Rod Sellers
Southeast Historical Society

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 Southeast Historical Society News

October, 2004                                                                    Volume XVIII No. 3  

A Few Words From the President:

      My how time flies, summer has gone and fall is with us.
 Back in July, our museum received an unusual artifact from our member, Emily M. Zinnen.  She received this item from her deceased friend, Irene Stancik (1918-1994).  It seems that Irene had worked for the U.S. State Department.  She was the daughter of Martin and Mary Stancik, proprietors of a tavern in Hegewisch.  While working for the Department she was stationed in Prague, Panama, Montreal and Rome, where Claire Booth Luce was our Ambassador at the time.
 While a secretary in Rio de Janeiro, she obtained a memento of Brazil which she gave to Emily.
 Now in our museum we have a small gourd cup, about the size of a small tennis ball.
 This hand decorated cup was used by the Gauchos in the Pampas to serve tea.  The tea was sipped with the use of a decorated brass straw with a strainer at one end.
 It is hard for me to believe that any other local museum would have such an unusual artifact.
 Our thanks to you, Emily.
 Emily told of another world traveler from Hegewisch, Francis Dyrek, a retired State Department employee, whose parents operated a butcher shop at 134th and Burley.  She now lives in a loop high rise.
 If you visit our museum, you will note that we now have a new visitor sign-in book.
 The old book covered the years 1999 through 2003.  The following are the results of a review of the contents.
 For the last five years, we averaged over 220 sign-ins per year.  They consisted of 172 Chicagoans, 117 suburbanites and 25 out of metro Chicago visitors.  These visitors were people from Alaska, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IA, IN, KS, KY, OR, OK, MI, NC, NJ, NY, VA, WA, WI, W VA, Washington, D.C. and British Columbia.
 Of course, this did not include other visitors who missed signing in.  Hopefully when you bring yourself with visitors you ask them to sign in.
 We are pleased that some of you helped with a new coalition, Chicago’s Steel Heritage Project that is trying to preserve the abandoned Acme Coke Plant, at 112th and Torrence.  The local press told of a substantial donation from the Steel Workers’ Union, but more donations are still needed.  Let us not forget our industrial past.
 Hope the fall season will be kind to you all.

    Joseph A. Mulac

Chicago's Steel Heritage Project Update
  Steelworkers, union leaders, labor historians, industrial archeologists, business organizations, and university representatives have joined together as Chicago's Steel Heritage Project to save the last vestiges of Chicago's historic steel making structures, located in Southeast Chicago, the heart of Chicago’s early steel industry.  Long range plans are to create a museum devoted to the industrial and labor history of the area on the Acme Coke Plant site at 112th and Torrence.  The initial stage of the project requires raising money to purchase the coke plant structures from the demolition company which has the rights to tear down everything on the coke plant site.  Donations from individuals (several generous donations from members of the Southeast Historical Society), Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, and a large donation from District 7 of the United Steelworkers of America have raised enough money to meet the down payment and halt demolition, at least for now.  Additional money needs to be raised to meet future payments. 
 Since our last newsletter the skyline in the area has changed.  The Acme blast furnace at 107th and the Calumet River has disappeared.  This was the last blast furnace in Chicago.  Much of the conveyor system has been torn down.  The conveyor connected the Acme Coke Plant at 112th and Torrence with the Furnace Plant on the east side of the river.  This process has not been without incident.  Torrence Avenue was closed for a couple of days when the conveyor over the street collapsed during demolition.  Scheduled to be torn down soon is the conveyor bridge over the Calumet River at 110th Street.  This is believed to be the only existing suspension bridge in Chicago.  Historical relics of our industrial past are disappearing.  We need to spread the word and continue our efforts to save our history.  For further information on this project contact Chicago’s Steel Heritage Project at 773-646-0436.  View their web site at:

