Saturday, July 13, 2019

The History of the Rogers Park Telephone Exchange at 1622 West Pratt Avenue, Chicago.

The first telephone exchange in Rogers Park was established in 1903 in a rented space at the northwest corner of Lunt and Clark. Soon increasing demand and specialized equipment required a purpose-built structure. The Chicago Telephone Company contracted with the architecture firm of Holabird and Roche, which had already designed their buildings downtown and many smaller neighborhood exchanges. Good examples of these remain throughout Chicago.

New technology has a tendency to make people uncomfortable. One way to offset this discomfort is to create a traditional image to reassure the public. Holabird and Roche was masterful at creating sturdy classical designs. The Rogers Park Exchange is a simplified version of the Georgian Revival style. And what could be less intimidating than Georgian Revival?
The building itself is reinforced concrete construction with Colonial brick and white Bedford stone trim. Originally the entrance vestibule was pink Tennessee marble, but it is unknown if it is still there. Note the addition of a fourth floor, along with substantial rear additions. This was a part of the original design intent, and the foundation was built to accommodate another floor as needed. The stone cornice was rebuilt, but it looks like it lost some detail in the process.
The L-shaped area emphasized in red is the original footprint of the building. The area in blue was added in 1940 as well as an additional floor to the pink portion of the building. In 1960 an additional floor was added to the blue portion, raising it from two stories to three. 

The work force consisted of three supervisors, one clerk, one matron, and forty-nine operators. Yes, that's right, a Matron. And both day and night chief operators were women. And those forty-nine operators?  Probably young women. At the turn of the century switchboard operator joined teacher and nurse as an acceptable occupation for middle-class women.

But there was an ongoing discomfort about the thought of professional young women working and living in the big city on their own. The fear was that it would be too easy for these women to get into trouble, perhaps not of their own doing. Several organizations opened boarding houses for working women, where they could enjoy communal activities and close supervision. It's telling that the president of the Rogers Park Women's Club, Mrs. E.A. King, was in attendance for the opening ceremony. 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Mrs. Emma C. Kennett built over 80 apartment buildings in the Rogers Park and West Ridge communities of Chicago, in the 1920s.

Emma Kennett, 6341 Sheridan Road, who, with a Negro partner, built more than 80 buildings in the Rogers Park and West Ridge communities. She designed the buildings herself in the Gothic, French, and Spanish style. By the mid-1920s, she was worth over $5,000,000 ($72,625,000 today).

Farwell and Oakley Avenues, Chicago. 1928
Chicago owes a lot to small-scale neighborhood developers. This role is generally unsung, despite being responsible for the overwhelming percentage of buildings throughout the city.
The block plan of Kennett's Subdivision, recorded in January of 1928. The depth is about 125 feet (typical for Chicago) and the frontages on Farwell range from 50 to 58 feet. The corner lot has a larger frontage of 77 feet. Corner lots are typically larger in order to offset the loss of a private backyard and the exposure to traffic from two directions. In urban areas the corner lots are often used to develop a greater number of less expensive units. This development consisted of five 6-flat buildings and one 18-flat building, although some of the 6-flats have since been subdivided.

Mrs. Emma C. Kennett was the head of Kennett Construction Company and an experienced developer by 1928. Her maiden name was Anderson, her parents were born in Norway, she apparently grew up in Chicago.

The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote a number of articles about her, in part because of the novelty of a woman succeeding in the construction industry. 

By 1928 she had developed more than 80 buildings in the Jarvis-Ridge-Howard area while raising three young children. Mrs. Kennett worked in the office of a builder prior to marrying James Kennett, a Chicago building contractor. 

When the marriage to James C. Kennett, Sr. ended Mrs. Kennett re-entered the building profession to support her young family. She continued sending her ex-husband checks until he disappeared, later found murdered in California [1] in 1935. 

By the late 1920s she had begun developing clusters of buildings. This subdivision is in the West Ridge community, but most of her work is found in Rogers Park. In one article she notes her horror of long barrack-like apartments, which she attempts to avoid using various eclectic architectural styles popular at the time. 
North side of Farwell, west of Oakley.
Above you can see examples of Tudor Revival, Italian Rennaissance Revial, and Spanish Mission Revival. She claimed to have designed these buildings herself, although she worked with architects to make the plans technically correct. This is not beyond her skills at all. In fact, she especially enjoyed designing the details of construction, including the interior decor, lobby ornamentation and landscaping. Officially Arthur Bucket is listed as the architect of record for the corner building and J.T. Fortin for the 6-flats.

Her assertion that the buidings she created resemble private homes, doesn't make sense in Chicago. Maybe it's the distance of 90+ years, but in no way do these look like individual homes. They look like apartment buildings. Even 1920s single family homes of comparable square footage in the North Shore wouldn't resemble these. Still, the attempt to create unique buildings that avoid regimentation was certainly accomplished.
Entrances along Farwell (in order).
You have to admire the level of detail that went into these buildings and their constuction and appearance are so typical for this area and time period.

