Southeast Historical Society
Volume XVIII No. 1
A Few Words From the President:
I am pleased and thankful to God and all my well-wishers for their
and encouragement as I undergo chemotherapy for my treatable lung
After one more cycle of treatment this month it may be stabilized.
In early March we received a letter from Mr. Brian
Edekin, Deputy Commissioner, City Landmarks Division, stating that on
10, our Drake Fountain (Columbus Monument) was designated a Chicago
by ordinance of the City Council. We first made our request
in August, 2002 - patience pays off!
There are now three official city landmarks in our
area: the other two are the State Line Monument Marker on our eastern
with Indiana and a terra cotta-decorated storefront in South Chicago (a
former Peoples Gas Payment Center, now a neighborhood store) located at
8935 South Commercial Avenue.
We attended a slide presentation, “The Calumet
Past, Present and Future” given by our Rod Sellers at a meeting on
31 hosted by the Calumet Initiative and Southeast Environmental Task
in Hegewisch. Over fifty individuals were in attendance.
We recently submitted paperwork to list our
James P. Fitzgibbons Museum in the annual Directory of Illinois Museums
sponsored by the Illinois Association of Museums.
On Wednesday March 24 our museum hosted a
parent field trip covering “Life Transitions/Rites of Passage’ in
with the Field Museum’s “Cultural Connections” program. Barney
and I assisted Rod Sellers with personal recollections about our youth
and a tour of our museum and the murals on the second floor of the park
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the
visitors on Thursdays who have been gathering information for a history
of the 98th Street Coast Guard Station in Calumet Park from the Daily
back issues in our collection. CWO Herbert ‘Jim’ Harmon,
of the U.S. Coast Guard unit stationed here is to be complimented on
fine, polite, young men under his command. It sure gives us hope
for the future – with young men like this in the service.
We hope that the coming spring season will
be kind to you all.
Joseph A. Mulac
Annual Meeting / Annual Dinner
We are happy to announce the slate of officers for 2004-2005 who
were nominated and approved at the March 20th Annual Membership
President Joseph A. Mulac
Vice president Rod Sellers
Treasurer Carolyn Mulac
Recording Secretary Gloria Novak
Corresponding Secretary Annette Powell
The officers will be installed on May 16 at our Installation Dinner at
the Crow Bar Restaurant, 106th and Avenue C. See enclosed letter
for updated information on the dinner and how to get your
Are your dues paid up for this year so we can keep you on the mailing
Yearly dues are only $5 and for $75 you can become a life member and
have to remember to send in dues again. Dues may be sent to the
Historical Society c /o the East Side Chamber of Commerce, 3658 E.
Street, Chicago IL 60617. Dues may also be dropped off at the
Historical Museum in the Calumet Park Field House, 9801 S. Avenue G in
Chicago. The Museum is open from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Thursdays
and on the first Sunday of the month from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm..
Donations of Historical Items
The museum is in need of high school year books from Bowen,
Washington, and St. Francis. Although we have a good number of
especially from Bowen, there are gaps in our collection which we would
like to fill.
Other items that are needed are church histories or church
Currently various researchers are seeking information about a
number of area locations and topics. Among these topics
the Coast Guard Station and the life saving station that was located
to the South Slip of South Works property along the Calumet River;
Harbor lighthouses, Iroquois Landing and the Confined Disposal Facility
next to Iroquois Landing.
Contact the museum if you have any information about the above
In our last newsletter we asked when the railroad tracks at Hummel
(100th Street and Ewing Avenue) were raised and the viaduct
We have an answer thanks to Paul Wright from Firestone Colorado
who sent a number of xeroxed pictures of the area from 99th and Ewing
100th Street and Ewing Avenue. A May 19, 1910 photo shows the
tracks crossing Ewing avenue at 100th Street at grade level (no
A September 13, 1912 photo shows the same tracks 2 years later elevated
over a viaduct. The original pictures are available at the
Paul also sent a number of newspaper clippings about the 1931
national champion baseball team from the South Chicago American Legion
Reader and former President of the East Side Historical Society,
Kevin Murphy pointed out an error in our last newsletter. We
that Hummel Square was the “current location of a Veterans Memorial and
an Abrams Tank.” The tank located at 100th Street Ewing Avenue
Indianapolis Avenue is not a Abrams Tank. It is an M-60 Medium
which was replaced in the mid 1970's by the M-1 Abrams Main Battle
The M-60 was a 1958 upgraded version of the M-48 tank series which
its lineage back to WWII era Pershing tanks. Kevin researched the
tank and wrote an article for the 1992 East Side historical Society
Annual Dinner. Thanks for the correction. We have a copy of
the operating manual for the tank at the museum.
