Rod Sellers
Southeast Chicago
Historical Society

Southeast Side Home Page
Southeast Historical Society Introduction
SECHS Newsletter Index
 SEHS  Events / Calendar
 Chicago's Southeast Side Revisited


Take a tour of Chicago's Southeast Side
 Southeast Chicago Historical Society News

April, 2005                                                                    Volume XIX No. 2

A Few Words From the President:
     Another three months has passed and I hope that this short note finds you all in the best of conditions.     First, let me extend our condolences to the family of Alderman John Buchanan on his passing.  He was a good and dear friend.  Rest in peace, John.     Congratulations and thanks to Carolyn Mulac, our Treasurer, on chairing the Annual Membership Meeting with the help of Recording Secretary Gloria Novak.  Rod Sellers was unable to attend due to a family visit to California.  I had just returned from the University of Chicago Hospital where I spent a week while they tried to figure out what my symptoms meant.  All is okay for now.         In addition to serving as co-Corresponding Secretary with Joann Podkul, Kevin Murphy will be the Editor of our quarterly newsletter. Kevin has many good ideas for the newsletter which will become apparent in the near future. Best of luck, Kevin!  Our thanks to Rod for editing our newsletter for all these months.     
    Since we had to return the large ping-pong table to the park field house, we have purchased a new one.  Thanks to Barney Janecki who located a new one at a good price.  We now have our old computer set up and running.
    We entertained a Navy vet attending Robert Morris College with the sights and sounds of our area.      
    Mike, a senior from Columbia College was also here looking up information on our area. He was working on a paper about economic conditions since the mills are gone.
    Our thanks to Damian Kraska for donating a copy of the new book Calumet Beginnings: Ancient Shorelines and Settlements at the South End of Lake Michigan by Kenneth J. Schoon to our museum.
      Lastly I received a nice letter from Nancy J. DeBow of Lemont, Illinois, who was looking for information on her cousin Mabel (nee Kelly) White.  Ms. White was a housekeeper at the rectory of a church on, she thinks, 103rd and Avenue O.  It might be a church east of Ewing Avenue.  Any clues?  Let me know.
            Joseph A. Mulac

Annual Meeting / Annual Dinner    
    An election of officers for the Southeast Historical Society took place at our Annual Membership Meeting on March 19.  The slate of officers for 2005-2006 includes:
                                                         President                                     Joseph A. Mulac
                                                         Vice president                              Rod Sellers
                                                         Treasurer                                     Carolyn Mulac
                                                         Recording Secretary                     Gloria Novak
                                                         co-Corresponding Secretaries      Kevin Murphy and Joann Podkul

    Our thanks to Annette Powell for her many years of dedicated service as Corresponding Secretary.    The officers will be installed at our Installation Dinner on May 15 at the Crow Bar Restaurant, 4001 E. 106th Street.  See enclosed letter for updated information on the dinner and how to get your tickets.
    The meeting also included the adoption of a change of title for the historical society.  Effective immediately we will be known as the Southeast Chicago Historical Society (SECHS).
    A new fee structure for services and materials from the museum was also adopted.  It is a dual fee structure which charges a lower rate for members as opposed to no-members.  This is another reason to keep your membership dues up to date.  Space does not permit publishing the entire rate schedule.  Stop by the museum for further information. 

Historical Presentations
    We continue to spread the word about the interesting and important history of Chicago’s Southeast Side and about the wonderful resources available in our museum.  Within recent weeks several events have occurred including:  tours of the SE Side for authors and researchers; Gypsy Museum group visit to the SE Historical Museum;  oral interviews with WWII veterans; presentation about the history of  the Fair Elms Civic League at their final meeting; presentations to a Chicago History class at IIT University and to the East Side Lions about the Industrial History of the SE Side; participated in a panel discussion on the “Greening of Chicago’s  Lakefront” at the Cultural Center in Chicago for the Friends of the Parks; and an impromptu walking tour of the residential area near Calumet Park.  See our calendar for upcoming events.  Contact the museum if your group is interested in scheduling an event. 

