Rod Sellers
Southeast Historical Society

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 Southeast Historical Society News
January, 2005                                                                    Volume XIX No. 1

A Few Words From the President:

      I hope you all will have a pleasant, prosperous and happy new year!
      Let me first announce our newest museum worker, Mr. James Ostarello of the Pullman community, who also has volunteered to be a docent in our museum on Thursdays.  He has been making himself familiar with the contents of our museum and the filing and cataloging system now in place.  Welcome, Jim and thanks!
      This year will be the 20th anniversary of the opening of the James P. Fitzgibbons Historical Museum.  Along with other stalwarts of the East Side in1976, Fitzgibbons started the East Side Historical Society, our predecessor.  We remember his good spirit and his dedication to the community fondly.
      During the past few months several people have visited our museum looking for genealogical material on their ancestors.  Unfortunately we only have a limited amount of such information available.  The following items can be viewed during museum hours:  bound copies of the Daily Calumet from 1960 through 1979 plus many individual issues; copies of articles written for the ‘Daily Cal’ by the S.E.H. Project; over fifty copies of the James H. Bowen High School Yearbook from 1917-1999; local telephone directories from 1898, 1915 and 1935; a 1953 Reverse Directory and an assortment of small local phone books from 1958 to the present. 
      If you are looking for genealogical material, visit the Family History Center at 5200 South University Avenue in Hyde Park.  Call (773) 493-1830 for their hours of operation.  Due to staff limitations they cannot handle mail inquiries.
      Another source available to the public is the NARA facility for the Great Lakes Region located at 7358 South Pulaski Road.  Public service hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.  They maintain retired records from regional offices of federal agencies in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.  Additional information may be found on the Internet at: 
      Still another source is the South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society formerly located in South Holland.  They have recently moved to Hazel Crest.  Their files are of great value to genealogists and information may be obtained at:

They are located at 3000 W. 170th Pl. in Hazel Crest, Illinois.  Their telephone number is (708) 335-3340. 
      We hope the preceding information will be of some help to you as you search for information for your family history.
      Finally, can anyone loan us their home movie showing the slag dumping on 100th Street?  We would like to copy it – at no cost to you – for our collection.
     Hope to see you at our annual meeting in March.

     Joseph A. Mulac

Newsletter Numbering Revision
      We have revised the numbering system for our newsletters to correspond to the calendar year.  This newsletter is Volume XIX Number 1.  We have not missed any newsletters, merely changed the numbering system..  Newsletters will continue to be published four times per year.  Back issues (to December 1999) of our newsletter are available on our web site:

  Newsletter Index

Stories Feature Southeast Side 

      In recent weeks reporters have used our resources to prepare stories about topics related to the Southeast Side.   A Chicago Tribune reporter, Bill Glauber,  researched our files for information about the history of the Skyway.  The story appeared in the Chicago Tribune on November 24, 2004.  Kari Lyderson, a reporter from the Washington Post wrote a story on December 27, 2004 about the efforts to create a museum devoted to Chicago’s industrial history on former Acme Coke Plant property.  The article also appeared in the Seattle Times. 
      Copies of both articles may be viewed at the Southeast Historical Museum. 

Annual Meeting 

      The Southeast Historical Society will conduct its annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 19, 2005 in the Calumet Park Field House at 9801 Avenue G at 11 AM.  All members are urged to attend and vote on the new slate of officers at this meeting. Nominations may be made from the floor.  The officers presented by the nominating committee will be announced.  Refreshments will be served.  All members are urged to be sure that their dues are up to date. 

