Sunday, March 28, 2021

The History of the Morton House Restaurant that was in Morton Grove, Illinois.

The Morton House, formerly the "St. Cloud House," at Miller's Mill, had been thoroughly renovated and refurnished in 1869. They offered room and board for $5 per week and $6  suites. The area attracted Roadhouses, pickle farms, and rose gardens.

The Morton House opened in October 1869 as a stagecoach stop and grocery. The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad track was laid through what would become the Village of Morton Grove in 1872. The whistle-stop (later station) at what had been Miller's Mill was named Morton Grove to honor one of the railroad's New York financiers, Levi Parsons Morton, who became the 22nd vice president of the United States from 1889 to 1893 for President Benjamin Harrison. Morton Grove became well known as a stagecoach stop. The village formally incorporated as Morton Grove on December 24, 1895.

The little frame building grew with the railroad, adding more rooms. It had become a tradition with the Morton House, (on today's Lincoln Avenue at Lehigh, just south of Dempster), that when the Milwaukee Road train would approach the crossing near the restaurant, the bartender would rush out with his lantern, signal the train to a stop and serve the engineer a beer. The practice was continued for years until the high-speed modern trains made it impossible.
In the U.S., during the 17th to 20th centuries, Groceries, Saloons, Taverns, Public Houses, and Hotel Bars sometimes issued tokens that could be used in payment for future drinks. When buying a round of drinks for friends, the bartender would give a token to those patrons already having a drink, and collect the full sum from the round-buyer. The owner would collect the money immediately, and the drinkers would have a token for later use. As the token cost less to produce than the value of the drink, there was a significant profit to the bar owner. Sometimes, drinkers would take the token home, and forget to bring them back — which was pure profit. This has been cited as the reason bar owners loved tokens, and they were found in virtually every drinking establishment. Tokens were also used as change where the price of the drink was odd. For example, in frontier America, drinks were two for 25¢, (or one bit, 12.5¢) each, thus tokens exist in one-bit denominations. Early tokens were usually made of brass or tin.

Thru the years it has been an Inn, a country store, and an ice cream parlor. In 1936 it was purchased by Emil and Otis Dohl and converted into a popular family-type restaurant, serving German and American Fare. 
Dohl's Morton House, 6401 Lincoln at Lehigh, just south of Dempster.

The original frame house, a then landmark in the northwest suburban community for more than half a century burned down in 1953. It was rebuilt and enlarged, opening on December 4, 1954.
Dohl's Morton House

The dining rooms just seem to go on and on. There are 3 rooms that seat about 25 people, each on the main floor. These could be closed into smaller spaces or opened up to accommodate a large crown. They were completely private for parties. Downstair was the warm and attractive Anchorage room, complete with a bar that could accommodate up to 125 persons. The main dining room could seat 275 diners.
Dohl's Morton House
Dohl's Morton House
Dohl's Morton House

When the Dohl family retired in 1968 the Morton House was sold to Ray Castro and Edison Dick and considerable remodeling was done. They left the name of the restaurant "The Morton House." 

In April of 1970, Dohl's Morton House was acquired by the famous Jacques French Restaurant, 900 N Michigan Avenue, Chicago. They kept the Dohl name.

In June 1972 the Hoffman Brothers, Kenneth & Howard, lifetime residents of Morton Grove, purchased the restaurant. In 1975, the Hoffman's remodeled the restaurant. Incidentally, as a Morton Grove fireman, Howard Hoffman was one of the men who fought the Morton House fire in 1953.
Hoffman's Morton House - Copper Hooded Fireplace Dining Room.

Hoffman's Morton House became famous for its tableside Chateaubriand service.

The 1973–1975 recession differed from many previous recessions where high unemployment and high inflation existed simultaneously and took about 5 years to recover. Restaurant operators began cutting corners to try to keep prices down. At the Morton House, it was soup or salad, not soup and salad.
Hoffman's Morton House, hosted the Fourth Annual Morton Grove Oktoberfest on September 17, 18, 19, and 24, 25, 26, of 1976. The flexible walls of a giant tent adjoining Hoffman's Morton House will shake with the nightly musical performances, Yodelers, sing-alongs, dancing, and more.

Howard Hoffman died at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston on July 17, 1985.

The restaurant property sold and the equipment and fixtures are auctioned off on March 7, 1991. It's the end of a 122-year legacy.

The Grand Opening of the new Morton House Condominiums happened on January 02, 1993. For $161,900 to $189,900 ($250.00 in 2021) you get a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, in-unit laundry, elevators, and heated parking.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. I remember the restaurant well. Family often went there for dinner.

  2. I remember it well. Our family LOVED this restaurant it was our special place..."chocolate cream pie" always a hapoy ending at our table. My Dad & Uncles liked to gather at the Bar before dinner�� Thanks for the hapoy memories.

  3. My grandfather was Kennth Hoffman - thank you for compiling this wonderful history!

    1. All the best to my fellow Glen View Club caddies Kenny and Lee. I still laugh about the time Kenny and I were shagging balls for trick shot artist Paul Hahn

  4. Our family often dined at this wonderful place staring the 1950s. I had a surprise 50th Anniversary for my folks there and it was an unforgettable experience with the fine staff and delicious cuisine. SOme many wonderful spots in Morton Grove are sadly forever gone.


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