Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fairyland [Amusement] Park at Harlem Avenue and 40th Street in Lyons, Illinois. (1938-1977)

Fairyland Park opened in 1938 at Harlem Avenue and 40th Street in Lyons, Illinois. The site was a known "gypsy camp" for almost two decades before Fairyland Park.

The proprietors of Fairyland Park, Richard and Helen Miller Sr., began their association with the business Miller Amusements of La Grange, Illinois, a traveling carnival, operated by Richard's brother Charles. Initially, the park was mostly a stationary version of the country fair type carnival rides with an eleven-car Ferris Wheel, a pint-size steam train that chugged around the grounds, a Tilt-A-Whirl, Bumper Cars, a Roller Coaster, a Merry-Go-Round, Hand-Crank Cars, Chair-O-Plane, Model Race Track, Pony Rides and various games among its twenty or so attractions.
This is an ad for Bowman Dairy Company for customers to save 4 Bowman bottle caps or carton tops, which entitles you to a 4-ride ticket for 25¢, except Sundays and holidays at the following parks; Fun Fair in Skokie; Kiddytown 95th & Stony Island, Chicago; Fairyland in Lyons; Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago; Kiddytown, Harlem and Irving Park Road, Chicago; and Sauzer’s Kiddyland in Dyer, Indiana. —Chicago Tribune May 15, 1956.


By 1955, the park had evolved into a five-acre complex with the majority of smaller attractions housed in a large, heated building. Another transition occurred when Richard Miller died in 1965 and one of his sons, Alfred, took over management with his wife, Georgia Miller.
"Truly fascinating for kiddies, delightful for parents," a promotional pamphlet claims, "Fairyland Park is sure to please you no matter what your age." The park featured a "choice selection of the most popular rides and attractions for a thrill a second. Ideally located among shady trees," the pamphlet added, "Fairyland's picnic grove is the perfect spot for any outing."
The park remained operational until 1977. But before it closed, almost 3 million customers had passed through its gates, 73,000 in the last season. Rescued from Fairyland Park were various components of the vintage Merry-Go-Round, including hand-carved horses, originally acquired from the sale of equipment after the closure of the White City Amusement Park

Records show Georgia Miller died in 2004.

VIDEO
Fairyland Park 1974

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

American Distilling Company, Pekin, Illinois. (1894-1920)

When Everett Woodruff Wilson was born in Peoria in 1861 during the first year of the Civil War, patriotism for the United States was in the Midwest air. Born in England, his grandfather, Henry Wilson, had emigrated to America early in the history of the Republic, settling initially in Poughkeepsie, New York. In the 1830s, perhaps following the national push Westward, he took his family and headed to Peoria, Illinois.
That is where Everett’s father, John, was educated, grew up, married a local Peoria girl named Emily Woodruff and became a highly successful Peoria businessman. Eventually he occupied the presidency of the Cave Valley Land & Cattle Company, a large and wealthy organization doing business in southern Illinois was the president of the Elk Grove Land & Cattle Company of Kansas, and the chief stockholder in the street railway company of Topeka, Kansas.

John Wilson also had an interest in making whiskey. A man named C.J.D. Rupert in 1861 had founded an early distillery in nearby Pekin, Illinois, and called it the Hamburg Distillery. Sometime during the 1870s, John bought out the owner and became president of the company. At the age of 18, apparently at his father’s behest, Everett left Peoria for Pekin to work in the Hamburg Distillery. The 1880 census found him there, listing his occupation as “bookkeeper.” A year later, he was managing the whole operation.
About 1885, John Wilson decided to take his distillery into an early attempt at a Midwest “Whiskey Trust,” an attempt to diminish competition and increase whiskey prices. The scheme failed in 1886 when some liquor producers balked at the restrictions. The New York Times headlined: “Whiskey Pool Gone to Smash.” The following year, John Wilson joined the somewhat more successful Distillery and Cattle Feeders Trust. He shut down the Hamburg Distillery in return for shares in the Trust.

Temporarily out of a job, Everett kept busy. No doubt with the financial backing of his father, in 1887 he became a co-founder of the German American Bank of Peoria, organized with capital of $10,000 ($270,929 in today's money). He also was sent briefly to Topeka to look after his father’s investment in the street railway company. Everett also found time to marry. His bride in 1885 was Anna C. Wanschneider of Peoria. They would have three sons: John, born in 1886; Rowland, 1892, and Douglas, 1898.

