualty Co., Montgomery Ward Insurance Group, The Signature Group (the direct response subsidiary of Montgomery Ward and Co.), Lucky Strike, which was renamed Seven-Ten Lanes, and currently, Fitz’s Spare Keys.
Q: I remember a little grocery store on York Street called Heinemann's. What can you tell me about it?
A: There were two Heinemann Stores in Elmhurst, owned by brothers. Louis Heinemann had a meat market at 135 S York, and Edwin Heinemann had a general store across the street at 124 S York. The general store at 124 S York closed and was razed in 1922. Two of Louis Heinemann’s daughters took over the store at 135 S York after their father retired, and that business, known as Heinemann Food Shop, was in operation until the 1960s.
Q: My neighbor and I have different recollections of the location of the
National Store and the Jewel Store at York Street and Butterfield Road.
Please clear up our grocery store mystery.
A: The National Food Store opened at 942 S York, in the newly constructed Elmhurst Shopping Plaza, circa 1958 (pictured at right). Kush’s Food Store moved into the space in 1978. In 1986 the Jewel Store, located at 1058 S York, wanted to relocate one block north to the 5-acre shopping center at York and Butterfield, where there would be room to build a Jewel-Osco rather than just the supermarket. The plan was approved, the shopping plaza was rebuilt and Jewel-Osco had its grand opening in July 1987.
Q: What is the history of the Elm Roller Skating Rink?
A: Elm Roller Skating Rink opened at 375 W Roosevelt Road at Route 83 in 1956. It was owned and operated by Bill and Lynn Fuchs. The rink had a distinctive sign (pictured at left), and featured a snack bar, public skating, lessons, a retail skate shop, repair services, and live music provided by a 1,000-pipe organ. At its peak, as many as 600 people would crowd onto the rink for a fun evening of skating. The rink closed in 1989, making way for Lexington Square of Elmhurst.
Q: I read your history of the Elm Roller Skating Rink. Can you tell me what became of the pipe organ?
A: According to a newspaper article (Elmhurst Press, April 18, 1989) the business owners allowed a part-time organist to have the organ as long as he dismantled it and removed it from the building. When the article was written, he and some friends had been working for 5 weeks to take apart the organ with some pieces weighing more than 500 pounds, and the work was not complete. His plan was to restore the organ.
Q: I would like to learn more about Halvey’s on Spring Road As a youngster, I spent a great amount of time (and change) there.
A: Halvey’s Sunset Dairy Store, at 512 Spring Road, was owned and operated by Helen and Oliver (“Ollie”) Halvey. It opened circa 1956 and closed circa 1976.
Q: Several years ago there was a restaurant/coffee shop located on the west side of Route 83, south of North Avenue. It wasn’t there very long, and I believe it burned. What happened to it?
A: Inge’s Loading Zone Restaurant was at 270 N Route 83 in 1979. In November 1979 the Loading Zone opened a German Gasthaus (pub), later known as Inge’s Gasthaus and Restaurant. It was owned by Inge and Chuck Tombaugh. The building was destroyed by fire in May 1980.
Q: What can you tell me about Hank’s Corner on Spring Road?
A: Hank’s Corner was located at 500 Spring Road. It was owned and operated by Henry and Evelyn Pilarski from 1957 - 1972 and continued under different ownership for a few years after that. The store had a soda fountain, and they sold party favors, school supplies, greeting cards and sundries. Other businesses located at 500 Spring Road in the past include Carter’s Corner, Cinderella Beauty Shoppe, Elmhurst Cyclery, Elmhurst Office Supplies and Typewriters, Namely Yours, Mr. G’s Snack Shop and Hieronymus Drug Store. Currently (as of 2010) Prudential Prairie Path Realtors is at 500 Spring Road.
Q: What was the name of the department store at St. Charles Road and Route 83 around 1960?
A: E. J. Korvette. A permit for a $1,600,000 shopping center at St. Charles Road and Highway 83 was issued by the City of Elmhurst. The 18.8 acre tract already occupied by the Hi-Lo Food Store was to include a department store, furniture store, patio shop, and automobile service shop. The developers were the Korvette Company, a retail operation. (Elmhurst Press, Looking Back Ten Years, June 14, 1972) E.J. Korvette opened circa 1962 and closed in 1977.