7440-7455 N. Hoyne Avenue, Chicago. 1929
On the short block of Hoyne between Fargo and Birchwood, Emma Kennett, probably created her most notable project. These six buildings are roughly the same size and shape, but their facades were given the high-style eclectic treatment popular in the 1920s. And of course nothing said good taste and luxury quite like French and Spanish Revival. 
According to an article published in the Chicago Tribune on March 31, 1929, these buildings represented a $480,000 ($7,130,000 today) investment on behalf of the developer. An ambitious undertaking, especially since it was just a few months before the onset of the Great Depression (1929-1939), and lasted well into it.
On the east side of the block are the Spanish Revival styles. They all have various types of wrought iron balconies and a pale cream brick, which was seen as appropriate to the style. There are casement windows and French doors on the upper floors, and double-hung windows with similar pane divisions at the ground level. The casement windows alone are worth a visit. So few original casements survive from the 20s, and this block has an impressive number of them. Imagine how much these buildings would lose with simple double-hung replacements.
The door on the left is not only an arched door in a rounded tower, but the door itself is curved to match the tower radius. The middle door is set within an ornamental stone surround that I can only describe as Art Deco. The simplicity of the door to the right is off-set by a complex portal window, which reflects some of the arched windows treatments on the block. Two have elaborate copper kick-plates and decorative hinges attached with rivets.
The west side of the block is even more elaborate. Curved towers and complex roofs form an anchor to these buildings, which have random-cut limestone veneers at the lower floors and brick above. The half-timbering designs are works of art in themselves. The false mansard roofs (a roof which has four sloping sides, each of which becomes steeper halfway down) on this side of the street are large, making them easier to read than the Spanish-style roof forms across the street.
The doors are great, each with a unique design and window pattern. They all have the same copper kick-plates and hinges seen on the east side of the block. And, unique, is the window pattern found on the center door.

A Tribune article indicates that Kennett designed these buildings with the help of Herbert J. Richter, an architect, but according to the Chicago Historic Resources Survey the architect of record is Arthur Bucket, which makes sense, since Arthur Bucket's name is associated with the corner apartment building at Farwell and Oakley.

Herbert Richter more or less disappears after his World War II draft registration in 1942. He seems to have drifted after his work with Emma Kennett. At the time of the 1940 census he lived in Baltimore, Maryland, and worked for a carnival. He is not in the Social Security database, either because he died young or never paid in.ssss

The account below explains why architectural historians are in constant danger of walking in front of cars while wandering through the city:
7451-7455 N. Hoyne
"Symmetrical facade centers on semi-circular plan bay/stair tower with portal at base and topped with a hexagonal roof and finial. 
Romanseque casement windows on either side of door topped with six-paned fan light. All windows in sets of threes except baseement of simple Roman arch. First floor fenestration repeats casement-fanlight treament with a colonade of counter-spiralled pilasters.

Third floor bays have pairs of French doors opening onto balconies flanked by smaller windows. 

Stylized Italianate eave brackets lead the eye to small windows on 2nd/3rd floors, one with ornated carved limestone surrounds and pilasters. 

Door is carved, paneled oak with semicircular leaded overglass with peep windows at eye level. Keystones, sills, brackets and spiral columns rendered in stone. Limestone coping on south corner gate repeats brackets at roofline. The lion finial weathervane atop tower, false hinges on doors and kickplate are hammered copper."
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

[1] August 23, 1935 Chicago Tribune Article:
The murder of James C, Kennett by the hand of a confessed serial killer. Kennett, who was “in the mountains for his health,” met the 21 year old man in Roseville, about 15 miles from the mine shaft in the Serra Nevada mountains where Kennett’s body was found. The killer, an itinerant prospector, said the two had met and decided to camp together, and that the murder occurred as a result of a quarrel over supplies. He claimed to have murdered 24 other people. He was convicted and hung in May, 1936.

August 30, 1935 Chicago Tribune Article:
Rites Here Tomorrow for J.C. Kennett, Slain in the West.
The ashes of James C. Kennett, Sr., retired Chicago contractor, who was slain in a mining camp near Auburn, California, about two months ago, are being returned to Chicago, it was learned yesterday. Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. in the Mount Olive chapel, Irving Park Boulevard and Narragansett Street. Kennett is survived by his wife Emma of 6341 Sheridan Road, from whom he had been divorced; by two sons, James Jr., 21 years old, and Maynard, 19 years old, and a daughter Joyce, 15 years old.