At the same time Everett Wilson was immersing himself in local politics. In 1886, at the age of 26, he was elected as alderman of the First Ward of Pekin on the Republican ticket. He served until 1893 when he was elected mayor, a post he held for two years. A popular leader, he was elected again for the 1899-1900 mayoralty term. Wilson continued to be active in politics out of office and 1916 was a delegate to the Republican National Convention from Illinois. He also was a co-founder of the business organization that became the Pekin Chamber of Commerce.

In 1891 the derelict Hamburg Distillery was destroyed by fire. One year later the plant of a new distillery was erected on the site at 1301 S Front Street in Pekin Illinois. Everett Wilson was one of the incorporators of the new liquor company, one that boasted capitalization of $100,000 ($2,554,084 in today's money).

The plant covered six acres and the distillery had a capacity of four thousand bushels of grain per day. It was chartered as the American Distilling Company and Everett Wilson became its first president. 

The new distillery used a wide range of brand names, including "American Pride", "Cologne Springs", "English Dry Gin", "Hopedale Rye", "Juniper Berry Gin", "Longwood", "Meadwood", "Old American Rye", "Old Colony Gin", "Pekinil Gin", "Silver Run Bourbon", "Silver Run Gin", and "Three Star Spirits." American Pride was its flagship brand, with a picture of a beautiful woman on the label that also showed up on a tip tray.  In 1908, American Distilling absorbed a conglomerate of three other distilleries and continued to add whiskey-making capacity.
TIP TRAY
The American Distilling now had a daily grain capacity of 6,000 bushels. An advertising flyer emphasizes “free from all trusts and other combinations,” ignoring the Wilsons' earlier alignment with the by-now-failed Distillery and Cattle Feeders Trust.

A post card from about 1910 shows the expansion that had occurred at American Distilling under Everett’s leadership. 
That prosperity also allowed him to move his growing family into a newly constructed mansion on South Fifth Street in Pekin, described by a contemporary as “one of the most beautiful in the city.” Shown here, it may also depict his wife Anna with one of their sons.
As Prohibition loomed, the firm made a lunge at being considered a medicinal product. It advertised: "If You Use Whiskey at all - American Pride IS WHAT YOU WANT! For Medicinal or Potable Purposes of Any Kind.” To an extent the ploy worked. During Prohibition, unlike most others, Wilson’s distillery changed its name to the American Commercial Alcohol Corporation and stayed open by producing industrial alcohol.

Before the end of Prohibition, Wilson and his associates sold the distillery. With Repeal came a new era in whiskey production. The emphasis now was on a New York sales office and marketing agents to bring the American Distilling’s revitalized brands back into the market. Now in his ‘70s, Wilson watched from the sidelines as new management was adding imported liquors to the rye and bourbon produced in Pekin. In 1938 Everett Wilson, the man who built American Distilling, died, age 77. During his lifetime he had been called by a contemporary publication: “One of the most popular and highly esteemed men of the county.”

American Distilling’s plant survived a disastrous fire and explosion in 1954, one that killed three workers and injured a number of others. Through the years under multiple owners and name changes the Pekin distillery continued to produce alcohol for beverage, industrial and fuel applications. MGP Ingredients - then known as Midwest Grains - purchased the Pekin plant in 1980. After closing briefly in 2009, it reopened in 2010 under ownership by the Illinois Corn Processing Co. The distillery that Everett Wilson built, the home of American Pride Bourbon, now was making ethanol.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

The University of Illinois Observatory, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.

The University of Illinois Observatory was constructed in 1896. It stands on South Matthews Avenue in Urbana, Champaign County, Illinois. 

Erected in 1896 at the behest of the Illinois General Assembly, the University of Illinois Observatory became important in the development of astronomy due, in large part, to pioneering research by Stebbins, from 1907 to 1922. Joel Stebbins left the University of Illinois in 1922 but left behind a legacy of discovery that helped alter the face of modern astronomy.
The building, itself, is in a traditional observatory design, Colonial Revival style, following a T-plan. The dome rises 35 feet in the air. 

The observatory played a key role in the development of astronomy as it was home to a key innovation in the area of astronomical photometry. The facility has been directed by such noted scientists as Joel Stebbins and Robert H. Baker.

