Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Birchwood Country Club, Chicago's other Rogers Park/West Ridge community golf club.

Most people of a certain age remember West Ridge’s only golf club at Western Avenue and Pratt Boulevard (now in Warren Park and named the Robert A. Black Golf Course). For the first few years of its life, it was located in Edgewater and was called the Edgewater Golf Club.

But, the Rogers Park community had another golf club, although no one living today remembers it or even knew it ever existed. It was the Birchwood Country Club and was always within the Rogers Park community.

Unlike the Edgewater Golf Club, it had a short life, from Wednesday, July 4, 1906 until perhaps 1913. A group of residents opened the Birchwood Country Club with membership initially limited to 100 individuals living in the Birchwood Beach area.
The clubhouse shown in the photo looks more like a railroad depot than a typical clubhouse of the period, and sure enough it was—originally. A Friday, May 29, 1959, Chicago Tribune article recounts the recollections of Graham Jackson and confirms that the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway (known then as the “St. Paul”) donated the clubhouse to the club after it discontinued passenger service into Rogers Park in 1908 when the Northwestern Elevated Railroad’s line took over operation on the St. Paul’s trackage.
According to Mr. Jackson’s recollections the clubs nine-hole course and was located north of Rogers Avenue and south of Calvary Cemetery near Sheridan Road. Jackson, along with his father, Walter L. Jackson, jointly won the Pater-Filius alternative shot event in 1910 at the club. Graham Jackson recounted that Sheridan Road ran between the first and second holes and wasn’t much of a road back then. 
The Birchwood Country Club, Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.
The Birchwood Country Club, Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.
The Birchwood Country Club, Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.
According to Jackson, “The first hole started at about where is now Rogers Avenue and Sheridan Road and went north. The third tee must have been about where the gas station was [since replaced by townhouses], and the fairway ran west, following the curve of the cemetery to form a dogleg. It was known, then, as the Devil’s Elbow.” According to Jackson, the members of the golf club had an opportunity to buy the land from the owner from whom it was leased but declined because they thought the price was too high--$600 an acre. 
Charles E. “Chick” Evans was first exposed to golf as a
caddie at a Chicago course, the Edgewater Golf Club.
In the Tribune article, Chick Evans, a nationally known golfer affiliated with the Edgewater Golf Club, confirmed Jackson’s recollections and added that the Edgewater Club considered purchasing the Birchwood Club in 1910, but purchased the land at Pratt Boulevard and Western Avenue instead.
Birch Forest, Rogers park, Chicago. 1900
Jackson remembered plentiful strands of white birch trees—which, not surprisingly, gave its name and the name of the subdivision to the south, Birchwood Beach.

North Shore School, 1217 W. Chase Avenue, Chicago, began life as the Birchwood Country Club.
Sometime after 1913, the building became a Montessori Boarding School which housed about 10 boys and 10 girls. It is unclear if non-boarding students attended also.

Gathered from online comments: The library was full of obscure children's books from the 1940s. There was a manual bowling lane in the dining hall. Boarding students went to a local stable for weekly horseback riding lessons, but because it was a privilege, only the weeks model students were allowed to go. The end of the school year meant a trip to Lincoln Park Zoo.

The North Shore School was raized in March of 2008 to make way for a condo-building.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Harris Brothers Company (Kit Homes) & Chicago House Wrecking Company, 35th and Iron Streets, Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago House Wrecking Company was founded as an architectural salvage company in 1892 and incorporated in 1893. For many years, and through two World's Fairs, the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, the company bid and successfully removed the salvage materials from a number of sites... a highly profitable endeavor.
The Chicago House Wrecking Company No. 84, from the 1910 catalog is identified by the bay windows on the first and second floors and the shed dormer over the porch. This house is located at: 1318 South 7th Avenue, Maywood, Illinois.
From 1908 to 1920, there was an overlap in operations between Chicago House Wrecking Company and Harris Brothers Company. In 1910, the Chicago House Wrecking Company offered its first book of plans, which is noted in the the Catalog of Copyright Entries for January-December 1910 in the Library of Congress. 

In 1912, Harris Bros. began selling plans and offering with them a list of building materials, though at that time the houses were not pre-cut. (The competition among like-minded lumber dealers was intense and each was jumping on the innovations of its competitors.) 

By 1918, Harris Brothers Company had established themselves with "The Harris Way" and its distinguishing details which included liberal terms and "money back for waste" as well as other unconditional guarantees. 

Like other companies, Harris offered a service to produce "special plans to order," which meant that they would take a customer's sketches and create plans to their specifications. Customers ordering in sufficient quantity could negotiate cut-to-fit manufacturing as well, "when houses are ordered in quanities, sufficiently large to warrant" production.

Most of the Midwest kit home manufacturers, 
Aladdin, Sears, Montgomery Ward (meeting their demand for kit homes, subcontracted the manufacturing to Gordon Van Tine and sold kit homes from about 1921 to 1931), Lustron, and others delivered their products regionally, so the vast majority of the homes designed and manufactured by Harris are found in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan though testimonials shown in the catalog range from builders as far flung as Maine to Kansas.
"Presto-Up," was Harris Bros. patented, bolt-together houses, garages and barns etc.
"Presto-Up," was Harris Bros. patented, bolt-together houses, garages and barns etc.
Though the history of Harris Brothers remains murky, a quotation from the 1920 catalog distances the operations Harris Brothers from the Chicago House Wrecking Company:
"In our earlier career we were incorporated under the name of the Chicago House Wrecking Company. For years we were known to the public, under this name, as the Bargain Mart of the world, but as time passed we were, by reason of the great savings made on new lumber and mill-work materials purchased for customers, forced into the new material business and we realized that the old name gave the wrong impression. Millions of dollars have been spent by us to acquaint the buying public with the old name, still the four Harris Brothers, the men who built this great institution decided that their best interests demanded a change of name that would not mislead. Remember we furnish new material only."
Harris Brothers expaned, opening the Harris Millwork plant at 1349-1451 W. 35th Street, Chicago, which was on 25 acres, housing their plant, warehouse and offices for the company.
After filing for bankruptcy in 1933-34, the company reincorporated as "Iron Street Lumber Company."

In 1947, Iron Street Lumber Company, by then a large construction company, purchased Silcrest Window Manufacturing Company. The company remained in business until 1960, producing doors and windows from their plant in Wausau, Wisconsin. Silcrest became Harris-Crestline Corp. in 1960 after the company as sold. Sentry Insurance Company bought the Harris-Crestline Corp. in 1981.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

1913 Chicago House Wrecking Company - Book of Plans.