Friday, July 12, 2019

David Berg and Company, Chicago, Illinois. (1860-1992)

Beginning in 1860 the David Berg and Company had developed a following of customers fond of their signature, kosher style, hot dogs. This was before the Civil War! 
David Berg hot dogs were served at the Republican National Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln. David Berg was a pioneer that introduced the "hot dog" at a professional baseball stadium. That happened in 1901, it was the Chicago White Stockings first season as a major league team, and their second season in Chicago playing ball at South Side Park located at 38th Place and South Princeton Avenue, in Chicago.
Chicago White Stockings first playing ball at South Side Park.
When Vienna Beef set up shop in 1893, one of the few great sausage companies around was David Berg & Company. In 1992, almost a hundred years later, David Berg joined the family of Vienna Beef products. Vienna Beef carried on the David Berg taste and tradition by honoring their unique spice blend. David Berg's treasured Chicago sausage products are now made by Vienna Beef.

Fun Hot Dog Facts:
  • In 1978, David Berg made a six-foot, 681-pound premium beef hot dog in a 100-pound poppy seed bun covered with two gallons of mustard. 
  • The average hot dog is consumed in 6 bites. 
  • More hot dogs are believed to be sold at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport than any other location in the world. 
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Ambler Texaco Gasoline Station on Route 66 in Dwight, Illinois.

Ambler’s Texaco Gasoline Station, also known as Vernon’s Texaco Station and Becker’s Marathon Gas Station, is located along historic Illinois Route 66 in the Village of Dwight. The station gets its name from longtime manager Basil “Tubby” Ambler, who operated the station from 1938 to 1966. 
The original 1933 building Jack Shore built consisted of an office with wood clapboard siding, an arched roof with asphalt shingles, and residential windows adorned with shutters and flower boxes. Extending out from the office over three Texaco gas pumps was a sheltering canopy supported by two tapered columns. Mr. Shore also constructed an ice house located on the property. 
The station’s design, with its cottage look, may strike the contemporary traveler as quaint--or perhaps even odd. Why, after all, shouldn’t a gas station look like a gas station? But this domestic style, common along Route 66, had a distinct purpose and stems from a time in the early 20th century when gas stations were just beginning to seriously intrude upon the suburban landscape of America. The oil companies wisely opted to tread lightly on this new, non-commercial territory.
Gas stations were consciously styled to be homey and inviting to customers, as well as inconspicuous in their new residential, suburban surroundings. In the early 1940s, following a national trend that saw gas stations evolve to full service garages, Mr. Ambler added a service bay of simple concrete block to the north side of the original building. Although he left the station in 1966, the station continued servicing motorists until nearly the turn of the 21st century, making it one of the oldest continually operated service stations along the Mother Road.
Over the years, the station naturally underwent a number of changes. Windows were removed and added, fresh paint applied, and new roofing laid down. The tall, elegant red pumps of the 1930s gave way to the squat dispensers of the 1960s; and Marathon Oil eventually superseded the Texaco Fire Chief brand. The station operated as a gas station for 66 years until 1999 and was an auto repair shop until 2002, when the owner Phillip Becker generously donated the station to the Village of Dwight.
With the help of a $10,400 matching grant from the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, the Village of Dwight painstakingly restored the station to its former glory, taking the main office and canopy area back to the 1930s and the service bay area back to its 1940s appearance. Today, the station serves as a visitor’s center for the Village of Dwight. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 and received a Cost-Share Grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in 2002.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979.

Disco Demolition Night was a promotional event that took place on Thursday, July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois, during which a crate filled with disco records was blown up on the field. It was held during the twi-night doubleheader baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. During the climax of the event, rowdy fans surged onto the field, and a near riot ensued. It ultimately proved to be one of the most notable promotional ideas and one of the most infamous The event has been characterized as the "emblematic moment" of the anti-disco "crusade" and "the night disco died."

The tale of two goof-ball WLUP Radio Station DJs behind the Disco Demolition Night. Steve Dahl and Garry Meier. In the 9th grade, Dahl began hanging around a local underground radio station, KPCC-FM... Okay... I'll just start in the middle! 

Steve Dahl began at WDAI Chicago on February 23, 1978 with his solo "Steve Dahl's Rude Awakening" show but it never achieved solid ratings despite media attention. Ten months later, on Christmas Eve, 1978, WDAI changed formats from rock to disco and fired Dahl.

In March 1979, after a few months without a job, Dahl was hired to do a morning show at WLUP where he met overnight DJ Garry Meier (who was then broadcasting under the pseudonym of "Matthew Meier"). Shortly thereafter, the two began a cross talk that eventually led to Meier being teamed up with Dahl as both sidekick and newsman. Dahl effectively forced Meier to use his actual name by calling him "Garry" on-air accidentally. After openly discussing the subject, again, on-air, Meier officially dropped his pseudonym.

