by
Rod Sellers
Southeast Historical Society



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 Southeast Historical Society News

April, 2004                                                                             Volume XVIII No. 1

A Few Words From the President: 

I am pleased and thankful to God and all my well-wishers for their prayers and encouragement as I undergo chemotherapy for my treatable lung cancer.  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 March 10, our Drake Fountain (Columbus Monument) was designated a Chicago Landmark 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 border 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 River: Past, Present and Future” given by our Rod Sellers at a meeting on January 31 hosted by the Calumet Initiative and Southeast Environmental Task Force 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 concert with the Field Museum’s “Cultural Connections” program.  Barney Janecki 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 field house.
     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 Calumet back issues in our collection.   CWO Herbert ‘Jim’ Harmon, C.O. of the U.S. Coast Guard unit stationed here is to be complimented on the 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
President
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 meeting.  Officers are:
 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 tickets. 

Dues

Are your dues paid up for this year so we can keep you on the mailing list? Yearly dues are only $5 and for $75 you can become a life member and never have to remember to send in dues again.  Dues may be sent to the Southeast Historical Society c /o the East Side Chamber of Commerce, 3658 E. 106th Street, Chicago IL 60617.  Dues may also be dropped off at the Southeast 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, George Washington, and St. Francis.  Although we have a good number of yearbooks 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 anniversary books. 
 Currently various researchers are seeking information about a number of area locations and topics.  Among these topics are:  the Coast Guard Station and the life saving station that was located next to the South Slip of South Works property along the Calumet River; Calumet Harbor lighthouses, Iroquois Landing and the Confined Disposal Facility next to Iroquois Landing. 
 Contact the museum if you have any information about the above topics. 

Reader Contributions 

In our last newsletter we asked when the railroad tracks at Hummel Square (100th Street and Ewing Avenue) were raised and the viaduct constructed?)
 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 to 100th Street and Ewing Avenue.  A May 19, 1910 photo shows the railroad tracks crossing Ewing avenue at 100th Street at grade level (no viaduct).  A September 13, 1912 photo shows the same tracks 2 years later elevated over a viaduct.  The original pictures are available at the Chicago Historical Society. 
 Paul also sent a number of newspaper clippings about the 1931 national champion baseball team from the South Chicago American Legion post. 
 Reader and former President of the East Side Historical Society, Kevin Murphy pointed out an error in our last newsletter.  We stated that Hummel Square was the “current location of a Veterans Memorial and an Abrams Tank.”  The tank located at 100th Street Ewing Avenue and Indianapolis Avenue is not a Abrams Tank.  It is an M-60 Medium Tank which was replaced in the mid 1970's by the M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.  The M-60 was a 1958 upgraded version of the M-48 tank series which traces its lineage back to WWII era Pershing tanks.  Kevin researched the tank and wrote an article for the 1992 East Side historical Society Ninth Annual Dinner.  Thanks for the correction.  We have a copy of the operating manual for the tank at the museum. 

