Sunday, June 26, 2022

CHICAGO: The Hotel Langham Destroyed by Fire on Saturday Evening, March 21, 1885.

At 8:00 o'clock in the evening of March 21, 1885, fourteen fire engines poured water on the Hotel Langham, at the corner of Adams Street and Wabash Avenue, which was engulfed in flames. The fire originated in one of the tower rooms. At the time, the house's restaurant contained about 100 guests, who were at dinner, and as many more were in their rooms. The people in the restaurant had no problem getting out, but several persons in the upper rooms had very narrow escapes.

The fire spread with uncommon speed, and flames were bursting through the roof before a second alarm was rung. A general alarm was given half an hour after the broke out, but all the engines which could be brought couldn't get the fire under control. 

Mrs. Belknap, an elderly lady, committed suicide by jumping from the fourth story and landing in the alley. Subsequently, a cry was raised that the walls were falling and that Bullwinkle's Fire Insurance patrolmen were inside the building. A portion of the south wall was seen to totter, and it came down with a crash. 
Patrolman John Walsh
Two Bullwinkle's Fire Insurance patrol members barely escaped the tumbling bricks and falling timbers. Two others were pinned fast, but after strenuous efforts, were finally extricated. The legs of both men were severely bruised. Patrolmen Edward Jones, 30, and John Walsh, 32, are believed to have suffocated beneath the walls. 

Policeman Marks saw two domestics at one of the second-story windows after it was supposed all the guests had been rescued. He rushed up a burning staircase and a few moments later appeared, dragging out both women, who had been rendered unconscious by smoke inhalation.

The firemen never ceased their efforts to rescue the two missing patrolmen. In about four hours, they were found in the basement of the building next to the hotel. They were buried under broken flooring and fragments of the fallen wall. They were taken out alive and survived their injuries.

The escape of Mrs. J.A. Murray and the child was almost miraculous. The lady occupied a room on the fifth floor and was unaware of the danger until it was too late to attempt to descend the stairway. She reached the fire escape but at each floor found the hole in the grating too small to admit the passage of herself and her infant. Therefore she was compelled four times, with the flames swirling around her, to lay her baby on the platform, lower herself over the edge, and reach up for the baby. Mrs. Murray reached the ground without assistance and, a quarter of an hour afterward, had wholly recovered from the effects of her traumatic experience. 

The hotel was a total loss and was erected immediately after the great fire. While substantial looking on the outside, it had been called a fire trap. It was formerly known as the Burdick House, the Crawford, and finally, the Hotel Langham.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Negro owned Chicago repair and gunsmith shop, 1899.

The only Negro owned gunsmith shop in the U.S., in 1899, was located at 2933 South State Street, Chicago, Illinois.
The Negro owner is in front of the counter.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Mathon's Fish and Seafood Restaurant, Waukegan, Illinois.

Mathon's Seafood Restaurant was at 6 East Clayton Street in Waukegan, Illinois, at Lake Michigan's shoreline. Mathon's, owned by Mathon Kyritsis, was the only restaurant in Illinois operating their own fishing boats, gathering fresh fish daily for their restaurant. Personally, I loved the restaurant until the last couple of years before they closed. My favorite dishes were the fresh catch of the day, cooked on wood planks.

Fishing is a sport that many residents of Waukegan enjoy at the mile long pier. In it's heyday many residents would arrive in the early mornings of July and August to fish for perch, which were plentiful and always a success at local Friday fish fries.


Many people would see Mathon Kyritsis and his tug boat leave the harbor (4 to 5 am) for the early catch of the day. 


The fresh-caught fish was served at Mathon's restaurant, a block away from the lakefront next to a bait shop and the coal yards which were profitable ventures in their day.


The rail would bring people from other Lakeshore communities along the Sheridan road line to enjoy the fare at Mathon's restaurant. Always packed on Fridays. Residents of the harbor town, and persons that are not native Waukegans, have reported seeing ''the Mathon tugboat'' leaving the harbor in the early mornings and also seen by other boating and fishing enthusiasts.