Q: When did Hamburger Heaven open?
A: Hamburger Heaven, 281 N York, opened in May 1948. An ad in the Elmhurst Leader newspaper announced the opening of Hamburger Heaven and its menu “Featuring the Double Deck Hamburger and Richardson’s Draft Root Beer.”
Q: What shops were located at 100 N York throughout the last century?
A: An imposing bank building stood on the northwest corner of York and First Streets circa 1909 until 1931 when a developer purchased the prime commercial property. The City issued a building permit for a one-story terra cotta and black granite building, which housed Walgreen Drug Company as the anchor store. As of 2012, the building (shown at right) houses Polay’s Home Décor, Just for Fun, Meeder Industries, and Sunshine Nails.
Q: I lived in Elmhurst in the early to mid 80s, and I graduated from York HS in 1986. I remember there used to be a pet store downtown on Addison Avenue., just north of Al’s Hobby Shop, where my sister and I both worked. Can you tell me the name of the store?
A. According to the museum’s business file, it was Animal Island at 131 Addison.
Q: When I was a college student back in the '70s, we celebrated the end of each semester with a trip to Stone Cottage Pub. Could you tell me what happened to Stone Cottage?
A: Stone Cottage Pub, built circa 1933, was also known over the years as Phillip's Stone Cottage, Vaughn’s Stone Cottage Restaurant, Petersen’s Stone Cottage, Stone Cottage Pizza, and Crossroads Tavern. The popular restaurant stood at 617 W North Avenue - on the north side of North Avenue, a few lots east of Route 83. A favorable review by Tom Smith appeared in the Elmhurst Press in 1981, “For those who love thick crusts, piles of cheese and mounds of toppings in a cozy, old-fashioned pub atmosphere, there really is only one place for pizza, the Stone Cottage Pub in Elmhurst.” (February 27, 1981) The review continued, “The Stone Cottage is set in the style of an old pub, with wooden floors, walls made of logs, fire places and even mounted animals. Lights are tuned fairly low to maintain the mood of a log cabin. The atmosphere is relaxing and casual.” When the Crossroads Tavern moved out of the building in 2004, the property went on the market for commercial development, and the building was razed in 2007.
Q: What is the oldest public school building in Elmhurst?
A: Lincoln School (pictured right) at 565 Fairfield was built at a cost of $16,482 in 1916 is the oldest public school building in Elmhurst. The four-room school was designed by the local architectural firm of Brydges and Somers. There have been numerous additions since the school opened.
Q: I know Drive. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Elmhurst College in July 1966. Do you have any information about it?
A: Drive. King spoke to 1,200 people in the college’s Hammerschmidt Chapel on July 8, 1966. The program was sponsored by the Coordinating Council of Community Organizing and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in cooperation with an ad hock committee of west suburban residents, some of whom lived in Elmhurst. The speech was part of a whirlwind tour in the Chicago area to promote a civil rights rally at Soldier’s Field the following Sunday. In 2006 Elmhurst College placed a bronze plaque in Hammerschmidt Chapel to commemorate Drive. King’s speech on the campus.
Q: When was Clarence D. East field dedicated?
A: York Community High School’s athletic field, on the southwest corner of St. Charles and Spring Roads, was dedicated in October 1958. The field was named after Clarence D. East, who came to York in 1920 as the only coach for football, basketball, baseball and swimming. He started coaching track in 1924. East was York’s first Athletic Director and held that position 1939-1954. He continued teaching math and coaching track until his retirement in 1956. During his 36 year tenure at York led the basketball team to 2 league championships; the football team to multiple conference titles; and the track team to 10 district titles, 8 conference titles, 3 Illinois State relay championships and 11 individual State Track champions.
Q: Does anyone remember when John F. Kennedy came to York High School when he ran for president?
A: U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy visited Elmhurst on October 25, 1960 while campaigning for his presidency. Elmhurst was his last of several stops in traditionally Republican Chicago suburbs. An estimated 6,000 people turned out for Kennedy’s visit in Elmhurst, with an additional 5,000 unable to get in the venue - York Community High School. Senator Paul Douglas and gubernatorial candidate Otto Kerner accompanied Kennedy on the campaign trail that day. The main subject of Kennedy’s speech in Elmhurst was the decline of American prestige under the Eisenhower administration.