Bowen High School 

     In the early 1800's the idea of education beyond elementary school had a slow beginning on the southeast side of Chicago.  This was despite the fact that other areas of the United States were already providing for higher education (meaning high school).  At that point in our local history, the neighborhoods were being established by immigrants who were primarily concerned with learning English and preparing for citizenship.  The movement to establish high schools did not touch base on the southeast side until 1882 when the area’s earliest high school opened its doors at 93rd and Houston Avenue with 14 students enrolled in a one room class.  This school was known as the South Chicago High School and in 1910 was renamed the James H. Bowen High School. 
 James Harvey Bowen was a young entrepreneur interested in promoting the industrial development of the area.  Bowen was the chairman of the Republican State Central Committee who made arrangements for the Lincoln funeral in Illinois.  Bowen and others founded the Calumet and Chicago Canal and Dock Company in 1870.  This resulted in improvements to the Calumet River, draining and filling of swamps, construction of roads,  docks, and railroad bridges.  Factories were established mostly along the Calumet River and Bowen was instrumental in the opening of the regions first steel mill, the Joseph H. Brown Mill (later Wisconsin Steel) in 1875.  For his interest and contributions to the southeast side of Chicago, area residents deemed it important to change the name of the South Chicago High School to James H. Bowen High School. 
 Bowen High School remains in South Chicago, a cultural and education institution serving today’s youth only in a different scenario.  Bowen was divided into four “small schools”  in 2002 under the auspices of the Chicago High School Redesign Initiative.  Each “small school” focuses on a specific educational program.  The four schools at Bowen are:  Chicago Discovery Academy; BEST or Bowen Environmental Studies Team; Global Visions Academy; and the New Millennium School of Health. 
The four schools are funded by the Chicago Board of Education and receive supplemental funds from the Bill and Melanie Gates Fund.  Each small school has an enrollment of about 400 students, is staffed by certified teachers, and has its own principal. 
 The Southeast Historical Museum has numerous materials related to Bowen High School.   We have an original photo of the 1909 graduation class of the South Chicago High School.  Drop in and perhaps you may discover one of your relatives. 

Article by Gloria Novak

Information Requests

      Aside from genealogists and reporters we continue to receive requests for historical information from numerous individuals.  Many of the requests come via e-mail and our web site.  Some are simple, other are not.  We respond to all inquiries. 
      One recent request from England asked about a company located at 9226 S. Burley.  The company was supposed to have made Rocket Car Wash equipment.  We were able to find information that revealed a laundry at that location in the 1930's and 1950's but were unable to find anything about a car wash equipment maker.  Can you help?
     Another request asked about a brewery located on the northeast corner of 106th and Torrence.  Alex Savastano remembered the brewery but was not sure when it closed.  Most who were asked about the site remembered a Standard Oil gas station and a tavern / rooming house next door.  Can you help?
      An e-mail questioned the opening date of Washington School per our web site.  We were able to track the information down and were even sent a copy of an article from the Daily Calumet which showed the first elementary students who entered the school.  Some of the confusion about Washington comes from the fact that the school opened as an experimental k-12 (elementary and high school combined) school with one principal.  The cornerstone was laid in 1956, 72 high school students and 433 elementary students opened the school in February 1957, and 50 students first graduated from the high school in February 1960 (when the Chicago Public Schools were still doing mid year graduations).   A request for Gallistel graduation photos from the late 20's resulted in a 1928 class photo being sent via e-mail.  Unfortunately the picture did not include  the individual being sought. 
      Other requests sought U. S. Steel personnel records, Daily Calumets,  Hegewisch News, and the Wrapped in Steel video.  By the way, we have access to some new technology which enables us to make DVDs from videotapes.  We have transferred our VHS tapes of “Wrapped in Steel” and “Aerial Views of the Calumet” to DVD format. 
     A researcher with a special interest in organized crime is looking for anyone who remembers what went on in the first half  of the twentieth century and who would be willing to be interviewed about organized crime.  If you are interested in being interviewed contact Rod Sellers at the museum. 
      A genealogist wanted to know what county Saint Francis De Sales was located in.  We had no problem with that request. 
     We hope you can help with the above requests. 

Museum Visitors

      Interesting individuals and groups continue to visit our museum and be amazed at the wonders within.  Since our last newsletter we have hosted teachers and students from Our Lady of Guadalupe Middle School.  In November three large groups from the Art Institute of Chicago visited the Southeast Side and our museum.  They also were interested in seeing the murals on the second floor of the Field House.  Tour guide Bill Hinchliff made a generous donation to our museum.  We had many visitors during the Lake Shore Model Railroad Club open house in early November.  Recently a professor from Northeastern Illinois University (the university which hosts our web site) visited us in preparation for a course he plans to teach in fall of 2005.  The course will be about the Calumet River. 
      We are planning on hosting the “Gypsy Museum Group” on February 3 and a parent field trip on April 21 for the Cultural Connections Program of the Field Museum. 