Thanks Ora

 Dedicated volunteer Ora Coon has been missed at the museum in recent months.  A letter from Frank Stanley, whose presence is also deeply missed, summarizes the thoughts of all of us who have worked with Ora over the years.  Frank states:
 “Since the beginning of the E.S.H.S. and 
S.E.H.S. she has been a strong influence on policy and all considerations of our organization.  This wonderfully intelligent, trustworthy, dependable woman has stood at my side in all endeavors as co-curator since the museum opened its doors on Labor Day of 1985 when it was little more than a large room with a handful of historical items and a lot of pictures depicting our historical growth.  Ora has a vast knowledge of family history, having lived in their midst for many years.  Hardly a week would pass that someone would come in and ask a question about their family.  Ora would say ‘aren’t you so and so who lived at such an address, attended Taylor or Gallistel School, etc. etc.’.  Before the discussion ended we were all shaking hands, hugging and, at times, weeping for joy. 
 Many a time, on the way home from Thursday openings, Ora would say, ‘what a wonderful time we had today meeting so many old timers of the area, or securing a donation for the museum’.  Ora always referred to donations as “treasures”.  I don’t think she ever uttered the word unworthy, each item was of great value. 
 In my understanding of running a museum I attribute a great deal to my long and close association with Ora.  She picked me up when I was discouraged and gave a strong arm of support when needed.  We were equal in authority and responsibility as co-curators and we have a great deal to be grateful to Ora for her loyalty and dependability over a lifetime.  Ora, may you enjoy good health, happiness in the future, in the knowledge that your friends and supporters appreciate your monumental contributions to the Southeast Side.”
 Frank, we echo your sentiments and thank both you and Ora for your many years of dedicated service to the museum and our organization.  We can only hope that we are adequate to the task of following in your footsteps.

Museum News

 Our museum continues to host interesting visitors and tour groups.  In recent weeks we were visited by a group from the South Chicago Neighborhood House and by graduate science students from Northwestern University who were doing soil sampling in the area.  The grad students were interested in the industrial history of the region.  Rod Sellers gave a brief presentation and showed them our collections of 1938 aerial photographs and maps showing fill deposits in the Calumet area. 
 In recent months Rod has done presentations on the history of the Calumet River to the South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society and to the Calumet Ecological Park Association.  This presentation will be repeated at the Calumet Park Field House on November 11 at 7:00 pm..  Rod has also conducted a tour of the Calumet River on July 29 for the Calumet Area Industrial Council and a tour of the Southeast Side for students in the IB Program of Washington High School. 
 Recent visitors to the museum have included reporters from the Reader newspaper and a writer from the Claretian Publishers.  Cynthia Ogurek  selected several pictures from our collection for a soon to be published book about the Calumet River. 
 In an attempt to make our collection more “user friendly” we have created a number of lists of materials available in the museum.  The following collections are included:

Bowen and Washington H. S. year books
Bowen and Washington H. S. news papers
Local 65 Union Newspapers
State Line Generating Plant newspapers
Southeast Historical Society Newsletters
various slide collections
Daily Calumet various dates
We are working on creating other lists including church anniversary books, and school class photos.
 We have updated our file of East Side / Southeast Historical Society newsletters.  Our first newsletter was published in Summer of 1986 and featured an article on “Oldest Monument in the Chicago Area” and noted a number of donations to the museum including a foot powered organ donated by Frieda Zimmerman.  This file makes for very interesting reading.  Stop by the museum to see the newsletters.  By the way, our newsletters starting with December 1999 are posted on-line on our web site at:

Cultural Connections

 The Cultural Connections program held its Kick-Off event for their 2004-05 season on September 21 at the Field Museum of Natural History.   All member organizations attended and brought displays from their respective institutions.  The Southeast Historical Society display was viewed by numerous guests that evening.  A brochure with information about upcoming Cultural Connections events is available at the museum. 

85 Years of Community Service

 A well-known mortuary on the East Side recently commemorated 85 years of caring service to the community.  It all started in September of 1919 when Claude E. Griesel purchased the business at 100th Street and Ewing Avenue from Rogan Mortuary.  He moved further down Ewing Avenue and built his establishment at 10240 Ewing.   Prior to opening his own business, Claude worked for his uncle Adam Griesel who owned a funeral home in South Chicago at 8944 Commercial Avenue.     Following his death in 1939, his wife Grace continued the business and became the funeral director with the aid of familiar names such as Warren J. Smith who later took over the home along with Jack Bohling. 
 According to Griesel’s great-grandson, Jim Mack, there was a rumor to the effect that Al Capone had visited the mortuary for a service of one of his cronies who did not make it alive across the state line.  Funeral wakes in the early 1900's were mainly held in the parlor of the family home for a 24 hour period.  The mortician would bring the coffin, candles, and kneelers to the home.  Following the wake, the mortician and his assistants would retrieve the coffin and proceed with the family for the long trip to the cemetery for the burial.  Mr. Griesel was among the few early morticians to initiate wakes at the chapel in the funeral home.  Some folks sneered at the new procedure which eventually caught on. 
 Following the retirement of Grace Griesel, Jim Mack became director and owner of the funeral home from 1969 to 2003 when morticians Rosario Jimenez Stodden and her husband Leo Stodden became the new owners of the business.  Their daughter, Felicia Stodden, joined them as an associate upon graduation from morticians school.  The Stoddens held an open house on September 26th to introduce themselves to the community and to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the Griesel Mortuary.