Over 94 years ago a famous Northwest Indiana restaurant got its
when Phil Smidt and his wife Marie were traveling by train to
The train stopped for water in Roby, Indiana and the Smidts, thinking
was a stop in Chicago to change trains, disembarked. But the
left them behind and stranded them. History tells us that the
man took advantage of his misfortune. He began his first
in 1910 with a 12-seat dining table with a 12 foot bar. Marie’s
Lake Michigan perch were a great hit at the cost of 40cents, served
you can eat” with rye bread and a vegetable. As years went by
legs, chicken and steak were added to the menu.
By the late 1920's their son Pete and his wife Irene were
the business. Despite the Depression, the Smidts cooked and
lake perch and frog legs by the ton each month. Irene set the
tone and charm that identifies Phil Smidts to this day with her rose
plates so familiar to patrons of the dining establishment. It is
said that by the wars end in the 1940's Phil Smidt had achieved such an
impressive reputation that celebrities visiting the Chicago area would
make a special trip to Roby, Indiana to feast on perch, frog legs and
Among famous visitors were Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, stage
stars George Murphy, Bob hope, Governor Adlai Stevenson, and Mayor
J. Daley. They say that even the Prince of Wales made a special
to feast on the succulent buttery frog legs and perch.
The early restaurant was located at 1170 Indianapolis
Boulevard. On January 29, 1945 the restaurant suffered a violent
explosion and fire that completely destroyed the building.
post war shortages, Pete and Irene reopened their beloved family
a short distance away at its present location at 1205 Calumet Avenue.
Phil Smidts Restaurant has seen many new managers in recent
years. Pete Smidt deeded his business in 1976 to Calumet College
under the culinary mastership of Austrian Michael Probst. In 1980
Michael and his brother Chris Probst purchased the restaurant keeping
the tradition of the Smidt family. The current owners, David and
Barbara Welch, purchased the eatery in 2000 and to this day have
to continue supplying their customers with traditional recipes, great
and new menu items to appease the customer. One item I miss is
potato salad made with mustard pickle sauce.
by Gloria Novak
The Ford Assembly Plant at 126th and Torrence has come a long
Ground breaking for the building started in 1922. In those days
took much longer to build due to different materials, different
techniques, different methods of coping with poor weather, etc.
1925 the first car, a 1925 Model T “Lizzy”, came off the assembly
This plant was the first to introduce the assembly line to our area and
workers were paid a comparatively high salary of $5 per hour. At
that time when you ordered a car the Ford Plant would tell you when
car was going to be built. You were permitted to go to the plant
that day and watch your car come off the assembly line and take it
It wasn’t until later that a buyer had to buy his Ford through a
I remember in 1926 a friend of mine had to go to the Ford dealer in
Albert Klicker, at 133rd and Baltimore. The price of the car was
$375! Next year the Ford Plant will begin producing three new
We recently received an autograph book belonged to Patricia Olejnik,
of Rod Sellers. The book was dated March 19, 1948 and has some
autographs. There are autographs from professional football
including Ziggy Czarobski and Elmer Angsman both of whom readers should
remember. Herman Wedemyer’s name also appears. Do you
him? Alan Ladd and Yvonne DeCarlo are also in the book.
interested in autographs will find some unusual and interesting
in this book.
Visit the museum and take a look
at this treasure.
by Barney Janecki
The following are interesting links which were discovered in the
course of researching other topics.
The site includes information about street name changes that have
in Chicago, address changes, most of which took effect in 1909, and has
a reverse directory from 1928-29 which enables one to look up an
and find out who was living there at the time. (By the way the
Historical Museum has a reverse directory from the mid 1950s.)