Book News

      Some recently published books may be of interest to our members.  In November Arcadia Publishing (the company that published our two Southeast Side books) released Along the Calumet River by Cynthia Ogorek.  This pictorial history covers the Calumet River system in Indiana, the suburbs, and Southeast Chicago.  It features some photographs from the Southeast Historical Museum and is available for sale at the museum. 
      Calumet Beginnings published by Indiana University Press and written by Kenneth Schoon tells the story of the Calumet region from a geological, geographical, and historical perspective.  It includes numerous interesting maps, diagrams, and photos, some from our collections. 
      Although not specifically targeting the Southeast Side, the Encyclopedia of Chicago has numerous entries relating to our area.  Published by the University of Chicago Press, the book includes articles about the Calumet region, the four communities of the Southeast Side, steel and labor and more.  It is rich in interpretive maps, photos and graphics.  Although a little on the expensive side (list price of $65) it is a must read for anyone interested in Chicago history. 
     A little searching on the internet or old fashioned comparison shopping should make all of these books available for less than the list price. 

New Web Site
See Calumet Park Coast Guard Station web site at:

Oral History Projects

      The SE Historical Society cooperates with numerous organizations in the interest of sharing the story of our community’s history.  See our schedule of upcoming events for some of these collaborations.  Two more partnerships involve oral history projects. 
     We are currently working with the Hegewisch Veterans Organization to interview WWII veterans and civilians.  We are following the format of the Veterans History Project currently being conducted by the Library of Congress.  Web site for this project is  Plans are to send copies of interviews conducted to the Library of Congress and to retain copies of the interviews for our collections.  Thus far five fascinating interviews have been conducted.  We have spoken with two veterans of the bombing campaign in Europe, a navy veteran who was on a destroyer at Leyte, Iwo Jima and Okinawa and whose ship was hit by a Kamikaze plane, a GI who was captured during the Battle of the Bulge, and an infantry vet who landed in Europe shortly after D-Day.  More interviews are scheduled. 
      We are partnering with the Metropolitan Family Services on an intergenerational oral history project to interview former steel workers about their experiences in area steel mills.  The “Successful Aging in Caring Communities” project is funded by a Chicago Community Trust grant  It will involve high school students conducting interviews with former steel workers.  Two training sessions for the students will be conducted at the SE Historical Museum in January and interviews will begin in February. 
      Any WWII veterans or former steel workers who are interested in being interviewed for either oral history project should contact the SE Historical Museum or Rod Sellers (
     We will also be working on an oral history project for Grandparents Day at Gallistel School and the theme of our parent field trip for the Cultural Connections Program is using oral history to preserve family history. 

Neighborhood Lore

      In one of our future newsletters we would like to explore the topic of neighborhood legends and lore.  Every neighborhood has stories that are passed on from generation to generation often without verification..  Among such stories on the SE Side would be things like: A. Lincoln and family swimming at Wolf Lake;  Al Capone and the “Mob”; Walt Whitman editor of the Daily Calumet; the Potawatomi princess who prevented Fort Dearborn from being on the Calumet River.   If you are aware of any of the above or any other similar stories notify the museum.

SE Historical Society Calendar

January 27, 2005 Thursday 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm      Calumet Environmental History Workshop
A “show and tell” for teachers, researchers, and environmentalists interested in the region’s diverse ecology.  Hands on participation and interaction utilizing the SE Historical Museum’s unique Environmental History Collection. Workshop will take place at the SE Historical Museum located in the Calumet Park Fieldhouse at 9801 S. Avenue G.  Limited Space. $5 donation (optional) Call 773-646-0436.

March 19, 2005  Saturday 11:00 am Southeast Historical Society Annual Meeting
The Southeast Historical Society will conduct its annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, March 19, 2005 in the Calumet Park Fieldhouse at 9801 Avenue G at 11 AM.  All members are urged to attend and vote on the new slate of officers at this meeting. Nominations may be made from the floor.  The officers presented by the nominating committee will be announced.  Refreshments will be served.

April 16, 2005  Saturday  10:00 am - 12:30 pm Calumet Heritage Bus Tour
Learn the Cinderella story of the SE Side - how industrial behemoths and toxic areas developed side by side with some of the best wetland and natural areas in the country.  Narrated by an environmentalist and a local historian the tour starts at the Calumet Park Fieldhouse at 9801 S. Avenue G. $10 per person.  Call 773-646-0436 for info.

April 30, 2005  Saturday 10:00 am - 12:00 pm Calumet Park Walking tour
Join Rod Sellers and Friend of the Parks for this informative tour beginning at the Calumet Park Fieldhouse.  Highlights include Iroquois Landing, the heliport, Coast Guard Station, and the State Line Boundary Marker.  Be prepared to walk a few miles.  Call 312-857-2757 for information or to register. 

Teachers' Center
National Endowment for the Humanities
Illinois University