by  Gloria Novak
Goldblatt’s Memories
 Almost everyone remembers the Goldblatt’s Store at 91st and Commercial Avenue but how many remember that Goldblatt’s was originally located in the former Lederer Department Store?  And how many of you remember that the original Goldblatt’s Store was a three story building?   Goldblatt’s  opened in South Chicago in 1929 in the former Lederer Store building.  A few years later a new structure was built, a three story building which opened in December, 1935.  Almost immediately, it was realized that the 120,000 square foot building was too small to meet the demands of southeast side shoppers and plans were made to add two more floors and an additional 58,000 square feet. 
 According to the June 6, 1936 South Chicago Centennial Edition of the Daily Calumet: “The building is of cut stone, trimmed with stainless steel and is of modern design.  The entire building is equipped throughout ventilation.  The elevators are the modern high speed type with gates on the cars.”
Stop in at the Southeast Historical Museum to view a giant picture of the Lederer Store and a colorized post card view of the three story Goldblatt’s Building. 

Green Bay, Illinois

 If you have access to the Internet and want a laugh go to Yahoo maps and search for Green Bay, Illinois.  You will see a map of the Southeast Side with Green Bay, Illinois located at 88th and Houston.  Further study will reveal several SE Side historical designations, most in the wrong locations, and many of which are no longer in use.  How many of you knew that South Pole, Illinois and Calumet, Illinois (not Calumet City) are on the SE Side?  And did you know that the Bush is centered at 84th and Luella?  The suburb of South Chicago Heights will be surprised to learn that they have moved from Sauk Trail and Halsted Street to the Southeast Side of Chicago.  And South Chicago is now on the east side of the Calumet River.  So much for accuracy of information on the Internet.  I was alerted to this information by a Packer fan who was surprised to learn that Green Bay is in Chicago.   YAHOO!

Columbus Monument Rededicated

 Drake Fountain, also known as the Columbus Monument, is located at 92nd Street, South Chicago Avenue and Exchange Avenue.  It was a gift to Chicago from hotel owner, John B. Drake and was originally located on Washington Street in a plaza created by a light court of the former City Hall-County Building.  Known as an “ice water fountain”, it originally dispensed cool drinking water from its four granite basins to office workers passing by.  It is distinguished by its Victorian Gothic design and features curving buttresses rising to a Gothic spire, in front of which is a bronze statue of a young Christopher Columbus.  Believed to be Chicago’s first statue commemorating Columbus, the monument was originally dedicated in December 1892 to mark the 400th anniversary of his voyage.  The fountain was moved to La Salle Street in 1906 and to its current location in 1909.  It was designated a Chicago Landmark by ordinance of the City Council on March 10, 2004.  The monument was rededicated in a ceremony on October 8, 2004. 

         by Alex Savastano
Maas / Mercier Family
     We received an e-mail from a fomer East Side resident, Jerry Mercier, now living in Idaho.  He sent copies of numerous photos relating to his family's history.  There are some very interesting photos of activities of the East Side Bible Church and a set of class photos from Gallistel School between 1945 and 1953.  Many of the individuals in the photos were identified by Jerry but there are others who still need to be named.  If you would like to help identify individuals in the photos or see the photos stop by the museum. 

SE Side Calendar

November 11, 2004           Thursday            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, November 11, 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.

November 6, 7, 13, 14, 2004                    11:00am-4:00pm             Lake Shore Model Railroad Open House
The Lake Shore Model Railroad Association will be celebrating their 58th year by holding an Open House at their facilities in the Calumet Park Field House, lower level, 9801 S. Avenue G on Saturday and Sunday, November 6,7,13,and 14 from 11:00am to 4:00 pm.  if any questions.  The Southeast Historical Museum will be open from 12-3 on Sunday November 6 and November 13.

November 13, 2004      Saturday                   10:00am-12:30pm        Toxic to Treasures Tour
We’ll meet at the Calumet Park Field House 98th and Avenue G for a bus tour through the city’s most interesting ecological region.  See remarkable wetlands, Lake Calumet, Wolf Lake and the Calumet River.  View interesting bridges, industrial sites, landfills (past and present), and unique cultural attractions. $10 per person.  Call 773-646-0436 or visit for information and reservations. 

December 9, 2004      Thursday                    12:15pm-1:15pm         “Chicago’s Other River”
Join Aaron Rosinski of the Southeast Environmental Task Force and Rod Sellers of the Southeast Historical Society for a presentation and discussion about the Calumet River.  Program will take place at the Chicago Cultural Center 78 E. Washington in downtown Chicago and is hosted by The Friends of the Parks.  Call 312-857-2757 for further info.

Teachers' Center
National Endowment for the Humanities
Illinois University