Though none of the astronomical instruments are being used for professional research today, the observatory still contains a 12" Brashear refractor telescope.
 
Recent Photograph of the Refurbished 12" Brashear Refractor Telescope.
The building served the University of Illinois astronomy department from its opening until 1979, when the department moved into a new, larger building to house its growing staff.

The observatory was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 6, 1986 and on December 20, 1989, the U.S. Department of Interior designated the observatory a National Historic Landmark.

In 2013 and 2014, the telescope and the dome were refurbished.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Gromer Super Markets, Streamwood, Illinois.

Dick Gromer's late father introduced Elgin grocery shoppers to self-service in 1936. In 1961 the "Elgin Gromer Super Markets" name was registered.
Gromer welcome greeted Streamwood, Illinois shoppers as Gromer Super Market. Manager Harry Overbey (left) and Richard "Dick" H. Gromer hoisted banners pronouncing the new store in the Streamwood Shopping Center on Bartlett Road, the sixth store for the Gromer family. Mrs. Ralph King of Streamwood and her daughter Julie, 3 years old, were early customers in 1967.
In 1962 it was registered as the "Hanover [Park] Gromer Super Markets." Then in 1963 it was reregistered again as Gromer Super Markets, Inc. 

Dick Gromer had checkout scanners installed in 1977, when only about 300 stores in North America had the price-reading computers. Dick's son, Gordon, brought 24-hour shopping and an instore salad bar to the stores. Gromer's opens a supermarket in Clock Tower Plaza in Elgin, IL in 1988 and closed thiat store one year later in 1989. Gromer's supermarket in Wing Park Shopping Center, Elgin, IL is closed in 1995.

Chicago Tribune - October 13, 1988
24-Hour Restaurant. Is Just Part Of The Food Service In New Supermarket.

Back in the 1950s, when most markets were small neighborhood grocery stores with some just beginning to be called "super," Richard Gromer installed a bakery in his Elgin food store. Since then he has kept attuned to supermarket trends and was among the first local grocers to add such things as a salad bar and taco bar. When video rental parlors became popular, he put 2,000 movie titles on the shelves at his present 50,000-square-foot supermarket in the Wing Park Shopping Center in northwest Elgin.

So when the 24-hour-day, 7-day-a-week, 63,000-square-foot Gromer Super Market opens later this month in a shopping center on the site of the old Elgin National Watch Company, it will offer another added feature; a 185-seat, round-the-clock restaurant. "Restaurants in supermarkets are not unknown in other parts of the country," said Gromer, president of Gromer Super Markets Inc., "but there are very few in the Chicago area."

The restaurant, designed to reflect the style of the famous watch factory with wood and brass trimmings, vaulted ceiling and photos of the historic timepiece manufacturer, will be buffet style. A full kitchen, much of it open to public view, will service the restaurant on one side and a supermarket deli on the other with hot and cold meals to take out. "We have the ingredients if people want to fix their own food at home; we have hot food already prepared that they can take out and eat; and now we have a restaurant where they can come in, sit down and eat right here," Gromer said. 

Gromer operates the Library restaurant, downtown at 50 N. Spring St., on the site of the old Elgin public library, and an adjunct eatery called the Archives. He and a partner were the developers of the 22-store Clock Tower Plaza shopping center at 100 National St., in southeast Elgin. Installing a cafeteria-style restaurant in a supermarket was an outgrowth of the popularity of the salad and taco bars and the deli in his present store, Gromer said.

"We had a complementary coffee shop with a couple of tables, and in the summer we put up some umbrella tables outside where we were selling ice cream cones. But people were buying salads or getting hot food from the deli and sitting at the tables to eat it. That`s how ideas are born." The restaurant, which has been issued a liquor license, will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snacks, "anything people want to buy," he said. `It will be the only 24-hour restaurant around. The only question we have is just what kind of business we`ll have between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m."

Gromer`s new store also will contain a bakery, a smokehouse and sausage-making facility and a fresh seafood counter. 

"We have plenty of competition," Gromer said. "Dominick`s, Jewel, Eagle. But we can go toe to toe with the competition any day." 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Chain of Rocks Bridge, Chouteau Island, Illinois.