The name of the tug is visible on the boat, white on a dark background. The tugboat whistle can be heard as the tug puts out to the lake waters to fish. When it vanishes quickly, some boaters and fishermen have reported it's quick disappearance to the local police, thinking that something had happened to the tug, since it vanishes so quickly. Sightings have been reported to the coast guard and local police, several times, over the years.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Herm's Palace vs. Big Herm's, Hot Dog Joints in Skokie, IL.

Herman Gelfond owned both Big Herm's and Big Herm's East (later changed to Herm's Palace, then Herm's Hot Dog Palace), across the street from each other, on Dempster Street, Skokie, Illinois. Herman died at 64 years old in 1986.


In 1974, Rick and Marla Shane bought Herm's Palace from the original owner. Since then, they have passed the daily duties of running the family business onto their sons, Scott and Craig Gelfond.

Is it a myth about the Gelfond brothers being in a feud causing them to split?

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Big Herm's vs. Herm's Palace, Hot Dog Joints in Skokie, IL.

Herman Gelfond owned both Big Herm's and Big Herm's East (later changed to Herm's Palace, then Herm's Hot Dog Palace), across the street from each other, on Dempster Street, Skokie, Illinois. Herman died at 64 years old in 1986.
In 1974, Rick and Marla Shane bought Herm's Palace from the original owner. Since then, they have passed the daily duties of running the family business onto their sons, Scott and Craig Gelfond.

Is it a myth about the Gelfond brothers being in a feud causing them to split?

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

President Lincoln signed Proclamation 102; a call for help in protecting Washington, D.C., on June 15, 1863.

Throughout June 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was on the move. He had pulled his army from its position along the Rappahannock River around Fredericksburg, Virginia, and set out on the road to Pennsylvania. Lee and the Confederate leadership decided to try a second invasion of the North to take pressure off Virginia and to seize the initiative against the Army of the Potomac. The first invasion was on September 17, 1862, but failed when the Federals fought Lee’s army to a standstill at the ‘Battle of Antietam’ aka ‘The battle of Sharpsburg’ in Maryland.

Lee later divided his army and sent the regiments toward the Shenandoah Valley, using the Blue Ridge Mountains as a screen. After the Confederates took Winchester, Virginia, on June 14, they were situated on the Potomac River, seemingly in a position to move on Washington, D.C. Lincoln did not know it, but Lee had no intention of attacking Washington. Lincoln knew that the Rebel army was moving en masse and that Union troops could not be sure about the Confederates’ location.

On June 15, Lincoln made an emergency call for 100,000 troops from the state militias of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia. Although the troops were not needed, and the call could not be fulfilled in such a short time, it indicated how little the Union authorities knew of Lee’s movements and how vulnerable they thought the Federal capital was.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.



By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Whereas the armed insurrectionary combinations now existing in several of the States are threatening to make inroads into the States of Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, requiring immediately an additional military force for the service of the United States:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy thereof and of the militia of the several States when called into actual service, do hereby call into the service of the United States 100,000 militia from the States following, namely: From the State of Maryland, 10,000; from the State of Pennsylvania, 50,000; from the State of Ohio, 30,000; from the State of West Virginia, 10,000—to be mustered into the service of the United States forthwith and to serve for the period of six months from the date of such muster into said service, unless sooner discharged; to be mustered in as infantry, artillery, and cavalry, in proportions which will be made known through the War Department, which Department will also designate the several places of rendezvous. These militias are to be organized according to the rules and regulations of the volunteer service and such orders as may hereafter be issued. The States aforesaid will be respectively credited under the enrollment act for the militia services rendered under this proclamation.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 15th day of June, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States.

By the President:


Friday, June 10, 2022

A Primer About Illinois Highways & Routes.

Illinois was an early leader in providing a numbered highway system. First authorized in 1918, only Wisconsin preceded Illinois, and only by a few months. Michigan followed soon after that.

