Paul Adlaf, the Society’s past president, was recently presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce. The following quote by Jean Vanier, a philosopher and social innovator, reminds me of how Paul has led the Park Ridge Historical Society for many years:
“Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but, in fact, do little. Others do a lot but don’t talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.”
Paul has quietly championed many of the projects that we are so proud of, including the restoration of the Park Ridge Post Office mural, the C-54 wartime oral history project, the “Spirits of Old Park Ridge” cemetery walks, as well as numerous other events that have provided opportunities for Park Ridge residents to learn more about the accomplishments and heritage of the people of Park Ridge.
But his most important achievement, and the one that is most important to us right now, has been his vision of the Society creating the Park Ridge History Center in the Hannah Solomon Cottage on the grounds of the new Prospect Park (formerly, The Youth Campus). The History Center will be a place for preserving the stories of our history, for display of artifacts and exhibits, and to facilitate continuing research into Park Ridge history.
Per our agreement with the Park Ridge Park District, members of our Board are currently meeting regularly with their staff and the Park District’s architects to prepare construction drawings that will be used to request bids for the work that will be necessary to bring the Solomon Cottage back to life. Once the costs of construction are known and both parties agree on the financial viability of the project, we hope that the long awaited improvements to the Cottage will begin later this year.
Only through the generosity of many people, and the deep pockets of a few, have we been able to consider undertaking this project. However, we will have to expand our fundraising efforts and ask our existing supporters to dig a little deeper, if we are to successfully complete our mission.
It is our number one goal to make the Park Ridge History Center a reality. We appreciate your patience and support as we draw nearer to finally having a permanent home in Park Ridge. We will keep you updated on our progress and look forward to your continued support of our ongoing programs and Society operations.
Kirke Machon, President Park Ridge Historical Society
Since the last report on the Solomon Cottage project, the Board has moved forward on rehabilitation plans. Last fall we entered into an agreement with the Park District for architectural services using their firm, FGM Architects. Since then, Society representatives have met with the District and FGM three times to work out details of the design for the Cottage and general budget for the project. Once the plans are completed, they must be approved by both the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency for historical compliance and the City of Park Ridge for the building permit. When these approvals are granted, the Society will begin the rehabilitation phase of the project.
The general concept of the renovation plan is to retain as much of the original character of the interior of the Solomon Cottage as possible. With this in mind, the parlor, the dormitory, and the center entry hall (which are located on the west side of the building) will be largely retained in their existing configuration. The front porch will be rehabilitated and a new, more historically accurate front door added. The existing windows will be repaired, when necessary, and repainted. Inside, along the east facing portion of the cottage, a new kitchen, bathroom and storage room will be added, along with a small office area for Society use. A handicapped accessible entry to the cottage will be constructed on the east side. New flooring will be installed throughout the residence. Finally, the partial basement will be upgraded to accommodate a storage space for the Society’s holdings and collections.
The renovated Solomon Cottage will create a new space for the Historical Society, including meetings, lectures, special displays, and permanent exhibits. These ideas and plans have taken much longer to come to fruition than we all anticipated. But we now are able to envision a new home for the Society in a newly rehabilitated, historic structure. We thank the Society and community friends for their patience and support of the long-awaited Park Ridge History Center during these years.
Randy Derifield, Society Trustee
The new Prospect Park will always be a historic park, known to many of us as home for many years to the Youth Campus. As the Park District celebrates the opening of Prospect Park on Saturday, May 28, Park Ridge Historical Society members will have “tours” available of the new park. Three of the historic cottages remain, and you will learn about those and all the cottages that were once part of the Youth Campus – a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Please check our website, www.pennyville.org, for the most up-to-date information on this and other upcoming events.
Patricia Adlaf, Society Secretary
Past President (and current Trustee) Paul Adlaf received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce “Community Stars”
celebration on Saturday night, February 20. Paul’s many contributions to the Society were already lauded in current President Kirke Machon’s comments on the front page of this newsletter. Paul, who also serves on the Heritage Committee and the Historic Preservation Commission, received a standing ovation during the presentation. He credited his many mentors along the way and gave special thanks to his wife, Pat (Society Secretary Patricia Adlaf), who has frequently worked at his side on many historic community projects. Congratulations, Paul!
Also honored that night and receiving a Community Star award was the Spirit of ’45 Committee, which included two Society members, Jennifer Briggs, and Vice-President John Murphy. John played a large role in organizing the Wartime Memories Project, which culminated in the documentary produced by the Society and Maine Township High School District 207, featured in our last newsletter. Additional information on this project can be found at our website, www.pennyville.org.
The Park Ridge Herald-Advocate’s weekly “Shout Out” feature recently introduced lifelong Park Ridge resident, business owner and former alderman Kirke
Sears’ Julius Rosenwald’s gift to his friend, Hannah Solomon, enabled her efforts to create the Illinois Industrial School for Girls, which would eventually become the Park Ridge Youth Campus. Kirke expressed his desire to continue the Society’s efforts to work with the Park District to create the Society’s History Center in the cottage named after Hannah Solomon.