Chain of Rocks Bridge is one of the more interesting bridges in America. It’s hard to forget a 30-degree turn midway across a mile-long bridge that is more than 60 feet above the mighty Mississippi. For more than three decades, the bridge was a significant landmark for travelers driving Route 66.
The bridge’s colorful name came from a 17-mile shoal, or series of rocky rapids, called the Chain of Rocks beginning just north of St. Louis. The eastern end of the bridge is on Chouteau Island, a part of Madison, Illinois while the western end lands on the Missouri shoreline.
Multiple rock ledges just under the surface made this stretch of the Mississippi River extremely dangerous to navigate. In the 1960s, the Corps of Engineers built a low-water dam covering the Chain of Rocks. That’s why you can’t see them today. Back in 1929, at the time of the construction of the bridge, the Chain was a serious concern for boatmen.

A massive undertaking in its day, the Chain of Rocks Bridge had a projected cost of $1,250,000. The bridge was to be a straight, 40-foot wide roadway with five trusses forming 10 spans. Massive concrete piers standing 55 feet above the high-water mark were to support the structure. Plans called for a four-mile fill along the road leading to the bridge’s eastern end.

All that proved true except for one major change, the direction. Riverboat men protested the planned bridge because it was to run near two water intake towers for the Chain of Rocks pumping station. Navigating the bridge piers and the towers at the same time, the river captains argued, would be extremely treacherous for vessels and barges. Besides, the initial straight line would have put the bridge over a section of the river where the bedrock was insufficient to support the weight of the piers. Either way, the bridge had to bend.

Construction started on both sides of the river simultaneously in 1927, and the piers were complete by August of 1928. A grand opening was planned for New Year’s Day 1929. The Mississippi River had other plans. Floods and ice slowed the work, and the Chain of Rocks Bridge finally opened to traffic in July of 1929.
Then, as now, actual expenditures for construction often exceed projected costs. Chain of Rocks Bridge cost just over $2.5 million -- twice its original estimate. Fortunately, the public got its money’s worth. The bridge had beautifully landscaped approaches. A park-like setting around a pool and a large, ornate toll booth anchored the Missouri end. On the Illinois side, 400 elm trees lined the approach. The bridge brought travelers into St. Louis by way of the picturesque Chain of Rocks amusement park on the Missouri hills overlooking the river. On a clear day, crossing the Chain of Rocks Bridge was a real pleasure. That pleasure became an official part of the Route 66 experience in 1936, when the highway was rerouted over the bridge.

During World War II, Chain of Rock’s colorful red sections had to be painted green to make the bridge less visible from the air. At the same time, wartime gas rationing reduced traffic. To offset these costs, the City of Madison increased bridge tolls to 35 cents per car, with an additional five cents per passenger—a fee structure that sets on its head today’s system of special high-speed lanes reserved for cars carrying more, not fewer, people.

In 1967, the New Chain of Rocks Bridge carrying Interstate 270 opened just 2,000 feet upstream of the old bridge, which closed in 1968. The bridge deteriorated, and during the 1970s, Army demolition teams considered blowing it up just for practice. In 1975, demolition seemed imminent. Fortunately for the bridge, a bad market saved the day. The value of scrap steel plummeted, making demolition no longer profitable. At that point, the Chain of Rocks Bridge entered 20 years of bridge limbo--too expensive to tear down, too narrow and outdated to carry modern vehicles. In 1980, film director John Carpenter used the gritty, rusting bridge as a site for his science fiction film, Escape from New York. Otherwise, the bridge was abandoned.

Today you might say that the Chain of Rocks Bridge has completed a historic cycle. Built at the beginning of America’s love affair with the automobile, it is now a reflection of America’s desire not to ride in cars so often. During the 1980s, greenways and pedestrian corridors became increasingly popular, and a group called Trailnet began cleanup and restoration of the bridge.
Linked to more than 300 miles of trails on both sides of the river, the old Chain of Rocks Bridge reopened to the public as part of the Route 66 Bikeway in 1999.

Because the bridge has not been significantly altered over the years, a visit there today conveys a strong sense of time and place, an appreciation for early-20th-century bridge construction, and outstanding views of the wide Mississippi River. 
The Chain of Rocks Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lost Towns of Illinois - No-Man's Land, Illinois.

No-Man's Land, Illinois was never an official place name but has been used to refer to at least two areas that fit the broader meaning of No-Man's land.

