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Friday, June 17, 2011

Cycling in America


I'm a big fan of professional cycling and am gearing up (get it?) for the 98th Tour de France (July 2 - 24).

In the spirit of cycling season, I'd like to share some bicycle images from the museum's collections.


A young man with his high-wheel bicycle in Lake Forest, circa 1880. LCDM 75.24.1.g

The front wheel of these unusual bicycles became larger as makers realized that the larger the wheel, the faster you could travel.


The high-wheel bicycle enjoyed a great popularity among young men of means (they cost an average worker six month's pay). They were extremely popular in the 1880s, despite being dangerous to ride. Glass negative, Lake County location unknown, circa 1880. LCDM 93.32.146


The next innovation in cycling (shown above) allowed the rider to travel at a speed the same as the huge high-wheel bicycles. The bicycles still had the hard rubber tires, but did not have the long, shock-absorbing spokes of the high-wheel bikes, making the ride much more uncomfortable. Glass negative, Lake County location unknown, circa 1890. LCDM 93.32.111.


Bicycling was one of the few activities during the late 19th century for which women could wear trouser-style garments. Though it is difficult to tell in this photograph (above), these women may be wearing "divided skirts" that were designed for mobility as well as modesty. Photo, circa 1885. LCDM


Real photo postcard of John Hesse at St. John's Place, Farnsworth Farm north of Wauconda, 1909. LCDM 98.11.4.

"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." - H.G. Wells.


"Deborah and Tom" students of the Swan School in Fremont Township, 1952. LCDM 93.6.19.

The kid's bike (shown above) was introduced after the First World War by several manufacturers, including Mead, Sears Roebuck, and Montgomery Ward, and Schwinn slightly later. These bikes revitalized the bike industry and featured fabulous automobile and motorcycle elements. By the mid-1950s, kid's bikes had taken on design elements of jet aircraft and rockets, but became much simpler in design by the 1960s.


"Safety Class at Fort Sheridan, October 10, 1965." Sergeant George Stacey of the 204th Military Police Company shows members of a Fort Sheridan Girl Scout Troop how to affix reflector-type safety tape to their bicycles. The distribution of the safety-tape is part of a bike safety class given to youth groups by members of the military police company. U.S. Army photo by SP-5 Parzych. LCDM 92.24.731


"Bicycle Marathon Preparation, September 25, 1970." Almer Schmidt checks brakes in preparation for the bicycle marathon to be held at Fort Sheridan, 16-17 October. U.S. Army photo by SP-5 Wells. LCDM 92.24.744.

Good luck to all the cyclists, professional and recreational. Stay safe!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church


Immaculate Conception Church in Waukegan is one of the oldest parishes in northern Illinois. The church was founded by Irish immigrants to Lake County as St. Anne's parish in Shields Township in 1841, and then as St. Mary's in Little Fort in 1844.

In 1843, Michael Dulanty (1799-1886), originally of County Tipperary, Ireland, purchased two lots in Little Fort (now Waukegan) for the new church site. Dulanty was acting under the advice of Reverend J. Geurin who was ministering in Shields Township to Catholics in Lake County. Interestingly, Dulanty was the best-known early tavern and hotel owner in Lake County. His first establishment, a stage relay station and tavern, was located on Green Bay Road between Highland Park and Highwood and was known as the Centerville Inn. In 1844, Dulanty sold this inn and his family's 120-acre homestead and moved to Little Fort, no doubt to take advantage of the booming business in the new county seat and to be closer to his parish's new church.

Despite popular belief, Dulanty did not donate the two lots, but rather sold them to the Catholic bishop of Chicago for the establishment of a church on September 2, 1844. The land was located at the northwest corner of County and Water Streets. The land record of the transaction shows the name of the church as St. John's, however, all subsequent records list the church's name as St. Mary's.

The first clergyman sent from Chicago to minister to the new parish and to commence the construction of the church was Reverend B. McGorisk. The church was completed in 1847.


St. Mary's (Irish) Catholic Church was 62 feet in length by 36 feet wide, the walls 18 feet high and the steeple an additional 80 feet high. St. Mary's, the first Catholic Church in Waukegan, located at County and Water Streets, circa 1898. The rectory for the priest was built in 1849. LCDM photo.


Altar in the original St. Mary's Catholic Church constructed in 1847. LCDM photo, circa 1900.

The parish was renamed St. Bernard by 1854. In 1857 a school was established. The church and school were enlarged around 1859. In 1864, the parish was named Immaculate Conception.

Early pastors included Rev. Bernard McGarish, Rev. John Brady, Rev. Henry Coyle (started the first parish school), and Rev. Michael Donohue (enlarged the school). Rev. Edward A. Gavin was pastor for 55 years beginning in 1871. Rev. Francis Shea, pastor from 1926-1966, oversaw the construction of the parish's second church, which still stands at Grand Avenue and West Street. After Rev. Shea's retirement, Rev. Patrick Ronayne became pastor.