Nancy Pytel, Society Trustee
One hundred six years ago on this date we became a city, and residents elected Albert J. Buchheit the first Mayor of the new City of Park Ridge.
Albert J. Buchheit, our first mayor, was born in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1876. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, he studied dentistry, both in Chicago and at Leipzig University in Germany. He opened his first office on Main Street in Park Ridge in 1905 and later built the Buchheit Building on Vine Avenue to house his practice.
Dr. Buchheit defeated William Malone in the first City election on May 24, 1910, receiving 272 votes to Malone’s 246 votes. During his term of office, he signed ordinances to build our first Public Library, to establish a house numbering system of addresses, and to install fire alarm boxes on street corners.
Dr. Buchheit lived to the age of 91 years in his Park Ridge home and is buried in the Town of Maine Cemetery. Paul Adlaf, Society Trustee
One of the most popular stories in Park Ridge in 2015 according to the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate featured another PRHS Trustee, Brian Lazzaro, who became involved in digging out what was rumored to be an Indian burial mound. In Brian’s own words, here’s the story of “what lies beneath”:
I was asked to write some reflections on the “Indian Mound” for this edition of the Lamppost for the members of the PRHS. Jennifer Johnson, author of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article, “Dig unearths truth behind Park Ridge ‘burial mound,’” did a wonderful job covering the original story. Jennifer’s article was featured as one of the most visited local news stories of the year. Proof that people are interested in local history!
Thanks to the people that helped in this project. My neighbor, Otto Kohler, was the first person that made me aware of the potential “Indian Mound” in the backyard of the Arbo residence on North Prospect Avenue, adjoining the Park Ridge Country Club. Periodically, Otto shares early stories of Park Ridge with me, and this one in particular had piqued my interest. Prior to Otto pinpointing the address for me, I had noticed that some decades-old maps of Park Ridge also marked a location by the Park Ridge Country Club as “Indian mound” but I never knew precisely where. Since I have worked on several archeological digs in Colorado and Texas, I knew I needed to get to the bottom of it, so to speak, and thus began my letter writing to the Arbo family last year.
John Arbo answered my original letter and was very excited at the prospect of solving this 75-year-old mystery. He is now a great friend and shared his early recollections of growing up in Park Ridge with me. Another neighbor of mine, John Morell, former Park Ridge City Forester, came out and identified and gave us an estimate of the age of the trees on top of the mound. John’s help was very much appreciated. He told us that the largest tree was well over one hundred years old (likely to be 140-150 years old by measuring its diameter.) These three trees are so old that they stand above the current tree canopy, and I was once even able to see them from the window of an airplane as I was flying east out of Chicago. Due to the age of the trees, there was no way this mound was constructed at the time of the original Arbo bungalow house construction at about 1920.
With John Arbo’s permission and encouragement, I dug a test unit in another part of the yard seven meters off of the mound, in search of any clues or artifacts. We did not want to disturb the mound itself for the chance that it was an authentic Native American burial mound, as such must not be disturbed without satisfying state-mandated protocols. What I was trying to do was establish enough evidence to attempt to have a qualified professional archaeologist come out to help us. I dug a one-meter by one-meter test pit straight down through the prairie soil centimeter by centimeter. In this test pit, I found bits of Euro-American china throughout the top 10 centimeters. At the very bottom of the prairie soil, I found three distinct Native American artifacts – flint chips, or flakes derived from the process of making arrowheads – sitting right on top of the clay layer. This made sense to me as such artifacts will often collect at the top of the impermeable clay layer. As a layman, I thought to myself, this has to be a Native American burial mound since they were relatively close to the mound itself.
Then in early October, 2014, the Park Ridge Country Club stepped in and hired a professional team to survey the mound and the immediate surrounding area. Their team included Kevin McGowan, Ph.D., Director of the Public Service Archeology and Architecture Program at the University of Illinois in Champaign. When I showed my artifacts to Dr. McGowan during his visit to the mound, he confirmed these were indeed Native American artifacts, but cautioned that the flakes still did not prove the origin of the mound. Native Americans lived on this land for thousands of years and artifacts can essentially be found all over. Kevin displayed a map of the local area dating back to the late 19th century. Prior to the Country Club and prior to the Arbo residence, this land belonged to the Robb family. And before the Robb family farm, this land was designated on a map as “prairie.” He said it would be highly unlikely that a Native American burial mound would be found on the open prairie.