The original Illinois state highways were simply numbered in order of origination and consisted of little more than numbers placed on poles of existing trails. Before that, important routes had names, such as the "National Home Trails" or the "National Road." 

It wasn't until 1926 that a nationwide system was established. In the first 20-25 years of the 20th Century, several "Auto Routes" or "Trails" were marked by private auto and bicycle clubs and civic organizations. These Trails were inefficient because the roads were routed to and through the towns or businesses that paid to be included on the route.

In 1918 the state legislature let a series of bonds that paid for individual highways between city pairs. While some roads already existed partly, this was the first time an organized road system was built in Illinois. The 1918 "State Bond Issue Routes (SBI)(SBI 1 thru 46) were laid out in somewhat of a regional pattern. SBI 1, 2, and 3 were N-S roads that ran pretty much the length of the state, 4 was a diagonal road from Chicago to St. Louis, and Routes 5 thru 20 were E-W roads throughout the state. The rest (21-46) mainly were connector or regional roads of some importance.

Later, in 1924, another set of bonds was issued, from 47 thru 185. These were used for fill-in routes, connectors, and roads to satisfy local politicians to ensure that every community was well served. As the bonds were let and purchased, the roads were built, and the State Bond Issue number was used to designate the road. The first Illinois Route Marker was a simple state outline with the 1 or 2-digit number inside. There was also a batch of lettered routes, mostly "A" but a couple "B's" and "C's" and one set of "N" and "S" roads. These letters were added to the marker below the number. These letter appended routes were spurs from the main road; the N-S roads were on opposite sides of a local river.
Soon it became necessary to reroute roads, change numbers and add new ones. While the SBI numbers remained the backbone of the route numbering system, there were enough changes to split it into two systems. The SBI numbers were retained as an inventory of roads initially financed from them. While keeping many SBI numbers, the State highway numbering system evolved, grew, and eventually retracted.

Neighboring states also had their numbering systems. While Wisconsin preceded Illinois by a few months, other Midwest states followed suit and established procedures. Michigan followed Illinois in short order, and Indiana was not far behind.

It took the Feds a few years to get into the act. By 1926 many states had their own systems, and occasionally state numbers crossed over the border and were retained by the next state. Most of the time, however, a route that crossed state lines usually changed numbers as it did. The state highway departments and the US Department of Transportation (then called the Federal Highway Administration) cooperated on a standard numbering system that we now know as US Highways. It was referred to as Interstate highways, not to be confused with the modern-day Interstate Highway System. The US Route System is not a federally built, financed, or controlled system, and it is merely a standard numbering system for specific state highways.

US Routes appeared on Illinois roads in 1927 after being approved by the state in 1926. They first appeared on official Illinois maps in 1928. 

Since Illinois and other Midwest states already had an excellent (for the times) paved road system, most US route numbers were just applied to existing State highways as additions to the existing state number. Some of the numbers were changed before posting, most notably US Route-66. Initially set to be US-60, it was altered before being published but not before many maps were printed.
In Illinois, several of the new US Routes were posted. US-66 replaced, for the most part, IL-4 from Chicago to St. Louis, US-40 replaced IL-11, US-30 replaced IL-6, and so on. Mainline US Routes in Illinois were US-6, 12, 14, 20, 24, 30, 32 (replaced mostly by 34), 36, 40, 41, 45, 50, 51, 52, 54, 60, 62 (60 and 62 were and are only in IL for a matter of blocks), 66 and 67. There were several 3-digit US routes, most of which did not survive the 1930s. Illinois probably had more 2-digit US routes than any other state with 21. While US-66 is gone and a couple has been contracted (most notably US-54), the rest remain where they were.