Q: I was born and raised in Elmhurst on Myrtle and North Avenues, and I went to Roosevelt School. When was Roosevelt School built, and when was it razed?
A: Roosevelt School (pictured at right) was built circa 1922 and was designed by Elmhurst architect E Norman Brydges, who designed several school buildings in Elmhurst and the Chicagoland area. Roosevelt School closed in 1979, and it was razed in April/May 1980. It is now the site of Marjorie Davis Park.
Q: Was there a school in the basement of St. Peter's Church?
A: St. Peter’s German Evangelical Church (now St. Peter’s United Church of Christ) was organized in Elmhurst in 1876. The congregation opened a school and built a schoolhouse in 1877. The parochial school was in operation until circa 1922; however, a new schoolhouse was built in 1893 to replace the original one. Both schoolhouses were in close proximity to the church building, which stands on the northeast corner of Cottage Hill Avenue and Church Street.
Q: Where did Elmhurst students attend high school before High School District No. 88 was organized in 1918?
A: Elmhurst Public School, later re-named Hawthorne School, was built in 1888 on Cottage Hill Avenue, north of Arthur Street. Originally for students through 8th grade, the school district added a two-year high school program in 1894. An addition consisting of four classrooms, two recitation rooms, a Library, etc., was made to the Elmhurst Public School circa 1905 to house the high school students. It was known as Elmhurst High School.
Q: Is it true that Carl Sandburg came to Elmhurst for the dedication of Sandburg Junior High School?
A: Yes, Elmhurst Junior High School opened in September 1950, and was renamed as Carl Sandburg Junior High in May 1960. Sandburg (pictured at right), the Pulitzer Prize winning poet and former Elmhurst resident, visited the school on May 4, 1960 to participate in the renaming ceremony. Sandburg, which is now known as a Middle School, is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011. See the Historic Highlights feature for more information.
Q: What do you know about the "March to Edison"?
A: Edison School was a new Elmhurst School District facility that was under construction in 1956, and was not completed in time for the new school year in September. Therefore, Edison students attended Washington School, in their own separate space, until the school was ready. At the end of October or early November, the Edison students paraded from Washington School to their newly-completed school in the Brynhaven Subdivision.
Q: An insurance company purchased the Old Field School that was located on the corner of York and Third and renovated the school for their use. Was the insurance building razed or renovated for City Hall?
A: The original Field School was built circa 1911 on a large lot on the southeast corner of York and Third Streets, and operated as a school until 1949. The Motor Vehicle Casualty Company purchased the former school building for its offices circa 1951. The company outgrew the space and built a large addition - fronting York Street - just west of the former school circa 1960. The addition was attached to the Old Field School building. By March 1990 the building at 209 N York, then owned by Providence Washington Insurance, was for sale. Elmhurst developers, Walsh Partners, proposed purchasing and renovating the building for use as City Hall, and the proposal passed. The front of the building (on York) was extensively renovated, and the former Field School building to the east was demolished. The newly remodeled City Hall opened in January 1992.
Q: How did the "Dukes" of York High School get their nickname?
A: The answer is found in Sports Tidbits in the Elmhurst Press (December 24, 1936) written by sports editor Howard C. Fischer. The Elmhurst Press covered York High School sports, and each week the newspaper staff used nicknames for York’s teams i.e. The Eastmen (after Coach Clarence D. East), the Yorkites, the green and whites (for the school colors), etc. In his column Fischer wrote: You doubtless read in the metropolitan papers about two weeks ago that King Edward evacuated the British throne, and that his brother, the Duke of York, climbed into the stately chair in his stead, leaving York without a duke...Why not populate York with a lot of dukes? By that I mean I mean why not let York high school athletic teams be known as the Dukes of York?...York’s athletes have gone by such monikers as the Eastmen, Blackmen, Birksmen, Green and White and Yorkites long enough. It is time they be given a name and Dukes is as good as any. An article titled “York Dukes Prep for Holiday Cage Meet at De Kalb” appeared next to Mr. Fischer’s column, thus inaugurating the new name for York athletes.
Q: When was Washington School razed and what now exists on that site?
