Klaus Department Store – Chicago’s Past

Klaus Department store was located on Milwaukee Avenue near Diversey in the Avondale neighborhood. Today, the Kay Shoe store is in the location where Klaus once stood. Klaus was kind of an upscale store compared to the nearby Goldblatt’s. It was like a small Marshall Field’s or Macy’s. I remember there were a lot of stairs right away when you entered the store. When I was growing up we lived a few blocks from the store and my mother and I would always walk there and shop. Those were some great times!

Photo from the 1960s

Photo today

Boulder Hill Playhouse

The Boulder Hill subdivision was developed by Don Dise in the early 1950s. Boulder Hill is an unincorporated area near Montgomery and Oswego Illinois . The Boulder Hill Playhouse was built on the former stock farm that was previously owned by John Bereman (described in my last post on The Bereman House). One of the largest barns of the former stock farm was developed into a playhouse that had a revolving stage. The revolving stage allowed for quick scenery changes and enabled three stages to be built at a time and rotated. It was a 500 seat theatre located right off Illinois 25/ River Street. The debut performance on June 5, 1958 was “Teahouse of the August Moon”, starring Boulder Hill residents Hal Anderson and Jack Goring and Oswego High School senior Rita Lantz. Other performances during that opening season were: “Janus”, “Darkening Shore”, “The Reluctant Debutante”, “I Found April”, “Ladies in Retirement”, and “See How They Run.” Shows generally ran every evening except Monday and Tuesday during the summer season. People came from all around the Chicagoland area to see the plays. They used local talent and it was a very popular place for entertainment, often playing to a full house. The playhouse is no longer in existence. It was destroyed by fire in 1967.

The Bereman House – Montgomery Illinois

The Bereman House is located on Fox Mead Circle in Montgomery Illinois in The Reserve subdivision of Season’s Ridge. The house was built in the colonial style in 1905 by John Bereman. The house really stands out in the area because the rest of the homes in the subdivision were built in the 1990s. The house sits on a hill overlooking the Fox River from Route 25 (River Road).

The Bereman estate consisted of hundreds of acres of farmland. It was called the Boulder Hill stock farm. It contained farms and parks where deer roamed and a private golf course. They were famous for their thoroughbred draft horses and prize cattle.

John Bereman made his fortune manufacturing and selling freckle cream, also known as vanishing cream. Freckle cream was very popular at the time, because during Victorian times ladies wanted to have flawless even skin-tone.

Developer Don L. Dise bought the stock farm in the early 1950s to develop the Boulder Hill Subdivision.

Today, the Boulder Hill subdivision is a large unincorporated subdivision between Oswego and Montgomery, east of the Fox River. There is a street named Bereman Road after John Bereman and the Bereman family. However, the house itself sits in The Reserve subdidivion of Montgomery across the way.

Below are some photos of The Bereman House in the early 1900s and today.

Back of the house in the early 1900s
Front of the house today
Back of the house today

The Aurora Roundhouse

The Aurora Illinois Roundhouse opened in 1856. It is located at 205 North Broadway (adjoining the Aurora BNSF Train Station). It was designed by architect Levi Hull Waterhouse and built with limestone from Batavia. At the time it opened it was a railroad car building and repair shop owned and operated by the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad. At completion it had a total of 40 stalls forming a complete circle. In 1925 the original Roundhouse was replaced by a more modern Roundhouse that remained in service until the 1970s. In 1995 the Roundhouse was bought by an investing group that included former Chicago Bear Walter Payton. They transformed the roundhouse into a brewing company, entertainment venue and Walter Payton museum. In 2011 it was sold to craft brewer, Two Brothers Brewing. It now operates as a brewery, pub and restaurant and is connected to the Aurora BNSF Metra Station.

The building is the oldest limestone roundhouse in the United States and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the first railroad to provide a link between Chicago and the Mississippi River. The Pullman Hotel Car was built at the Roundhouse in 1866. The Roundhouse had a profound effect on the development of Aurora into the second largest city in Illinois. It was the largest employer in the area. In 1857 about 350 people worked there. About 250 locomatives were produced there from 1871 – 1910.

Harry Alshuler House – Aurora Circa 1891

The Harry Alshuler House is located at 142 South Lincoln Street in Aurora Illinois. It is a historic home located in the City of Aurora’s Near Eastside Historic District. It was built in 1891 in the Queen Anne gable style.