This link enables you to search for information about specific
in Cook County by address. After searching by address click "All
Information". A picture of some of the properties (many are missing
is available on the assessor's portion of the
site by clicking on "View Property".
http://www.landmarks.org (search under
State Endangered / Archive)
The Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois recently named some
SE Side steel structures to their 2004 list of the Ten Most Endangered
Historic Places in Illinois. The southeast side sites include the
Acme Steel quench tower at the Coke Plant on Torrence Avenue, the blast
furnace at the Acme Steel furnace plant on the East Side and the Hulett
iron ore unloaders at LTV Steel on the East Side. The SE Side
is #9 on the list.
The Field Museum is doing a lot of work on the SE
environmental work can be found at:
Their anthropological work is at:
Some interesting b/w photos of the SE Side are available at:
Go to “Browse Neighborhoods” and look for South Chicago, East Side,
If you come across any other interesting links
to SE Side history please forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Boundary Line and Southeast Side Streets
Have you ever wondered why the major streets in the rest of the
do not match up with the major streets on the southeast side? Or
have you ever had to give directions to the southeast side and wondered
why they are so confusing?
The off kilter streets on the southeast side date back
to the two Indian Boundary Lines set up by a treaty in 1816. This
treaty set aside land 10 miles either side of the proposed route of
eventually was built as the I & M Canal (roughly the route of the
Expressway). Land within this corridor was surveyed rather
Land south and east of the southern Indian Boundary line was surveyed
a later time and with different reference points and thus does not line
up with the standard Chicago grid. In the rest of Chicago (north
and west of the Indiana Boundary line) on the far south side, major
(which are determined by section lines) are 103rd, 111th, 119th, 127th
and 135th. On the southeast side major streets based on section
should have been 98th, 106th, 114th, 122nd, 130th and 138th (Chicago
boundary). Looking at these streets now, some do not seem to be
streets but they are more significant than 103rd, 111th etc. on the
side. Street maps and aerial photographs of land along the Indian
Boundary line show clearly that the major streets on the southeast side
do not match up with those of the rest of the city.
Thanks to Rita Cairo, East Side resident who came across
left in a house by a previous owner. She donated several years of
plant magazines from the State Line Generating Station.
A winning History Fair project from last year’s competition about
the Veterans Memorial at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish is on display at
We have some interesting views of the Delaware House from the
1893 Columbian Exposition at Jackson Park. We also have a 1938
photograph which shows exactly where the Delaware House was located on
We are still having problems with our web site. Be patient,
we are working on it.
SE Historical Society Calendar
May 13, 2004 7:00 pm “Calumet River” Slide Show
Rod Sellers, co-author of Chicago's Southeast Side and author of
Southeast Side Revisited, presents a virtual tour of the Calumet
The history and present condition of “Chicago’s Other River” will
The presentation will take place on Thursday, May 13, 2004 from 7:00
pm to 8:30 pm at the Calumet Park Field House, the site of the
Historical Museum, located at 9801 S. Avenue G in Chicago
May 16, 2004 12:30 pm Southeast Historical Society Annual
21st Annual Dinner of the Southeast Historical Society will be held
at the Crow Bar Restaurant. Social hour begins at 12:30 pm. and
will be served at 1:30 pm. Cost of dinner is $15 and tickets may
be obtained at the East Side Chamber of Commerce or at the Southeast
May 30, 2004 All day 4th Annual Wolf Lake Bi-state
The purpose of the festival is to showcase Wolf Lake and surrounds...to
demonstrate the many ways those served by Wolf Lake and surrounds can
the natural areas. The intent is to make it a fun event, but one
that educates the public and promotes bi-state cooperation. The
is free to the public.
June 6, 2004 1:00 pm South Chicago Historical Walking Tour
Join local historian Rod Sellers June 6, 2004 at 1:00 pm for a walking
tour of the Commercial Avenue shopping district in South Chicago.
The tour begins at Immaculate Conception Church at 88th and Commercial
Avenue and will end at 93rd and South Chicago Avenue. The tour will
approximately 90 minutes. Wear comfortable walking shoes.