Southeast Side in the News
    The Daily Southtown and the Times covered a press conference held February 15, 2005 at the Acme Coke Plant.  On that date the contract with Salrecon, a demolition firm, was signed and the down payment was made.  Mike Flannery of WBBM TV Channel 2 also covered the event.  A Chicago Tribune reporter, Russell Working,  wrote a comprehensive article about the project to convert the Acme Steel Coke Plant into a steelworkers museum.  The story appeared in the Chicago Tribune on February 20, 2005.   Copies of these articles may be viewed at the Southeast Historical Museum.  
    National Public Radio’s Chicago station, WBEZ (91.5 FM) aired 2 segments focusing on our area.  Steve Edwards, host of Eight Forty-Eight, a daily news magazine program, did a segment on March 2 about the newly released “Labor Trail Map” of Chicago.  (We are trying to obtain copies of the Labor Trail Map for the museum.) He interviewed Dominic Pacyga, Columbia College professor and co-author of Chicago’s Southeast Side.  Dominic took Steve to Our Lady of Guadalupe church, the Southeast Historical Museum in Calumet Park, and the Memorial Day Massacre site.  On March 14 WBEZ aired an interview with Rod Sellers about the proposed Steelworkers Museum at the Acme Coke Plant.  Both interviews can be heard on the WBEZ web site at:

School Closings
    Recent closings of 23 elementary schools by the Archdiocese of Chicago included Our Lady Gate of Heaven in the Jeffery Manor neighborhood and St. Bride’s school.  Previous southeast side school closings in recent years include St. Columba (2001), St Francis De Sales (1991), St. George (1987), St. Kevin (1984) and the merger of Immaculate Conception, St. Mary Magdalene, and St. Peter and Paul to form Jesus Our Brother in 1984.  
    This sad news recalls an earlier time when most Catholic parishes had thriving elementary schools and a few in our area even had high schools.  Who can name the four Catholic high schools which operated on the SE Side?  Can you name the two elementary schools which had an enrollment of over 1000 students?  A visit to the Archdiocese of Chicago web site and a 1980 history of the Archdiocese provided the answers and other interesting facts.
    The following Catholic parishes had high school: St. Francis De Sales, St. Michael, St. Patrick, and St. Peter and Paul.  Only St. Francis is still operating.  Can anyone give the opening and closing dates for the others?  In 1907 Immaculate Conception elementary school had an enrollment of 1120 and 1347 students were enrolled in 1925.  St. Michael’s had an enrollment of 1750 in 1920 and 1912 in 1925.  
In 1925 three schools (Immaculate Conception, St. Michael’s and St. Mary Magdalene) had a combined enrollment of 4,124.  How times have changed!

Big Odors
    A couple of months back, Chicago newspapers were filled with articles about strange odors which filled the air.  For some odd reason this was big news.  Some even referred to Chicago as the “City That Reeks” or the “City of Big Odors” (not the “City that Works” or the “City of Big Shoulders”).  Any long time resident of the Southeast Side could tell you that this was no big deal.  We all grew up with assorted odors emanating from the various industries located in the area.  Based on the neighborhood you lived in (the Bush, Fair Elms, Slag Valley, Arizona, etc.) and the direction of the wind a veteran SE Sider could identify the source of an unbelievable assortment of usually unpleasant smells.  
The Amaizo factory, steel mills, coke plants, Lever Brothers and other old factories left their mark on the olfactory senses of residents.  Not all the smells were unpleasant though.  Remember when General Mills was making Cheerios, Wheaties or other cereal products or baking cakes in their test kitchens?  And fortunately we were not regularly subjected to the kinds of odors which emanated from the Stockyards of Chicago.    
Athletic Memorabilia
    Lorna Donley, formerly of the South Chicago Library and currently assigned to Special Collections at the Harold Washington Library visited our museum recently looking for artifacts related to neighborhood sports.  She viewed a 16 inch softball from a 1949 game between Car IL (sic) and Edison with signatures of participating players.  She also looked at several of the athletic uniforms  in our collection including a 1936 Bowen cheerleading sweater, Bonivir football uniforms from 1938 and from the late 1960's, a 1920's era men’s swim suit, a 1950 U. S. Steel softball uniform, and boxing gloves and trunks from local celebrity Gene Spencer.  Lorna checked out our huge collection of photos of local sporting teams and trophies, awards, and ribbons from local teams.  Some of these artifacts may be used in a special exhibit about Chicago neighborhood sports to be displayed at the Harold Washington Library in the future.  Stop by and view these items at the museum.