WILMETTE, ILLINOIS
Most commonly, the term was used to refer to a small unincorporated area north of Chicago on Sheridan Road, along the lakeshore of Lake Michigan.
No Man's Land - Wilmette, Illinois.
It was bordered by the exclusive North Shore suburbs of Wilmette, on the south and west, and by Kenilworth on the north. Undeveloped for nearly a century after the first settlement of the area, no neighboring municipality wanted to annex it, and it became a haven for shady activities.

In the 1920s, a developer envisioned and began construction of a planned club and beach hotel complex to be called "Vista Del Lago" (Spanish for "Lakeview"). The club was under construction on the east side of Sheridan Road, but the Great Depression prevented the completion of the hotel. In 1928, one of the earlier automobile-oriented shopping centers, Spanish Court, opened adjacent to the club. The club burned down in 1932.

The lack of development on the east side of the road, coupled with the club's location in a relatively lawless unincorporated area, led to a state legislator in the 1930s terming No Man's Land "a slot machine and keno sin center where college students were being debauched with beer, hard liquor, and firecrackers." In 1942, after decades of disputed ownership and legal wrangling, the area was annexed by the village of Wilmette. The area is now the home of the Plaza del Lago shopping center on the west side of Sheridan Road and a small number of anomalous high-rise residential buildings east of Sheridan Road.
Plaza Del Lago & high-rise Condo's on Sheridan Road in Wilmette, Illinois.
Prior to the redevelopment of the area in the 60s, such establishments as firework stores, hot dog stands, ice cream shops, car dealerships, and service stations had earned the area nicknames of 'Coney Island of the North Shore' and 'honkey-tonk town of the North Shore'.

ROGERS PARK AREA OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
The term "No-Man's Land" was used prior to the expansion of Chicago from the property on the south border of Calvary Cemetery in Evanston. It refers to what is now the far north lakefront of the Rogers Park community of Chicago. It is also identified by the United States Geological Survey as being a variant name of the Howard District.
CLICK MAP FOR LARGER VIEW





Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Peacock Ice Cream Company, Evanston, Illinois.

Thomas Anton opened Peacock's Dairy Bar in 1936. In 1956 George Bugelas bought the Dairy Bar overlooking Lake Michigan at 1515 Sheridan Road in Wilmette, in an area known as No-Man's Land. Two years later he bought the 32-year-old Peacock Ice Cream Company. 

Bugelas was an ice cream aficionado for more than thirty years, overseeing every aspect of the Peacock Ice Cream Company. He added ice cream parlors in Evanston and Glencoe. The ice cream factory was in Evanston.

He produced several thousand gallons of premium ice cream a week. The ice cream was made in a factory on Sherman Avenue, then later at 2144 Ashland Avenue, both in Evanston. 
Ice cream maker, Bugelas was ahead of his time, creating his own recipes with 16 percent butterfat, fresh fruit, all-natural ingredients and no preservatives at a time before premium ice cream was widely available.

Another Peacock store was on Skokie Highway in Wilmette, just north of Old Orchard Shopping Center.

In addition to his specialty flavors, such as the summer favorite fresh peach, Bugelas created custom flavors for Ravinia, the Drake Hotel, numerous Japanese restaurants other high-end establishments. Beginning in 1976, his chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice creams swept all blue-ribbon competitions in the premium ice cream categories at the Illinois State Fair for 13 consecutive years. Bugelas closed all the retail shops in 1981 to concentrate on the wholesale business.

When his wife became ill in 1992, he closed the business, rather than risk selling it to someone who might dilute the quality of his ice cream. George Christopher Bugelas died on October 5, 2004.


Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Artworks of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Illinois.





Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lewis Round Barn and Museum in the Village of Mendon in Adams County, Illinois.

Charles E. Lewis determined that he needed a large barn with which to house and feed his 200 beef cattle and like number of hogs. He learned of the three experimental round barns built in about 1900 for the University of Illinois, College of Agriculture. 
Lewis Round Barn and Museum.
Being impressed with the efficiency of the round barn, as compared with the square or oblong structures, but realizing he needed a barn much larger than the University of Illinois buildings, he began to envision a structure that would be much larger than any round barn that had been built up to that time in the Mid-West and perhaps in the entire country.