In test pits the team made off of the mound, Kevin found lots of pieces of pink china, blue-and-white china, and green and brown glass. He estimated that they were consistent with Civil War-era china and glassware. When Dr. McGowan started digging in the mound itself, the soil was completely different: sandy, and with no rocks or bits of modern or early Euro-American trash. A silence fell over all of us as we knew this soil was indeed different and significant. Kevin stopped digging at this point and brought in another archaeologist who was a soil expert. She came out the next day and, after 20 minutes of core testing, was able to tell us that this was not a Native American burial mound. She basically determined that the first landowners, likely the Robb family, had dumped a pile of clean sandy soil on top of the original black virgin prairie soil of Park Ridge. And on top of this mound they purposely planted four King Pines, historically revered for their straight timber. These trees grow so straight and tall that they were often used for ship masts.
This is an example of one of the tokens from the 1920’s that was found on the Arbo property during excavations. Peter M. Hoffman was the Cook County Coroner during the Eastland Disaster and former President of Des Plaines.
Although we had no idea that the article in the Herald-Advocate would be one of the most read local articles of the year, I am not surprised that the public is curious about history and about “what lies beneath.” We humans are curious creatures, and we are always asking questions and trying to answer questions. In the end, the scientists’ hypotheses were found to be correct. The mound was not a Native American mound but an early Euro-American mound likely constructed over 150 years ago! Kevin McGowan remarked that in our Park Ridge landscape, most of the Native American villages, burial mounds, and artifacts were to be found in the Des Plaines river valley.
So, ever curious, my kids and I took advantage of an unseasonably warm February day this year and went for a hike along the bike and walking trail along the Des Plaines river north of Touhy. The stretch of trail that we were walking had been shown on 19th century maps to be the site of a former Native American village. Sure enough, as the winter snows had melted away, there on the mud walking path were dozens of little Native American artifacts: pink, white, and bluish gray pieces of flint littered all along the walking path. These artifacts are the leftover flakes from when Native Americans were crafting arrowheads and other stone tools. There, beneath our feet, was evidence of peoples of long ago. History can be found all around us. Whether you have big questions, little questions, are interested in recent history, or pre-history from long ago, I hope you look to the Park Ridge Historical Society to satisfy your curiosities!
Special thanks to Paul & Pat Adlaf who were big supporters during the entire mound project, and to the Park Ridge Country Club for their desire to “get to the bottom” of this mystery, once and for all.
Brian Lazzaro, Society Trustee
Pleasant weather and a steady stream of nearly 200 visitors enjoyed the annual Town of Maine cemetery walk on Saturday, September 26. Six adults joined Maine South students in portraying 20 “spirits,” gave brief talks about themselves and their lives in Park Ridge, standing next to their final resting places at the cemetery. The historic residents included early settlers, farmers, and business people; the first school teacher in Maine Township; the town doctor, several mayors and other political figures, and even a major league ballplayer!
We thank our many volunteers who organized and staffed the event and worked behind the scenes to make it a success, especially the students who did an amazing job of bringing to life our historical past and for showing the community that ‘history is alive’ at the Cemetery. For information about the 2016 cemetery walk, please visit our website at www.pennyville.org.
Nancy Pytel, Society Trustee SPIRITS
The Society’s Annual Meeting was held on Sunday, October 18, 2015 at the Park Ridge Country Club. As part of the business meeting, President Paul Adlaf gave an overview of our past year’s activities and the following Board of Trustees was elected:
President: Kirke Machon
Vice President: John Murphy
Secretary: Patricia Adlaf
Treasurer: Robert Machon
Trustees: Paul Adlaf, Gary Briars, Jeff Caudill, Ralph Cincinelli, Maureen Connelly, Randy Derifield, Brian Kidd, Daniel Koziol, Brian Lazzaro, and Nancy Pytel.
Incoming President Kirke Machon updated the attendees on the Society’s continuing efforts to arrive at an agreement with the Park District for the lease of the Solomon Cottage. Guest speaker, Joseph Schwieterman, professor in the School of Public Service and Director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University, gave a presentation based upon his book, Terminal Town, tracing the history of Chicago’s train, bus and airport terminals from 1939 to the present.
Gail and Tom Wise of Park Ridge brought a very special guest to the Annual Meeting, a 1965 sky blue Mustang convertible. Gail has officially been recognized as the first purchaser of a Mustang convertible on April 15, 1964, prior to her marriage. For years it served as a family car used by the couple and their four children; then it sat in the garage for 27 years awaiting restoration, which Tom began in 2006 and completed in 2007.
Society Vice President John Murphy presented the Wise’s with a “History Makers Award,” and they, in turn, presented the Society with an authentic 1964 Illinois license plate framed with a photo of the restored car, which has been added to the Society’s permanent collection.
Nancy Pytel, Society Trustee
Last September, the Park Ridge Historical Society sponsored a Bike Hike event, a 90-minute ride through the town focusing on historic catalogue or kit homes from companies like Sears, Montgomery Ward, and the Harris Brothers. During their leisurely ride, participants learned not only about the different styles of houses but also learned