Museum News
    Craig Ostrowski, a researcher and frequent visitor to our museum has naturalization papers and declarations of intentions papers of some people from South Chicago.  The information was on sheets that Craig researched for his own family and he is willing  to share the information with any other genealogists who might be interested.  Names appearing multiple times include: Jagielski, Knezevich, and Ostrowski., There are other names as well.  If you are interested in seeing the entire list of names and/or contacting Craig
stop by the museum and view the list.  Craig has information on World War I draft registrations.  Craig has also made available an article from the Daily Calumet about a spectacular fire which occurred in the Bush in 1919.  It gave pertinent information about photographs from our collection about the incident . 
    A couple of months ago the park district “reclaimed” a piece of their property, a ping pong table that had been in the museum since the museum opened in 1985.  (This is the 20 year anniversary of the museum!)  After a couple of weeks of searching, Barney Janecki found a great deal on a new table (another ping pong table - although we won’t be playing any ping pong on it).  Barney’s son arranged transportation for the table and with the assistance of museum volunteers the new table has been installed, our computer system has been put back in place, and we are once again in business. 
    The Park District has begun work on restoring the four murals by Tom Lea that are located on the second floor of the Field House in the area currently used by the gymnastics program.  The work is proceeding slowly and carefully and the results are obvious.  The contrast between the restored and unrestored area of the murals is amazing. 

New Neighbors
    Were you surprised by the forest of sail boat masts as you crossed over the 95th Street Bridge into the East Side?  Welcome to our new neighbors, Crowley’s Yacht Yard, located on the southeast side of the river at the 95th Street bridge.  They also own the property on the north side of 95th  Street but are not yet using that space for storage. Crowley’s is a full service boat yard providing storage, supplies, and repairs for boaters.  They were formerly located on the south branch of the Chicago River and moved in fall of 2004.  There are currently over 600 boats in storage and as the boating season approaches lots of activity will begin to take place.  They are on a very historical site.  In 1895 Iroquois Furnace Plant opened on the site.  It remained open for a time even after the main plant moved to the mouth of the Calumet River on landfill on the east side of the river across from Illinois  (U. S. ) Steel.  This plant later became Youngstown Sheet and Tube.  The site was later occupied by Federal Marine Terminals and used to offload ships. 

Columbus Monument
    The Columbus Monument has been on 92nd and Exchange and South Chicago Avenues since 1909.  For the first time in its history it has an Italian flag thanks to Alex Savastano of the Southeast Chicago Historical Society.  Also Happy Birthday to Alex who recently celebrated his birthday.   Alex is 95 years young.

Neighborhood Architecture
     A local real estate redeveloper was seeking information about the building at 8501 Burley in the Bush that he is rehabbing.  A web search uncovered an interesting source of information about architects and buildings constructed between 1898 and 1912.  The Chicago Historical Society has a section on their web site with information about building permits issued during the above period.  The URL is:
    Scroll down to the American Contractor 1989-1912 and you can search by address, owner name, or architect for building information.  I found two  architects who were responsible for many southeast side buildings.  They were F. W. Fischer (who was the architect of 8501 S. Burley) and Franz Roy who was the architect for several Commercial Avenue Buildings built during that period of time.  Another good source of information about residential architecture is the following:

    Here you can search for current information about zoning, date of construction, and in some cases find a picture of the property.  The information that we provided the developer enabled him to contact the descendants of the original owner of the building at 8501 S. Burley who wrote,  “My grandfather owned both a store and residence in the building at 8501 S. Burley. My father, his three brothers and three sisters grew up there. My grandfather died before I was born in 1933 and I was named after him. My grandmother ran the store and raised the family there, until all the children had moved out. She sold sometime around 1950. I frequently visited there and when I was quite young, my father taught me to ring up sales on the cash register and do some light work around the store. It was known in those days as a "Dry Goods" store and carried mostly clothing, but also cigarettes, candy and notions. The residence was on the ground floor in back of the store and there was an upstairs apartment that was rented. My grandmother always seemed to be cooking in the kitchen.”

SE Chicago Historical Society Calendar

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. 
May 21, 2005        Saturday    10:00 am - 12:30 pm    SE Side Industrial History Bus Tour
Join Rod Sellers, Chuck Gregersen architectural historian, and SETF staff on a tour of historic factory buildings, remarkable bridges, unique local landmarks, and a visit to the site of the Acme Coke Plant, where Chicago’s last standing historic steel making structures are being preserved for a labor and industry museum.  Call 773-646-0436 for information or to register. $7 per person.  Tour starts from the Calumet Park Field House

May 29, 2005        Sunday        2:00 pm        Memorial Day Massacre Commemoration
Join in the commemoration of the ten union members who died for worker’s rights on Memorial Day 1937 at Republic Steel.  Over 100 other marchers were shot on that day in 1937.  Speakers, entertainment, and refreshments will be featured at the meeting and rally at Memorial Hall (The Zone) 11731 S. Avenue O in Chicago.  Sponsored by Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) Chapter 31-9. Call 773-646-4370 for information. 

June 5, 2005         Sunday     1:00 pm         South Chicago Historical Walking Tour
Join local historian Rod Sellers June 5, 2005 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. 

Teachers' Center
National Endowment for the Humanities
Illinois University