Over the next decade, the redundant state numbers mainly were removed from the newly minted US highways. Other roads were renumbered by extending a different route number to replace a shorter route. It was not uncommon for state numbers to be reused after they were pulled. Later some state highway numbers were changed to avoid conflicts with newer US and Interstate numbers. For example, in 1941, IL-20 was changed to IL-120 since US-20 was built a few miles to the south. The original IL-120 in the Mason City area was changed to IL-119 in 1937 as that road was extended. In turn, that became US-136 in 1956.
On Harlem Avenue near Irving Park Road in Chicago, there was a Rt 42A sign with the route number within an outline of the state. These signs were around in the 1950s and perhaps into the early 1970s. The Rt 42A signs were eventually replaced by square Illinois Rt 43 signs.

In the 1950s, the Interstates were being planned. Now known as the Eisenhower Interstate System, Illinois was a nexus for these new super-highways. While there were already several controlled access roads around the state, including parts of the Illinois Tollway system, most of the Interstates were newly built. Mostly, they replaced US highways, I-55 replaced US-66, I-94 replaced US-41, I-70 replaced US-40, etc. Except for US-66, the US route usually remained on the old road, but most traffic moved to the new facilities.
Two-digit Interstate numbers denote main routes, with even numbers running East-West, and odd numbers running North-South. This rule is not absolute; look at I-94 in Illinois. While I-94 runs N-S in Illinois, it runs East-West in the US as a whole.

Three-digit Interstates are 'loops' (if the first digit is 2,4,6,or 8) or 'spurs' (first digit 1,3,5,7,9) of the main route.

After the Interstate system was nominally complete in the early 1970s, the state cleaned up the route systems and shortened many numbered routes, both US and State. This "Great Purge" removed irrelevant numbers by shrinking the numbered routes or dropping some numbers altogether.

The state route numbers and their history played a big part in the regulated trucking industry. Before being deregulated in the 1970s and 80s, companies were given the right to serve specific areas and use specific roads to get there. The route they served would not change if the highway's number did, so they had to know what roads existed to maintain compliance. The Central Motor Freight Association held an extensive list of the routes in Illinois to assist their members in abiding by their regulated routes.

Unlike Wisconsin, Illinois did not have a coordinated County road system. While many counties use the "National Association of Counties (NACo)" pentagram marked and numbering system, this is a more recent development over the last 20 years.
In the larger metro areas, county roads usually are named and fairly indistinguishable from local roads. Many county roads are named in rural regions on geographic terms, with numbers such as 200N or 450E. These indicate hundredths of a mile from the county line in the direction noted. CR 200N would be an E-W road about 2 miles north of the county line, and CR 450E would be an N-S road 4.5 miles east of the county line. Obviously, most of these numbers would change from county to county.
The NACo system uses letters and numbers, with the lowest designators being in the far NE corner of the state (for E-W roads) and the SW corner of the state (for N-S roads). Lake County, for example, has route 1A, as could any other county on the far north edge of the state. Some counties that use the blue pentagram marker do not use the NACo numbering system; instead, they use whatever numbers they elect.

SUGGESTED EARLY ILLINOIS ROADS & TRAVEL ARTICLES IN THIS JOURNAL.
Illinois Highways Page
Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Monday, June 6, 2022

John R. Hughes, Murder Victim - Podcast

Tackling the 1976 Chicago murder of John R. Hughes. The cold case should have been an easy case to solve — but instead, it became a puzzle that baffled authorities for decades.

There was a dust-up between Italian and Irish teens at a party. Nothing unusual about that, in those neighborhoods of old feuds. “The Italians and the Irish. Bridgeport and Canaryville. Oil and water. It went back as far as anyone could recall,” Jeff Coen, a Tribune editor writes. “It was the same with their fathers and in prior generations.”

These feuds usually erupted in the form of fisticuffs but not on this night, as some from a house party gathered in a neighborhood park to cool off. A green car cruised by and a shot was fired. It hit a 17-year-old named John R. Hughes, the “tall, good-looking football player and member of the student council. … He had college on his mind. He was going places.”

The place he went that night, the last place he would ever go, was Mercy Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:20 am on May 15, 1976.

This one-hour audio story is a fascinating look into this cold case. I'm confident you'll enjoy this.

Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.