Southeast Chicago Historical
Volume XIX No. 2
A Few Words From the President:
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
Annual Meeting / Annual
of officers for the Southeast Historical Society took place at our
Annual Membership Meeting on March 19. The slate of officers for
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
April 16, 2005 Saturday 10:00 am - 12:30 pm
Learn the Cinderella story of the SE Side - how industrial behemoths
and toxic areas developed side by side with some of the best wetland
natural areas in the country. Narrated by an environmentalist and
a local historian the tour starts at the Calumet Park Fieldhouse at
S. Avenue G. $10 per person. Call 773-646-0436 for info.
April 30, 2005 Saturday 10:00 am - 12:00 pm Calumet
Join Rod Sellers and Friend of the Parks for this informative tour
beginning at the Calumet Park Fieldhouse. Highlights include
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
pm Memorial Day Massacre
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
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.