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Friday, January 30, 2009

Tower Lakes


In June 1924, the Wauconda Leader newspaper called Tower Lakes "one of the most beautiful spots in northern Illinois."


The photograph became a colorized Curt Teich postcard in 1927 as shown below. Tower Lakes is located south of Wauconda on Route 59.


The new subdivision was the brainchild of Myron Detrick and William Brooks. Detrick was the president of the Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad (founded in 1911), and Brooks a local farmer and real estate developer. One thought is that Detrick was trying to drum up business for the PLZ&W RR, by selling cottages to potential commuters. Unfortunately for him, the railroad went out of business in 1924.

By all accounts, the location seemed perfect, but by 1926, the group sold the property to investors led

by businessman-lawyer, Nazareth Barsumian, an immigrant from Armenia. Barsumian first saw Tower Lakes in the fall of 1925, was captivated by its beauty, and realized its potential for development. He and his Evanston-based partners turned the property into a residential subdivision, naming it Tower Lakes Estates.

Barsumian put together a stunning binder of photographs promoting the subdivision, including the panorama above, and a series of "slice of life" photos including this boy and his collie dog with the text: "Hee-yah, Dog!" The photos transport the viewer to another time and place, filled with slow, lazy days by the water and a dog as faithful and intelligent as Lassie.

The development of the Tower Lakes Estates began slowly, but by the 1930s it formed a governing agency to oversee the growth. After Barsumian died in 1963, his wife and son completed the development of the area. In 1966, the community incorporated as the Village of Tower Lakes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Diamond Lake Winter Fun


Lifelong Diamond Lake resident, Gordon Ray (1893-1987), wrote in his 1980 autobiography that winters were great fun when he was a kid. "Outside of getting wood, and cutting ice and doing chores there wasn't too much work to worry about. Outdoor activities included skating, coasting on sleds, sleighriding, rabbit hunting and fishing through the ice."

Gordon took this photograph in 1908 of classmates from the Diamond Lake Grade School, during a short break from their tobbagan sledding fun.


Just two years previously, Gordon had spent his savings on a camera. He wrote: "That was a real thrill for a 13 year old boy, and I quickly learned how to take pictures, to develop the films, and to print my own pictures."

The same school chums covered in snow. No doubt hot chocolate was waiting for them when they got home that afternoon.

The Rays had a farm on the east shore of Diamond Lake. The family became widely known for the Ray Brothers Resort which operated from 1906 to 1946.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tripp School


The Tripp School in Vernon Township was located on the east side of Route 21, one mile north of Deerfield Road. It was located in this general location from the 1840s to 1979.

The original Tripp School was a log house built as a dwelling at the "back" of the Francis Tripp farm. The students sat on benches, the older children having a bench and a desk, and the heat source was a fireplace at one end of the building.

On August 15, 1848, Tripp sold a small portion of his land along Route 21 to the school district for $10.

Parents paid 50 cents per scholar/per term to send their children to the school. The teacher, generally female, was paid from this money.



In 1912, the school's frame building was lifted and a basement put under it, an entryway added and a furnace installed. The remodeled school is shown below in 1918.


Interior view of the Tripp School's classroom, 1918.


A map of Vernon Township was drawn by Tripp School students in 1918. The communities of Half Day, Prairie View and Aptakisic are shown, now all absorbed into Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove. The Tripp School is indicated at the bottom right. Note there are four other schools on the map, all within a few miles of each other.

In 1912, there were 92 one-room schools in the county. But by this time, the popularity of the “rural” schools was waning in favor of larger, more completely equipped schools with teachers specializing in subject areas rather than one teacher teaching all subject areas. Some of the one-room schools had as few as ten students, and it was considered cheaper to bus them a few miles down the road to the larger “central” schools than to maintain smaller, separate schools.

Seventh and eighth graders of the Tripp School, 1918, are from left to right: Ruth Rockenbach, Louis Steen, Lillian Seiler, Maudesse Nitzer, and Molly Seiler.