Historic Restaurant

 Over 94 years ago a famous Northwest Indiana restaurant got its beginning when Phil Smidt and his wife Marie were traveling by train to California.  The train stopped for water in Roby, Indiana and the Smidts, thinking it was a stop in Chicago to change trains, disembarked.  But the train left them behind and stranded them.  History tells us that the young man took advantage of his misfortune.  He began his first restaurant in 1910 with a 12-seat dining table with a 12 foot bar.  Marie’s pan-fried Lake Michigan perch were a great hit at the cost of 40cents, served “all you can eat” with rye bread and a vegetable.  As years went by frog legs, chicken and steak were added to the menu.
 By the late 1920's their son Pete and his wife Irene were operating the business.  Despite the Depression, the Smidts cooked and served lake perch and frog legs by the ton each month.  Irene set the personal tone and charm that identifies Phil Smidts to this day with her rose patterned 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 chicken.  Among famous visitors were Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, stage stars George Murphy, Bob hope, Governor Adlai Stevenson, and Mayor Richard J. Daley.  They say that even the Prince of Wales made a special trip 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.  Despite post war shortages, Pete and Irene reopened their beloved family restaurant 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 alive the tradition of the Smidt family.  The current owners, David and Barbara Welch, purchased the eatery in 2000 and to this day have promised to continue supplying their customers with traditional recipes, great service and new menu items to appease the customer.  One item I miss is the potato salad made with mustard pickle sauce.
          by Gloria Novak
Ford Plant
 The Ford Assembly Plant at 126th and Torrence has come a long way.  Ground breaking for the building started in 1922.  In those days it took much longer to build due to different materials, different building techniques, different methods of coping with poor weather, etc.  In 1925 the first car, a 1925 Model T “Lizzy”, came off the assembly line.  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 your 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 home.  It wasn’t until later that a buyer had to buy his Ford through a dealer.  I remember in 1926 a friend of mine had to go to the Ford dealer in Hegewisch, Albert Klicker, at 133rd and Baltimore.  The price of the car was $375!  Next year the Ford Plant will begin producing three new models.
         by Alex Savastano
Museum News 
We recently received an autograph book belonged to Patricia Olejnik, aunt of Rod Sellers.  The book was dated March 19, 1948 and has some interesting autographs.  There are autographs from professional football players including Ziggy Czarobski and Elmer Angsman both of whom readers should remember.  Herman Wedemyer’s name also appears.  Do you remember him?  Alan Ladd and Yvonne DeCarlo are also in the book.  Anyone interested in autographs will find some unusual and interesting autographs in this book. 
       Visit the museum and take a look at this treasure. 
by Barney Janecki
Interesting Links
 The following are interesting links which were discovered in the course of researching other topics. 
www.alookatcook.com
The site includes information about street name changes that have occurred 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 address and find out who was living there at the time.  (By the way the Southeast Historical Museum has a reverse directory from the mid 1950s.) 

www.newschicago.org
This link enables you to search for information about specific properties in Cook County by address.  After searching by address click "All Information". A picture of some of the properties (many are missing photos) 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 site is #9 on the list. 

The Field Museum is doing a lot of work on the SE Side.  Their environmental work can be found at: 
www.fmnh.org/research_collections/ecp/ecp_sites/CEEP/information.html
Their anthropological work is at: 
www.fmnh.org/research_collections/ccuc/ccuc_sites/calumet/introduction.html

Some interesting b/w photos of the SE Side are available at:
       www.picturingchicago.com/ssss.htm
Go to “Browse Neighborhoods” and look for South Chicago, East Side, and Hegewisch.
     If you come across any other interesting links to SE Side history please forward them to rodsellers1@yahoo.com  

Indian Boundary Line and Southeast Side Streets

Have you ever wondered why the major streets in the rest of the city 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 what eventually was built as the I & M Canal (roughly the route of the Stevenson Expressway).  Land within this corridor was surveyed rather early.  Land south and east of the southern Indian Boundary line was surveyed at 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 streets (which are determined by section lines) are 103rd, 111th, 119th, 127th and 135th.  On the southeast side major streets based on section lines should have been 98th, 106th, 114th, 122nd, 130th and 138th (Chicago southernmost boundary).  Looking at these streets now, some do not seem to be major streets but they are more significant than 103rd, 111th etc. on the southeast 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. 

Museum Donations

 Thanks to Rita Cairo, East Side resident who came across materials 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 the museum.
 We have some interesting views of the Delaware House from the 1893 Columbian Exposition at Jackson Park.  We also have a 1938 aerial photograph which shows exactly where the Delaware House was located on Hegewisch. 

Web Site

 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 Chicago's Southeast Side Revisited, presents a virtual tour of the Calumet river.  The history and present condition of “Chicago’s Other River”  will be covered.
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 Southeast Historical Museum, located at 9801 S. Avenue G in Chicago

May 16, 2004 12:30 pm Southeast Historical Society Annual Dinner
21st Annual Dinner of the Southeast Historical Society will be held at the Crow Bar Restaurant.  Social hour begins at 12:30 pm. and dinner 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 Historical Museum. 

May 30, 2004 All day  4th Annual Wolf Lake Bi-state Wetlands Festival
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 enjoy the natural areas.  The intent is to make it a fun event, but one that educates the public and promotes bi-state cooperation. The festival 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 last approximately 90 minutes.  Wear comfortable walking shoes. 





 
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