In 1927, plans were underway to build a new, larger church, closer to the center of Waukegan's growth. Reverend Shea undertook the monumental task of choosing a site, getting the land purchased, and helping the parish raise $250,000 for the new church.


Postcard of Immaculate Conception Church by the L.L. Cook Company, circa 1945. LCDM 92.27.240.1

Architect, Joe McCarthy, designed a Georgian Colonial structure, closely resembling the style of the first church. The design was significant in that it is considered very American, and not typical for a Roman Catholic Church. The church's spire stands 158 feet, and at the time, was the tallest structure in Waukegan. The bell from the first church was placed in the new church's spire.


Color postcard view of Immaculate Conception Church, rectory and school, circa 1974. Photo by Henry Brueckner for Color-View Inc. LCDM 97.23.12.

The first Mass in the new church was celebrated by Rev. Francis Shea, December 8, 1929, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The church was dedicated on May 11, 1930 by George Cardinal Mundelein, Archbishop of Chicago. Cardinal Mundelein had taken a personal interest in Waukegan having one of the finest churches in the diocese.

The church has 16 Corinthian columns of marble in various hues, wrought bronze fixtures, and crystal chandeliers. A hand carved American walnut reredos framed the main altar.

Above the altar is a large mosaic reproduction of Bartolom̩ Murillo's (1617 Р1683) Baroque masterpiece, Immaculate Conception of the Venerable Ones (1678). The image at right is of Murillo's work and not the church's mosaic.




The school remained open at the original site until 1955, when a new school building was dedicated at Grand Avenue. View of the Grand Avenue school location (above), circa 1960.

Immaculate Conception, or I.C. as locals call it, was my parish and school growing up. I have very fond memories of my grade school years there, and going to Mass in what I considered the most beautiful church in the world.

In recent years, the church and school have been consolidated as the Most Blessed Trinity Catholic Churches of Immaculate Conception, Queen of Peace, and Holy Family, and the Academy of Our Lady School.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Mineola Hotel - The Lady of the Lakes


In recent months, there has been talk of razing the legendary Mineola Hotel in Fox Lake. This would be a terrible loss for Lake County's heritage.



Mineola Hotel, 1913 (LCDM 96.12.2)

For those not familiar with the grand dame, the Mineola is located at 91 N. Cora Avenue, Fox Lake, and was built in 1884 by Members of the Chicago Board of Trade. At the time, the Chain o' Lakes had a booming resort industry, due largely to increased access to the area by train. In 1882, the Wisconsin Central (later Soo Line) Railroad opened.

The 100-room hotel boasted of hot and cold running water, a beautiful natural setting, boating, fishing and hunting opportunities, all for the affordable rate of $2 and up per day. It is believed the hotel's veranda was designed by Alphonse Howe & Charles Caskey, the architects of the famed Grand Hotel on Michigan's Mackinac Island. The hotel was built as a private clubhouse for Chicago’s elite, but by 1891 it had been sold to Edson C. Howard, who remodeled it into a public hotel.


View of Fox Lake shoreline and the Mineola Hotel, circa1910 (LCDM 2002.12.3)

As early as the 1910s, Fox Lake was known for its drinking and gambling establishments. The Chicago Tribune reported it was “…worse than in the levee districts of the city.” The situation in Fox Lake was in part due to Chicago’s efforts to “clean up” its own vice districts, which caused those districts to re-settle in the suburbs. The newspaper article added, “Probably the most vicious resort is the Mineola Hotel. All of the hotels are supplied with slot machines.”

During Prohibition (1920-1933), the lakes region became a notorious hangout for Chicago mobsters. The Mineola was reportedly a hideaway for Al Capone (1899-1947) and his gang, who could freely gamble and drink the nights away.


Reverse side of Mineola Hotel postcard, circa 1910. "I am up here for a week. Nice place and I'm having a good time. H. T. Webb." (LCDM 2002.12.3)

In 1943, the Mineola was purchased by the Jakstas Family, who have owned it ever since. The family has fended off the bulldozers many times through the decades. One scare came in 1953, when a hotel guest set a fire on the third floor, which luckily was contained.

A decline in tourism in the early 1960s made it difficult to keep the business going, and by 1969, the Jakstas's were prepared to demolish the hotel, going so far as to sell off the original furniture. Mrs. Emma Jakstas was quoted by the Chicago Tribune, February 23, 1969: "We regret tearing down the hotel, but it is a real tinder box... It would be too expensive to remodel this mammoth place."

Peter and Emma Jakstas's son, Peter, was convinced the family should keep the building. They closed off the hotel portion to the public, but kept open the first floor restaurant and bar, and second floor banquet facility.

The Mineola is 225 feet long and four stories high, and is considered the largest wooden structure in Illinois. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The Register is the nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation, and is administered by the National Park Service.


Aerial view of Mineola Hotel and surrounding property, circa 1935 (LCDM 92.27.53)

Though it's been the dream of the Jakstas family to fully restore the building those efforts have been met with mixed success and much difficulty. After 68 years in the family's ownership, Pete Jakstas is considering retirement and the sale of the hotel, marina and surrounding 17-acres.