The Alshuler family: Harry, Charles and Louis established Alshuler Brothers Clothing Store in Aurora in 1885. It was the first store in Aurora to have electric lighting.

Harry Alshuler later became a Director at First National Bank.

The house is beautifully preserved and maintained. It’s important to note that the City of Aurora provides grants for the repair of designated historic properties.

St. Hyacinth Basilica – Chicago

St. Hyacinth Basilica is a Roman Catholic church located at 3636 West Wolfram Street in the Avondale neighborhood in Chicago. It is a member of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. It was founded in 1894 by The Congregation of the Resurrection. It is dedicated to Hyacinth of Poland. It was dedicated October 16, 1921. Since the time it was dedicated St. Hyacinth served a primarily Polish immigrant population in Avondale, known as Jackowo.

St. Hyacinth church was designed and built by architects Worthmann and Steinbach as a basilica in the Classical Revival style. It is an example of the “Polish Cathedral Style” of churches because of its grandiose beauty and large size. Its ornate interior is of the Baroque style and has paintings by renowned artists Zukotynski and Stanisia. Renovation of the interior started in the 1990s and has largely been completed with some work still being done. What I like the most about St. Hyacinth’s is that everything there has meaning. It all symbolizes something important and is preserved. It is too much to mention it all here, but one example is the 121 relics of the Saints of the Catholic Church that are viewable on All Saints Day. And something that is viewable at any time is the dome mural of over 150 saints, clergy and laity. And of course the beautiful stained glass windows prepared by Meyer Co. of Munich Germany and later ones by the Zettler Co. of New York.

The church also has a beautiful courtyard with statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary with Jesus as a boy. There is also a separate area outside that has monuments to Pope John Paul II, Father Jerzy Popieluszko and memorials to parishioners who served in the Blue Army during World War I. It is called the “Garden of Memory.”

Since it is a center for the Polish population in Chicago, St. Hyacinth’s has been visited by prominent leaders of the church, as well as politicians reaching out to Polish Americans. Former President of Poland Lech Walesa attended. Pope John Paul II attended prior to becoming Pope and President George H.W. Bush attended as Vice President and while campaigning for President. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has also spoken there.

I hope you enjoy the photos of this beautiful church as much as I enjoyed visiting the church. Seeing the care that was taken to preserve this beautiful church and its artifacts gave new meaning to my life.

Farnsworth House – Plano Illinois

Farnsworth House was designed and constructed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe between 1945 and 1951. It’s located in Plano Illinois in a rural setting right by the Fox River. The steel and glass house was built in the International and Modernist style. 

The floor to ceiling glass design of the house opens the interior to the beauty of its natural surroundings and becomes one with nature. The minimalist design of the interior and furnishings add to this openess. 

It was commissioned by and built for Dr. Edith Farnsworth who was the original owner of the property. She used it as a retreat away from the city. In 1972 the property was sold to Peter Palumbo; an art collector. While he owned the property he had a sculpture garden on the grounds, which includede antique phone booths (these are shown in one of the photos below). 

In December 2003 the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Landmark Illinois purchased the property and it is now operated as a house museum open to the public through tours. The Farnsworth House is listed in the National Register and was designated a National Historic Landmark. I enjoyed the tour of the Farnsworth House in Winter, but also vowed to return in Spring when the tulips and other flowers will be in bloom!

*Note – Thanks to Denny for the old black and white photos.

Block 37 – Chicago

Block 37 located at 108 N. State St. is more than just a mall. It is called Block 37, because that was it’s designated number as one of the original blocks of the City of Chicago going back to 1829 when the survey and plat of the town of Chicago was developed. 

The block has a long history dating back to pre Chicago fire with many changes along the way. Initially it was home to one of Chicago’s largest theaters; then tall office buildings in the rest of the 19th century; then by 1970 it had 11 buildings including theaters, offices and retailers. 

Block 37 was largely demolished by the city in 1989 in order to build a multi-use skyscraper. The skyscraper was never built due to funding and other issues and Block 37 was an almost completely vacant city block from 1989 through 2005. Gallery37 operated there in 1991. It was a part of the After School Matters. 

Today Block 37 is a shopping mall and urban shopping, entertainment and dining experience second to none! It offers AMC Dine-in Theatres, Latinicity Food Hall, First Ascent Climbing and Fitness and stores such as the Disney Store, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Zara, and Sephora just to name a few.  

Block 37 is definitely a shopping, entertainment and dining experience that shouldn’t be missed!