A: Washington School, located at Poplar Avenue and May Street, opened in January 1929. Due to declining enrollment and life-safety remodeling requirements, Washington and Roosevelt Schools were sold to Elmhurst Park District as part of an inter-governmental agreement to preserve open space in the community. Washington School was demolished in 1980. The property is now known as Washington Park and is owned and operated by the Elmhurst Park District.
Q: I am seeking the history of Crestview School.
A: Crestview Elementary School, at 300 E Belden, opened circa 1967. Originally in School District No. 3, it became part of Elmhurst Community Unit School District No. 205 in 1974. Due to declining enrollment, the school closed in June 1979. The Korean Zion Presbyterian Church purchased the building from the school district in 1979.
Q: When was the land for Emerson school annexed to the City of Elmhurst?
A: The land was annexed in 1953. Please see Annexation Map(PDF) for an annexation map of Elmhurst.
Q: For whom is Sturges Parkway named?
A: Sturges Parkway is named for Frank Sturges. He and his wife, Jannette, bought property in Elmhurst and built their home in 1893. The estate, known as Clover Lawn (shown at right) reached west from York Street to Cottage Hill Avenue, and north from St. Charles Road to south of Church Street. It included a large stone mansion, stately trees, rare shrubs, an apple orchard, grape arbors, winding paths and many varieties of roses. The mansion was razed in 1929, and the property was subdivided. Sturges Parkway is located in what had been the Sturges’ estate.
Q: I live in one of several Spanish Revival style homes on Mitchell Avenue, south of St. Charles Road. Do you know anything about these houses?
A: Custom builder and Elmhurst resident Fred La Fave built the Mitchell Avenue homes in the mid-1920s. Six of the homes were featured in the January 1927 issue of Home Building. When questioned why he built houses in the Spanish Revival style of architecture, Mr. La Fave replied that people desired distinctive styles, something that was different, and that the homes proved his belief that people were looking for better quality homes.
Q: I once lived in Koch Hall. What can you tell me about it?
A: The Koch house was built circa 1900 and it stood at 317 W St. Charles Road - the northwest corner of St. Charles Road and Hagans Avenue. It was a large 2-½ story frame house with thirteen rooms, three bathrooms and a powder room, four fireplaces on a lot that had 337’ frontage on Hagans Avenue. After World War II there was a severe housing shortage. School District No. 88 purchased the property and used the building to provide housing for teachers at York Community High School. It continued in that capacity until it was razed in 1953 to make room for the high school’s athletic field.
Q: What was the structure that stood just north of the Immaculate Conception Parking lot near the intersection of York and Arthur Streets, but was torn down?
A: The building at 203 S York Street (pictured at left) was originally built in 1891 as the home of Drive. Frederick and Mrs. Martha Fischer. It was known as York Manor. In 1914, Drive. Milo Crane opened Crane Sanitarium (see related story below) in the building. Drive. Milo Crane's son, George Riley Crane, had a dental office in the building 1936-1975. In the meantime, most of the building was used as a residential hotel starting circa 1944. It went by many names over the years: The Crane Hotel, The York Manor Hotel, Elmhurst Apartments and The Elmhurst Hotel. The building was razed in 2003.
Q: I am interested in the history of the Crane Sanitarium in Elmhurst.
A: Crane Sanitarium was located at 203 S York Street in the former home of the Drive. Frederick and Mrs. Martha Fischer family (photo at left). The sanitarium was founded and operated by Drive. Milo Crane (born 1874, died 1944). According to his obituary (Elmhurst Leader, April 11, 1944) Drive. Crane graduated from the Wayne Medical School in Detroit and specialized in stomach disorders. The Crane Sanitarium letterhead declared “WHERE ALL CHRONIC DISEASES ARE SUCCESSFULLY TREATED.” Treatments included dietetics, massage, hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, hygiene and recreation of the body. Drive. Crane and his wife, Ella, moved to Elmhurst in 1914. At some point Crane Sanitarium became the Crane Hotel.
Organizations & Clubs
Q: What was the Jefferson Barracks?
A: Jefferson Barracks was a social club that was incorporated in the State of Illinois in 1913. It was organized by Elmhurst tradesmen and businessmen who were looking for a place to host social events and dances in a family-friendly setting. Members built a club house at 204 Illinois Street (pictured right). The first floor was an open hall for social events, dances and women’s meetings. The lower level had a large area for card games and a beer bar. The club disbanded in 1921 and sold the clubhouse to a realtor. The house was remodeled to serve as a traditional home, and it was a residence until it was razed circa 1999.