In response to Dahl's firing from WDAI, Dahl and Meier mocked and claimed to hate disco music and the radio station WDAI; He called it "Disco-D.I.E." mocking the station's slogan, "Disco-D.A.I," on the air. Dahl even recorded and started playing a parody of Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" which he called "Do You Think I'm Disco?" The song managed to crack the national charts to peak at #58 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received airplay across the country.
SONG: Do You Think I'm Disco?

During this same time period, Dahl and Meier, along with both Mike Veeck (son of then Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck), and Jeff Schwartz of WLUP promotions, came up with a radio promotion and tie-in to the White Sox called Disco Demolition Night which took place on Thursday, July 12, 1979.
The concept was to create an event to "end disco once and for all" in the center field of Comiskey Park that night by allowing people to get tickets at the box office if they brought 98¢ (referring to WLUP-FM's 97.9 location on the FM dial) and at least one disco record. The records were collected, piled up on the field and blown up.
Hundreds of rowdy fans stormed the field, refusing to leave, resulting in the second game of the doubleheader being postponed. American League President, Lee MacPhail, later declared the second game of the doubleheader a forfeit victory for the visiting Detroit Tigers. Six people reported minor injuries, and thirty-nine were arrested for disorderly conduct.
After the Disco Demolition Night promotion, disco began to lose its popularity. As a result of Disco Demolition Night, Dahl attained national recognition and his popularity increased significantly. He established a syndicate and the Steve and Garry show began airing in Detroit and Milwaukee, where it performed well.

However, in February 1981, WLUP fired Dahl, citing "continued assaults on community standards." "It was going on in El Paso and Los Angeles, like, on Monday, and on Friday they fired me," Dahl later said. Meier was offered the opportunity to continue the show by himself, but he refused.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Pump Room Restaurant, famous for catering to Mid-20th Century's biggest celebrities.

Back in the 1930s, when people regularly traveled across the country via train, they usually had a 10-hour layover in Chicago. In later years, when celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, and Phyllis Diller ended up in Chicago, they made a night of it; and dining at the famous Pump Room inside the Ambassador East hotel was an essential part of that.
Booth One at the Pump Room, Chicago.
At the restaurant, the biggest stars of the day had the ultimate social-status symbol waiting for them -- Booth Number One. Back then, the hot spot was owned by Ernie Byfield, a famous hotelier, and restaurateur who would personally pick up celebrities at the train station. “This was the place where all the VIPs were,” says Rich Melman, who owned the restaurant in the 1970s and 1980s and ran it until June of 2019. 
Ambassador East Hotel - Pump Room, Chicago. 
“If they didn’t want to be seen, they wouldn’t go to the Pump Room.” Amenities included reserved seating in a cream-colored leather booth in the corner famously referred to as Booth One. The banquette was reserved only for the crème de la crème. Even if the wait for the restaurant was long, Booth One would remain vacant until a VIP worthy of it — such as Sammy Davis Jr. or Marlene Dietrich —arrived.
Liz Taylor at the Pump Room, Chicago. (1960)
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood at the Pump Room in Chicago.
The table’s occupants also received access to a rotary phone connected directly to the booth so they could make and receive calls as they dined. “There was a private number that you could call to reach Booth One,” Melman says. “That wasn’t given out very often. But celebrities knew it.” Movie star Joan Crawford, who preferred to be left alone while dining, would place a call and then wrap the long cord across the table as a sort of caution tape to others in the restaurant. Those who preferred face-to-face attention over a ringing phone would unplug it from the wall jack. “The phone was part of a big game,” Melman says. “Often people would pay what was considered big money in those days to be paged at the Pump Room.”
Carole Lombard and Clark Gable - between trains 1930s - in the Pump Room, Chicago. 
While the hotel and restaurant have cycled through multiple owners and face-lifts — and celebrities no longer have to layover in Chicago — Booth One has stayed alive. The last iteration of the Pump Room, a nostalgic restaurant that once drew celebrities, closed in 2017. After a substantial refurbishment, the Pump Room has been revived and renamed Booth One, complete with a rotary phone installed in its VIP booth. If a guest chooses, he or she could still use it while dining on beef Wellington and cheesecake — although Melman says, diners usually prefer to use their cell phones.

“We are trying to resurrect something that disappeared in Chicago for a while,” Melman says. “It’s the type of room that needs a lot of hand-holding, and for a time it didn’t get the attention it needed. It lost some of its luster.

After almost two and a half years in Gold Coast, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ "Booth One" restaurant, inside the 285-room Ambassador Chicago Hotel, closed at the end of June 2019. 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Chicago O'Hare International Airport UFO sighting occurred on November 7, 2006.

At approximately 4:15 PM on November 7, 2006, federal authorities at Chicago O'Hare International Airport received a report that a group of twelve airport employees were witnessing a metallic, saucer-shaped craft hovering over Gate C-17.
A passengers photo shot from inside terminal.
The object was first spotted by a ramp employee who was pushing back United Airlines Flight 446, which was departing Chicago for Charlotte, North Carolina. The employee apprised Flight 446's crew of the object above their aircraft. The object was also witnessed by pilots, airline management and mechanics. No air traffic controllers saw the object, and it did not show up on radar.