The Tripp School continued until 1957 when it was consolidated into Aptakisic-Tripp Elementary School District 102. For a time the historic building was used as an American Legion hall, but in 1978 it was scheduled to be burned for firefighting practice by the Vernon Fire Protection District.

Thankfully, a group of concerned local citizens rallied to save this chapter of their community's heritage. In 1979, the building was re-located by William Boyd and Phil Spinuzza, and is now being used as an antiques shop at the Sale Barn Square antiques center at 971 N. Milwaukee Avenue (Route 21) in Wheeling.

The history written and photographed by the Tripp School's scholars in 1918 and in the museum's collections is hosted at the Illinois Digital Archives: Tripp School Online

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Essanay Studios


One of the motion picture industries earliest studios, Essanay Studios, was co-founded by Waukegan man, George K. Spoor (1871-1953).

Spoor had co-managed the Phoenix Opera House in Waukegan, and from about 1895-1899 managed the business end of inventor Edward Amet's motion picture interests. In 1907, Spoor and cowboy actor/director “Broncho Billy” Anderson, opened Essanay Studios at 1333-45 W. Argyle Street in Chicago.

"Essanay" was the phonetic spelling of the founders' initials S & A, for Spoor and Anderson. The studio produced hundreds of films, featuring stars such as Francis X. Bushman, Beverly Bayne, Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin and Max Linder. The Studio's "Indian" head logo, seen in the photo below, was designed by Spoor's sister, Mary Louise. The photo shows the Studio's entrance on Argyle and an unknown starlet.


A collection of Essanay's lantern slides were donated to the Museum in 1964. They're a remarkable glimpse into early motion picture history, and the beginnings of American pop culture.



Francis X. Bushman (1883-1966) was one of Essanay's top stars. At the peak of his career, this matinee idol was described as the "Handsomest man in the world."


The slide above is for the 1915 film, “Graustark,” starring Francis X. Bushman and Beverly Bayne. Directed by Fred E. Wright, it was one of Essanay’s most popular movies. LCDM Dunlap Collection 64.32.5.1

Bushman was often photographed in profile for publicity stills to accentuate his good looks. He is also remembered for his role on CBS radio's soap opera "Those We Love" which aired from 1938-1945.


Another colorful lantern slide is from the 1916 film, “Vultures of Society,” directed by E.H. Calvert, and starring Lillian Drew and E.H. Calvert. Note the Essanay logo in this slide and others. LCDM Dunlap Collection 64.32.34

In 1917, W.S. Van Dyke directed “Land of Long Shadows,” starring Jack Gardner and Ruth King.LCDM Dunlap Collection 64.32.34


There were several Jack Gardner film stars, so it is sometimes difficult to credit the correct one. This one is possibly the stage actor who was married to popular actress, Louise Dresser. The "mountain man" attire looks stereotypical, but is perfect for this silent-era western. I also love the braided rug at his feet. Braided rugs were a pioneer development and a necessity of frontier living, making it an authentic prop for this movie. It is interesting to note that braided rugs were popularized as home decor with the Arts & Crafts Movement of the 1880s to 1910s, and would've been a familiar household accessory at the time the movie was made.

One of the more curious productions by Essanay, produced between late 1917 and February 1918, was an autobiographical film written by and starring, Mary MacLane. LCDM Dunlap Collection 64.32.10


I was initially drawn to this slide by its Arts and Crafts motif with the hand drawn pastoral landscape and floral border. After scanning and enlarging the slide, my attention shifted to the title of the film, "Men Who Have Made Love to Me."

For her day, Mary MacLane (1881-1929) was a controversial, feminist writer, and was considered “wild and out of control." The movie is now believed lost, so we can only wonder about its content though it was probably far less risquee than the title implies. A surviving cast list gives some insight with Mary MacLane as "Herself" and other character names such as: the callow youth, the bank clerk, the prize fighter, and the husband of another.

Essanay Studios relocated to California along with many other film studios around 1916, and went out of business about 1918.