The first step was the selection of 40 acres of timber ground from the 160 acre “Grove Place” recently purchased from his father’s estate.
Much of the 40 acres was thick with large elm, oak, hackberry and sugar maple trees. The next step was setting up a portable sawmill and hiring several men to cut the trees with axes and two-man cross-cut saws. During the fall and winter of 1911 the logs were worked up into dimensional lumber and then carefully piled to air dry.

Lambert Huber, a local skilled carpenter of German ancestry, was hired as the architect, engineer and building foreman. He had never built a round barn but he was willing to undertake the complicated project. The roof was to be a self-supporting dome without any supporting structure except the outside walls. The four-section rafters were to be reinforced at each of the joints. After the barn was built, Mr. Huber said he lost many hours of sleep trying to figure out the many specifications, but also how many parts were to be built and put into place. He was heard to say that he thought the completed barn was a total success, but the he would never build another one. 
By the summer of 1914, the lumber was sufficiently cured and construction commenced. Ditches were dug for the poured concrete foundation footings to support the outer circular wall. A circle 24 feet in diameter was laid out in the center in order to accommodate the silo and silage feeding bunk around the silo.

A stave silo 18 feet in diameter and 40 feet high was constructed out of one-piece 40 Douglas Fir staves that were totally clear of knots. They were the longest pieces of clear lumber Uncle Carl Lewis had ever seen. A wooden stave silo, sheltered inside a barn and away from weather and sun, was one of the longest lasting and best keeper of silage of any structures known up to that time and for many years thereafter.

The siding for the barn was 1' x 12” white pine, 14 to 16 feet long and wood shingles were of western red cedar. The shingles and siding were the only lumber that had to be purchased. The rest came from trees grown and sawed at the Grove. The cash outlay for the barn was $2,000… a hefty sum in those days (today $48,635)

Concrete pillars were poured into holes dug in the ground foundations of the 6 x 6” posts which supported the circular haymow constructed completely around the silo extending out to the tip exterior wall.
The next step was to build the dome-shaped roof by assembling the rafters on the mow floor, then putting them into place was a big problem. Each rafter was at least 50 feet in length and made of very heavy hardwood lumber. A scaffold of about 46 feet was constructed upwards from the haymow floor and a 10 foot in diameter laminated wooden circular ring was constructed at the carpenter’s shop in Camp Point and placed on top of the scaffold. Each of the rafters were to be raised somehow, but manpower proved insufficient.

One of grandfather’s favorite horses; namely, "Old Kit,” came to the rescue and with an innovate series of ropes, pulleys, and a boom pole, the horse was used for power to lift the rafters into place. It was said that Uncle Dana provided the steady hand that led Old Kit, as the rafters were raised, one by one. As each rafter was raised into place, they were nailed fast to the top ring.

As the first three or four rafters were placed in different locations on opposites sides, the whole affair was pretty flimsy, so all involved hoped there would be no high winds until all of the rafters were raised and the roof sheathing was nailed into place. No winds came and at that point, the structure was crowned with a 10 foot high cupola roof supported by the highest lip of the lightening rod. It was topped off by a weather vane of a steer said to be covered with old leaf.

A few months before the barn was completed a group of wives of farmers organized a pioneering club they named “The Rural Mother’s Household Science Club.” They asked Grandfather Lewis if they could hold a Barn warmin’ in the new barn on Halloween as their first major project. Each member brought four pumpkin pies and two dozen doughnuts, and a square dance was held. Folks came from miles around, whether invited or not. Most came by horse and buggy, and only a few by car. The Model T had not as yet been developed. Since there was no electricity, kerosene lanterns were used to light the big barn. The party was a great success. Almost eighty–five years later a “guest register” of those who attended was discovered in the haymow on three panels of the inside of the outer wall of the barn. Those fifty inscribed signatures can still be seen today in the relocated barn.

The round barn served its purpose well for many years. Silage was thrown down out of two sets of silo doors onto the silage bunks below, and hay from the haymow could be forked down into hay racks lining the inside of the outside wall. Cattle could feast on silage by facing toward the center, then turn around and walk to the hay racks. Hogs had special restricted openings to enter the barn and eat corn and sleep in protected areas where the cattle were to large to gain access.