Witnesses described the object as completely silent, 6 to 24 feet in diameter and dark gray in color. Several independent witnesses outside of the airport also saw the object. One described a disc-shaped craft hovering over the airport which was "obviously not clouds." According to this witness, the object shot through the clouds at high velocity, leaving a clear blue hole in the cloud layer. The hole reportedly seemed to close itself shortly afterward.

According to the Chicago Tribune's Jon Hilkevitch, "The disc was visible for approximately five minutes and was seen by close to a dozen United Airlines employees, ranging from pilots to supervisors, who heard chatter on the radio and raced out to view it." There is no photographic or video evidence of the UFO.
News sources report O'Hare UFO sighting.

Both United Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) initially denied that they had any information on the O'Hare UFO sighting until the Chicago Tribune, which was investigating the report, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The FAA then ordered an internal review of air-traffic communications tapes to comply with the Tribune FOIA request which subsequently uncovered a call by the United supervisor to an FAA manager in the airport tower concerning the UFO sighting.

The FAA stance concludes that the sighting was caused by a weather phenomenon and that the agency would therefore not be investigating the incident. According to astronomer Mark Hammergren, weather conditions on the day of the sighting were right for a "hole-punch cloud", an unusual weather phenomenon which is often mistakenly attributed to unidentified flying objects.

UFO investigators have argued that the FAA's refusal to look into the incident contradicts the agency's mandate to investigate possible security breaches at American airports such as in this case; an object witnessed by numerous airport employees and officially reported by at least one of them, hovering in plain sight, over one of the busiest airports in the world. Some witnesses interviewed by the Tribune were apparently "upset" that federal officials declined to further investigate the matter. NARCAP published a 155-page report on the sighting and has called for a government inquiry and improved energy-sensing technologies: "Anytime an airborne object can hover for several minutes over a busy airport but not be registered on radar or seen visually from the control tower, it constitutes a potential threat to flight safety."

The Chicago O'Hare airport UFO story was picked up by various major mainstream media groups such as CNN, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News, The Chicago Tribune, and NPR.

On February 11, 2009, The History Channel aired an episode of the television show UFO Hunters with the title Aliens at the Airport in which they reviewed the incident.

Compiled By Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The History of Lazar’s Kosher Sausage Factory in Chicago.

After World War II Chicago’s Hollywood Park neighborhood underwent rapid development, attracting many Jewish families from the west side. You’d think they would have been thrilled that a family-owned business from the old neighborhood wanted to follow them to the north side, but Hollywood Park didn’t exactly welcome Sol Lazar with open arms.

Lazar wanted to relocate his business, Lazar’s Kosher Sausage Factory – a business he started in 1913 at 3612 West 12th Street (12th Street renamed Roosevelt Road on May 25, 1919) – to a large plot of land he owned in the North Park community.
Lazar’s Kosher Sausage Factory at 3612 West 12th Street, Chicago.
Sol Lazar built a new factory with a retail deli at the front of the building in 1958. It was located at 5511-29 North Kedzie Avenue, Chicago.
Lazar’s Kosher Sausage Factory at
5511-29 North Kedzie Avenue, Chicago.
On March 12, 1957, Nathan M. Cohen heard a case brought by Sol Lazar who is suing to rezone the property on Kedzie to build a new pickle and sausage factory on his land. Willis W, Helfrich, CTA assistant Secretary, testified he could smell a "Nauseating" odor as far as 125 feet away when he visited the Roosevelt Road Location. Son Seymour Lazar told reporters the jars Helfrich brought and opened were from the garbage can behind the factory. 

Zeamore A. Ader, attorney for the Hollywood Park association, alleges that Lazar's Kosher Sausage Factory has been issued a building permit in December of 1957. Sol Lazar, owner of the factory, said a permit had been issued and he plans to construct a factory on the premises for smoking and packing sausages.

In 1958 Lazar’s opened his modern facility at 5511 North Kedzie Avenue. (today, Northside College Prep High School is  located on the site.) In hindsight, Lazar may have been right about the impact of his plant being good the the neighborhood. Although the city originally zoned the east side of Kedzie south of Bryn Mawr for residential development, the small businesses and light manufacturing shops that eventually lined the street contributed to the economic stability of the neighborhood and lowered the population density of an already crowded area.

And the smell? I don't remember there being any smell, but that of cooked meat. My folks shopped at Lazar's. The deli counter was on the left as you walked in. There were a few chairs on the right at the windows facing Kedzie. Lazar's was a busy butcher shop. We waited for our number to be called. My personal favorite was their 4 to a pound hot dogs -- or as they called them -- 'dinner franks.' They had a wonderful taste, unlike the bland Vienna hot dogs served by most Chicagoland hot dog joints. We'd also buy a whole beef brisket, which was our family's second best meal, next to my Mom's roasted chicken on Friday nights.