Q: Where was the Elks Lodge in Elmhurst located?
A: The Elks Lodge No. 1531 was at 136 N York from 1928 until it moved to 711 W St. Charles Road in Elmhurst in 1987. The Elmhurst Lodge was organized in 1927 with 89 members from Elmhurst and the surrounding area. Members originally met in a second floor apartment at 126 N York, so they were happy to move into their new quarters with a lodge room, club rooms, billiard room, gymnasium, kitchen and offices. Citibank is located at 136 N York today. Note the letters BPOE over the doorway.
Q: What was the Fine Arts and Civic Foundation?
A: The Fine Arts and Civic Center Foundation was organized in 1974. It was a not-for-profit foundation to raise funds to build and maintain an art museum. The Elmhurst Artist’s Guild had already acquired three lots of property in hopes of building a museum sometime in the future. The Elmhurst Art Museum opened in one room in the Community Center at Eldridge School in 1980. When the Park District sold the former Eldridge School building, the Community Center moved to the former Madison School, and the Art Museum moved with it. For more information on the Elmhurst Art Museum, go to www.elmhurstartmuseum.org
Q: Do you have any information on the Elmhurst Travelers Football team?
A: In 1927 Elmhurst residents George Kulton, Mickey Hild and Lawton Davis organized the Elmhurst Travelers football team, recruiting ten former York Community High School players and nine others. The three organizers also played on the team. After a knee injury prevented Kulton from playing, he went on to coach and manage the Elmhurst Travelers through a long and distinguished career. Kulton did not receive any payment for his coaching. The Travelers, an independent semi-professional team, played 1927 - 1967 and had 292 wins, 80 losses and 30 ties. They were the Du Page County champions 1927 - 1951. The Travelers franchise was sold to Rockford, Illinois in 1968.
Q: When was the Elmhurst Newcomers and Neighbors Club founded and what did they do?
A: Elmhurst Newcomers Club was founded in 1949, and its purpose was to “extend help and friendship to newcomers in our midst.” The club started with 30 members and had 275 members by 1960. From its inception the club had interest groups for its members and offered social gatherings. Over the years the organization has supported various charitable causes from the Du Page Convalescent Home, Elmhurst Hospital and in the 1950s the Mother’s March on Polio The organization is now known as the Elmhurst Newcomers and Neighbors Club. More information is available at www.ennc.org
Churches & Cemeteries
Q: I've noticed a very small cemetery on Poplar Avenue, just south of St. Charles Road in Elmhurst. Who is buried there?
A: Early settlers Adam and Katharina Glos owned a farm in this area now known as Crescent Park. They are buried in this small plot of land, along with a few of their children. (Note: Adam and Katharina were parents of Henry Glos, original owner of the Glos Mansion and current home of Elmhurst Historical Museum. Henry and his wife Lucy, however, are not buried in the Poplar Avenue cemetery. Their final resting place is in the Glos Mausoleum located across from the Glos Mansion).
Q: Who designed Redeemer Lutheran Church?
A: Roy J. Hotchkiss of Oak Park was the architect and Edgar Hanebuth of Elmhurst was the associate architect for Redeemer Lutheran Church at 345 S Kenilworth Avenue (pictured at left).
Q: What is the history of the development of the political wards in Elmhurst?
A: Elmhurst had a village form of government from 1882-1910. During those years there was a Board of Trustees elected at large from the village’s voting population. In 1910 Elmhurst changed to a city form of government, so the city was divided into 3 geographical wards, and 2 aldermen represented each ward. As the population grew, the number of wards increased. In 1916, following large annexations of land (Annexation Map(PDF)) the City Council passed an ordinance increasing the number of wards to 4. In 1927 since the City of Elmhurst “had a population considerable in excess of five thousand inhabitants and the area of the City was recently greatly increased by the annexation of certain territory,” the City increased the number of wards to 5. Thirty years later (November 1957), in the midst of a post-War population boom, the City redistricted from 5 to 7 wards following a special census in June 1957, which showed Elmhurst population had increased to 34,654. “By virtue of said census it is required that the present number of wards into which said City is divided shall be increased from five to seven.” Please see the Historic Maps(PDF) section for the current wards.