In the late 1950’s or early 1960’s the weight of the cupola caused the roof to start sagging and leaning like the Tower of Pisa. So it was removed and the hole left at the top was shingled over. Time began to take its toll. The entire roof was re-shingled, and more recently the five Lewis brothers and cousin Jim Andrews held a working weekend to make repairs. Part of the barn had to be jacked up, a major foundation buttress had to be replaced with new concrete, the window openings were covered with Plexiglas, and a new cable was installed around the outside of the barn, up under the eaves to the roof to prevent the barn from further spreading.

While these efforts were successful, they could only be short-term Band-Aids and if the barn was to continue to live for another century, the family decided to donate the barn to the Adams County Olde Tyme Association. They proposed moving the barn and fully restoring it on a site about 25 miles to the West near the Adams County Fair grounds.

The barn, having been placed on the National Register of Historic Places of August 16, 1984, was considered by both the State of Illinois and the National Preservation groups to be of such importance, that a grant of $150,000 was given to the Olde Tyme Association by the Illinois Historical Preservation Agency for the moving and restoration project.

Most everyone who learned the Association believed the barn could be successfully moved, felt that Association needed the services of a psychiatrist. The task of now taking the barn apart and re-erecting it seemed more impossible than its original construction.

Early in 2000 plans were made to give the Round Barn a new and lasting revival. A contract was awarded to a group of Amish carpenters and the work began. Two sets of old shingles were peeled off. Chain saws were used to cut the roof into many narrow pie-shaped pieces. The haymow and the outside wall were dismounted and moved to the new site. This left the silo standing like a lonesome ghost in the middle of the old site.

The Association contracted for a crane to pick up the entire silo and lay it down horizontally on a flat-bed trailer. A heavy duty farm tractor then began to pull the silo down the hill on the way our of the Lewis Farm. As the tractor started up the hill, the silo threatened to collapse inwardly, so the tractor stopped near a tree and the silo was tied off by chains to the tree overnight until the Amish could reinforce the silo’s bracing. The next day, the tractor and silo slowly meandered over graveled country roads to its new resting place. The State of Illinois would not permit the silo to travel on concrete State highways.

The Amish then started to re-erect the outside walls but this time the wind did blow the walls down before they could be stabilized and had to be re-erected again. When some of the first rafters also blew down, only the most optimistic would have continued. But the project had gone much too far to quit, and from then on the construction went smoothly. The roof was finished off with a new cover of shingles and a replica cupola was installed on top. Success at Last!

Adams County Olde Tyme Association Lewis Round Barn Museum.
In 1999 the Lewis family donated it to the Olde Tyme Association. The museum houses antique farm implements and hand tools on the lower level.
The loft is dedicated to the farm woman's life in the 1930s with a 3 room house, beauty shop, grocery store, garden area, rug looms, quilting and much more.
The barn is an architectural wonder being built before modern tools and equipment were available and amazing in that it was moved 20 miles. 

The Lewis Round Barn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 as a private Agriculture Outbuilding not in use. Then in 2003 it was re-registered as Recreation and Culture Museum.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Negro Boys on Easter Morning" Photoshoot in Chicago's Bronzeville Neighborhood. 1941

The photograph titled "Negro Boys on Easter Morning" was taken on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1941, across the street from the Regal Theater in Chicago's Bronzeville Neighborhood by Russell Lee, a photographer from the federal government’s 'Farm Security Administration.' 

The photo is of five Negro boys who were dressed for Easter church services, perched atop a Pontiac Silver Streak Six has become an iconic Chicago image. 
The famous photo: "Negro Boys on Easter Morning."
The only one of the five boys to be identified was the tall, hatless teenager in the middle, Spencer Lee Readus, Jr., who was 14 when the photo was taken. “I was going to the show on Easter Sunday and a white man approached me to ask if he could take a picture of me and these other boys,” Readus said. Lee, posed the kids in front of a parked car. Spencer was the tallest and the only one without a hat, so he was put front and center in the photo.
Readus went on to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II and built a career as a plaster foreman. He and his wife, Setrennia, raised four children, Spencer Lee III, Claudia, Cherie, and Laurence. They lived in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago.
Spencer Lee Readus Jr. is the only African-American at a Chicago Plastering Institute celebration. He’s in the 2nd row on the left in this 1956 photograph.
Photo: WTTW Chicago.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.