Sol Lazar died at 76 on Sunday, June 9, 1969.

Sol Lazar’s daughter and her husband, who had worked at Lazar’s on Kedzie, uphold the legacy of Lazar’s Kosher Meats in Jerusalem, Israel. On the wall of the Jerusalem store are photographs of both Chicago Lazar stores; the first was on 12th street on the west side; the second was on Kedzie Avenue on the north side. 
Lazar’s Kosher Meats storefront in Jerusalem, Israel. (2015)
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

The Lincoln Village Theater was the last movie palace built in Chicago.

In August of 1968, Attorney Oscar A. Brotman (1916-1994) opened the 1,440-seat Lincoln Village Theater at 6101 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago. It was located in the Lincoln Village Shopping Center at Lincoln Avenue and  McCormick Boulevard in Chicago, about two blocks upriver from Brotman’s shuttered and soon-to-be-demolished Tower Cabana Club (1955-1966) at Peterson and Jersey Avenues.
Brotman (President) had a partner, Leonard Sherman, and in 1968 Brotman & Sherman Theaters, Inc.,  (Brotman also owned: South Shore Amusements, Inc.) owned 14 Chicago area movie theaters, making it one of the largest local chains.
Lincoln Village Theater Grand Opening - Friday, August 2, 1968.
Reminiscent of Miami Beach Art Deco style, as was his Tower Cabana Club, the theater’s brilliant white façade sparkled in the sunlight. Tall red neon cursive lettering atop the roof gave the building more height and retro flair. A man recalls being able to see Lincoln Village Theater from the Church Street bridge over the North Shore Sanitary Channel, a distance of several miles. It was the last single-screen movie house of this size built in Chicago, a last attempt at bringing 1920s-era glamour to the movie-going experience.

Lincoln Village Theater was just like some old-school, fabulous, downtown Chicago theaters, at a time when downtown was beginning to lose theaters. The lobby was expansive, luxurious, lit by dramatic wall sconces and a working fireplace. There was sunken seating area and fancy restrooms. A place to see and be seen.

Inside the theatre, extra-wide aisles led to extra-cushy seats. A wood-paneled balcony structure rose off the main floor. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house, thanks to stadium-style seating.

It took nearly five minutes to move the gold fabric, floor-to-ceiling curtains, both horizontally and vertically, accentuating the glamour of the old-time live stage shows. You knew something big was about to happen.

No expense was spared on technical specs, either. The theater was equipped with Cine-Focus 35mm and 70mm projection, a ‘Scope screen, and a full six-channel stereophonic sound.
FLAT format is slightly smaller than 2 times wide and 1 times tall.
SCOPE format is slightly wider than 2 times wide and 1 times tall.
The opening movie was 'No Way to Treat a Lady.' The same year brought 'Green Berets,' 'Rosemary’s Baby,' 'The Producers' and 'How Sweet It Is' to the theater.

Lincoln Village Theatre was booked for a variety of acts as well as movies. In December 1968 Chicago’s Royal European Marionette Theatre settled in for a weeklong run of its 'Wizard of Oz' play. The Brothers Zim Revue played for two nights. The Barry Sisters, four nights only. Mickey Katz, “America’s favorite Yiddish comedian,” played the Lincoln Village, as did Larry Best and Eileen Brennan. The live closed-circuit telecast of the 1970 Cassius Clay-Jerry Quarry fight, one-half of the 'Double Dynamite' package, sold out in 45 minutes, at $7.50 a seat. 
A TIDBIT OF KNOWLEDGE: The 20-Minute Rule as it relates to film viewership, not just film criticism. Is 20 minutes enough time to consider a movie fully? When this topic came up, Roger Ebert often cited “Brotman’s Law,” named after Chicago movie exhibitor Oscar Brotman, which declared that “If nothing has happened by the end of the first reel, nothing is going to happen.” A reel of film is 1,000 feet, about ten minutes when projected, but most movies are projected two reels at a time, which means “the first reel” is about 20 minutes — hence, another variation on The 20-Minute Rule.
Temple Beth-El, the former West Rogers Park Jewish congregation that outgrew its Touhy and Kedzie Avenue building, rented the theater for the Jewish High Holidays at the movie theater.

In 1981, Plitt Theaters purchased the Brotman & Sherman Theaters.

Under new owners, the Lincoln Village Theater was partitioned into three oddly shaped boxes, then the building was razed around 2000. Now the site is new construction and is a Ross Dress For Less Store.