Q: I know that Elmhurst celebrated its Centennial (100 years) in 1936. However, I have a booklet, The Elmhurst Story, which is a 50th anniversary commemorative dated 1960. Can you explain?
A: In 1936 Elmhurst had a 10-day celebration in honor of the 100th anniversary of the first settlers coming to the area. In 1960- 1961 Elmhurst celebrated the 50th anniversary of its incorporation as a City form of government. The festivities included an open house in all of the Elmhurst churches, bus tours of 24 historical locations, a tea honoring “old timers” at Elmhurst Public Library, a parade and a fair at York Community High School.
Q: My mother had a series of Elmhurst historical plates. Can you tell me more about them?
A: York State Bank, 536 S York Street, released a series of six plates from 1982 - 1987 which featured various historical scenes of Elmhurst. A limited run of 1,000 plates were produced each year with images designed by Elmhurst artist Paul Jirousek. Subjects included Hill Cottage Tavern (shown here), Elmhurst Public Library in Wilder Mansion, Glos Mansion, Old Main at Elmhurst College, Elmhurst Memorial Hospital and York State Bank in its original location.
Q: What are Dresden ornaments?
A: This delicate swan from the Elmhurst Historical Museum collection is an example of what is known as a Dresden ornament. These rare, intricate paper ornaments were made in the Dresden-Leipzig area in Germany, primarily from approximately the mid-1800s until the early 1900s. The handmade ornaments were made of stamped and die-cut cardboard in a variety of shapes that were not necessarily traditional holiday designs; animals, boats, windmills, and musical instruments were common themes. The museum’s collection includes 45 Dresden ornaments.
Q: What can you tell me about the old residential street lamps from the 1960s?
A: The City of Elmhurst began the installation of ornamental lamp posts (pictured at left) and artistic lamp fixtures in the mid-1920s. The system was considered state-of-the art for its time. They were designed to give the most illumination for the least cost of operation. Each post was made of solid concrete with a hollow center to contain the wiring. The lanterns were solid bronze with 16 glass panels. A five-year plan to replace the ornamental street lights started in 1972. The early street lights may still be seen on the Union Pacific RR/Metra platform and on the Illinois Prairie Path in Elmhurst.
Q: What does the name "Elmhurst" mean?
A: Elmhurst is an Old English name meaning "a grove of elms." When Elmhurst was first founded there were very few trees in the area, and the new village was named Cottage Hill, IL. However, after early settlers made a concerted effort to plant trees, the community was renamed Elmhurst in 1870.
Q: What can you tell me about the Independence Day parade and the Jaycees’ involvement? Also, what happened to the Independence Day parade in 2009?
A: According to Elmhurst Press articles, Elmhurst residents went to Lombard or Villa Park for Independence Day parades during the 1930s. In 1941 T.H.B. Post 187, the American Legion post in Elmhurst, sponsored a day of activities at East End Park including games, races, music, baseball games and fireworks on July 4th. The American Legion continued to organize festivities throughout the 1940s. A 1954 editorial in the Elmhurst Press (July 1, 1953) announced that it would be “A Quiet Fourth in Elmhurst.” The American Legion, which had depended on voluntary contributions from local residents to defray the expenses of the Independence Day celebrations, did not have enough money to continue the tradition. The editorial urged residents to revive the Independence Day activities. The Elmhurst Junior Chamber of Commerce responded to the call and in 1954 the Jaycees hosted a model airplane flying exhibition, guest speakers, an 8-act pageant of American history and fireworks. The Jaycees hosted a city-wide celebration again in 1955, and in 1956 they added a parade to the schedule. This became an annual tradition. On April 6, 2009, due to a decrease in revenues for the City of Elmhurst, the City Council cut $1.5 million when it passed the 2009-2010 budget. The cuts included a reduction in community grants provided to varied organizations - including the Jaycees. As a result, the Jaycees were financially unable to present an Independence Day parade as of 2009. For more information, go to the Historic Highlights(PDF) section.
Q: Can you tell me the various locations of the Independence Day fireworks in Elmhurst over the years?
A: In the 1920s the Elmhurst Golf Club (west of Grace Street and north of Elm Park Avenue) hosted fireworks on July 4th. Other locations over the years included East End Park, Butterfield Park, Eldridge Park and Berens Park.