Chicagoland Movie Theaters Operated by Brotman & Sherman Theaters:
  • Avalon Regal Theater, Chicago
  • Capitol Theatre Capitol Theatre, Chicago
  • Carnegie Theatre Carnegie Theatre, Chicago
  • Cinema Theater Cinema Theater, Chicago
  • Highland Park Theatre, Highland Park
  • Highland Theater Highland Theater, Chicago
  • Hillside Mall Cinemas, Hillside
  • Lincoln Village Theaters, Chicago
  • Loop Theater, Chicago
  • Metropolitan Theatre, Chicago
  • Oakland Square Theater, Chicago
  • Oasis Drive-In, Des Plaines
  • Parthenon Theatre, Hammond, Indiana
  • Rhodes Theatre, Chicago
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The History of the Tower Cabana Club at 3209 West Peterson Avenue in Chicago. (1955-1966)

Attorney Oscar A. Brotman (1916-1994) movie theater chain owner (the Lincoln Village Theater was owned by Brotman-Sherman Theaters, Inc.), former ping-pong and swimming champion, brought his glitz and glamour vision of "Miami in Chicago" to the Hollywood Park neighborhood of the North Park community. Nothing remains of the Tower Cabana Club, but in its glory days, Brotman’s Tower Cabana Club was the swankiest spot around.
The entrance to Tower Cabana; show your pass and get a towel. (September 1961)
Setting the stage for fun in the sun.
In 1955, on a narrow, two-block strip of land, leased from the North Shore Sanitary Canal and overlooking the canal, a total of 6.75 acres east of Jersey Avenue on Peterson Avenue is where Brotman built his Tower Cabana Club.
The former Tower Cabana Club site.
NOTE: The McDonald's on the SE corner of Jersey and Peterson Avenues was next door to the Tower Cabana Club. It was the first McDonald's in Chicago. It was opened by James E. Maros, and was an original red & white tiled, eat-out-side building, located at 3241 West Peterson Avenue. It opened in late 1955 and is still the location of a McDonald's.
Brotman's family plan for "poolside living" was extensive, costing $300,000 in 1955 ($2,845,000 today). The club had a snack bar, a wading pool designed for the toddler set, day camp activities under competent instructors, and a playground area far enough away from the cabanas to ensure a little peace and quiet for parents. Outdoor dances were scheduled for summer evenings.
And at the end of the day, there's dancing. Dapper Dan Belloc's combo (they're the ones in the cool Bermuda shorts) provide the music while the high school set does the hokey-pokey. Every day is a busy one at the Tower Cabana -- and the teens have great fun, from early morning arrival until parents call a curfew -- or perhaps, join them for a swim.
Other activities included the Aquacade show; water skiing in the pool, surfboard ballet, daredevil diving. Dancing for teens with entertainers like Ralph Marterie, Lola Dee, David Carroll, Eddy Howard, Nick Noble, the Crew Cuts, Len Dresslar, Georgia Gibbs, and many other famous people have performed at Tower Cabana Club over the years.
David Garfield, 17, and Linda Silverstein, 13, enjoy a go at the shuffleboard court. From David's expression, it would be safe to assume that Linda is winning this one!
The slide that Dede and Dave are shooting down is different from those you see at most playgrounds. This one deposits the daredevils in the Water!
Brotman was warned about palm trees in Chicago's frigid cold winters, but he ignored the naysayers. He imported eight 35-foot-high coconut palms from Florida and had them planted in cement blocks and chemically treated to withstand cold temperatures. When the fronds turned brown and fell to the ground, Brotman had them spray-painted green and nailed back up where they belonged. Sometimes the leaves turned brown but didn’t fall off. “If they don’t fall off,” Brotman complained to a Chicago Tribune reporter, “how do they expect to get painted?”
Looking north at the Tower Cabana Club (circa 1958). Note the natural gas storage tank 1 mile north on Kedzie and Whipple. Sometime in the mid-1970s, the tank was being dismantled and it caught fire. You could see and smell the fire for miles.
A new device that is often helpful in teaching children to swim was called "swim trainer," which was an inflatable rubber bag that is strapped to the back and gives the learner confidence and helps keep him in position.
Sherwin Winer, Chief swim instructor at Chicago's Tower Cabana Club encourages Marty Scott to try the inflated device called "swim trainer."
Sherwin Winer lowers Lawrence Wolf into position. The "swim trainer" permits free use of arms.
Sherwin Winer buckles the device on Deborah Witkin, while Marcia Omens watches. Marcia's type of float does not put her in a swimming position so easily.
Sherwin Winer takes off, while his class swims along in his wake.
With 150 cabanas available for rent, Brotman offered families a plan for “poolside living” at a private club. Besides the full-size pool, there was a wading pool, the Decoma Day Camp, and a playground, far enough away from the cabanas to ensure a little peace and quiet for the adults.
Decoma Day Camp had its swimming activities at the Tower Cabana Club starting in 1956. Uncle Deutsch (left) and Uncle Miltie (right) were Decoma Day Camp co-directors.
The Chicago Tribune loved Tower Cabana; the neighbors? Not so much!
Steve Citrin on the Tower Cabana diving board.
Steve Citrin on the high dive springboard.
Steve Citrin tries out the lifeguard post at Tower Cabana.
In August 1955, a two-page spread in the Tribune, “The Florida Idea of Fun Catching on in Chicago,” showcased the delights of the Tower Cabana Club.
Jack Citrin standing in front of the cabanas.
Rose Citrin playing Mah Jongg at Tower Cabana.
But it wasn’t all sun and fun and beauty contests. The club fought city and neighborhood opposition throughout its existence. The first case, a battle with City Hall over whether Brotman could build a commercial project on land leased from the Sanitary District, went to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The city of Chicago argued they had zoned the land for single-family dwellings, but the judge ruled the city didn’t have the right to zone Sanitary District property. Not to mention the land was 50 feet west of a waterway used to drain sewage from North Shore suburbs into the city. Brotman won round one on January 30, 1955.
Refreshment time -- and relaxing on the lounges -- at the same time picking up a little sun are Heddy Greenberg (left), Roberta Lakes, and Jay Dushkin, all 13-year-olds.
Lifeguard Ronald Gordon, 16, makes sure that 16-year-old Leslie Duboe is safe at one end of the pool. Safe? She's touching bottom.
On April 21, 1955, the day after his inauguration as 40th Ward Alderman, Seymour Simon demonstrated a seasoned pro’s grasp of Chicago neighborhood politics. He asked the Department of Streets and Sanitation to barricade the Peterson Avenue driveways leading into the Tower Cabana Club’s newly paved parking lot. “I’m not trying to stop the project,” Alderman Simon explained to the Tribune. “I just don’t want to help.”

During the zoning battle, Hollywood North Park Civic Association (HPNCA) came into existence. Founded by Gerald Specter and other local residents for the purpose of blocking construction of the club, HNPCA fought Brotman on several issues to preserve the neighborhood’s quiet character and its property values.

Cold weather brought more controversy.
In November 1955, Brotman came up with the idea of offering club members ice skating during the off-season. His was no ordinary flood the backyard plan; Brotman enlisted the engineers of the Burge Ice Machine Company to build an icy surface over the pool that would stay frozen even in 60° weather. The ice froze but outdoor lighting and piped music heated up the neighbors.
Merle Citrin skating at Tower Cabana Club. (November 1957)
In October of 1956, the Tower Cabana Club forms the first curling club in Chicago in over 50 years.
Brotman’s ingenuity as a set designer was once again evident in December 1956 with the transformation of the palm trees into 45-foot Christmas trees. “No one would ever guess,” Brotman told the Tribune, “that I had those eight evergreens hauled down from Michigan by special truck, lashed them as close as possible to the palm trunks and steadied them with guy wires.”
In March of 1957, Ald. Simon came at Tower Cabana Club again. He proposed an ordinance that prohibited ice skating rinks which operated after 9pm within 150 feet of homes. The proposal came after Simon claimed there were complaints by homeowners in the Jersey and Peterson area that "piped music, noise, and bright lights" from the Tower Cabana Club created a nuisance in the neighborhood. Brotman stated the ordinance also threatens some 122 rinks operated by the park district and the city. Also, threatened is the operation of outdoor theaters. Brotman pointed out that when the recreational facility was built in 1955, two years ago, there were only six homes on Jersey Avenue and since then some 40 homes have been built. "Most of the home owner's children, even Ald. Simon's, swim and skate at the club." Brotman argued. "I think Simon is misguided. A facility such as this should be encouraged."

Brotman won that round but lost the next one. His scheme to boost revenues by adding a golf driving range met with neighborhood disapproval. “A pool is one thing, but a golf range in a quiet area is ridiculous,” said Specter. “I don’t want to see neighbors kids dodging golf balls.”

Specter and the HNPCA won the round of golf. The experience of challenging Brotman’s Tower Cabana Club served Specter well for a history-making battle nearly twenty years later.
In 1974, the city closed the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium, also located in Hollywood Park. The first Mayor Daley wanted to give the land to developer Harry Chaddick, who had plans for a shopping mall and high-rise apartment buildings. Specter and others fought to preserve the land for public use.

Specter was a huge player in keeping the Tuberculosis site out of the hands of commercial developers. He fought the Daley machine and won. As a result of the North River Coalition, the land occupied by the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium became Peterson Park and North Park Village.
The end of an era.
In 1966 Tower Cabana Club went out of business and its facilities quickly deteriorated, helped along by nature and vandals. HNPCA begged for its demolition and in 1968 the Sanitary District finally obliged. They then leased the site for a dollar a year to the Chicago Park District and to this day it remains a free and open space with a bike/walking path.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.