In 1959, my parents moved from Rogers Park to Lincolnwood, a quiet Chicago suburb with a current population of about 12,697 people. My dad broke the mold of all his physician friends, many of whom moved from Hyde Park or South Shore to North Shore suburbs such as Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, and Highland Park. They all thought he was a little nuts for choosing this somewhat obscure, unassuming village. However, he had the last laugh because Lincolnwood is an easy commute to North Michigan Avenue, where nearly all of them practiced and my dad has since 1958 – and still does part-time at age 93!
My dad could have bought a house in the Lincolnwood Towers, famous for its extravagant Christmas decorations. Back in 1959, there were very few if any Jewish families living in the Towers, so instead he opted for a house in the Lincolnwood Terrace section just east of the Towers. My dad loves recounting the story of live reindeer with a manned sleigh that graced one homeowner’s front lawn when they first moved to Lincolnwood! Actress Barbara Eden lived in the Towers briefly when she was married from 1977-1983 to Charles Fegert, a Chicago Sun-Times advertising executive.
Lincolnwood is just a stone’s throw away from Chicago – Sauganash and Edgebrook are the lovely communities closest to where I grew up, near Pratt and Cicero. When I went to college on the East Coast, nobody heard of Lincolnwood, however, when I mentioned Skokie and Evanston, that elicited a glimmer of recognition. I wrote before about Lincoln Village, which was just over the border in Chicago on Lincoln Avenue between Kimball and Kedzie and the adjacent Hollywood Kiddieland. I discuss both beloved places later in this blog.
A Short History
Incorporated as Tessville in 1911 by 359 residents, the village was a rough and tumble place in its early days. During Prohibition, Tessville became a haven for speakeasies and gambling facilities and this didn’t change until Henry Proesel was elected mayor in 1931. Proesel made huge changes such as planting 10,000 elm trees on village streets (many of which have succumbed to Dutch elm disease) and limiting the number of liquor licenses allowable within the village limits. Tessville officially became Lincolnwood 5 years later in 1936 and Proesel enjoyed a 46-year run as mayor, earning himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. I went to grade school with one of his grandsons, Ed.
The park where I spent much of my youth is called Henry A. Proesel Park. The water park section wasn’t there when I grew up, but I fondly remember basking in the sun with my friends when I was in junior high school and high school. I’ll never forget when Bart Connor showed up with his Lincolnwood pals and did spectacular flips off the diving board.
Once Upon a Time in Lincolnwood
While most of the stores and businesses from my childhood are now just memories, it is reassuring Bunny Hutch and Novelty Golf & Games are still in business! Here is a brief picture history of businesses that existed before my parents moved to Lincolnwood, followed by a few I clearly remember from my youth. Unfortunately, despite scouring several great internet sources, I could not uncover photos of my little corner grocery store, North Shore Food Market, where I spent every cent I earned on candy bars, nor Van Zeelt’s Lawn and Garden, which was just around the corner from North Shore on Cicero Avenue.
South Seas was around in 1944, 15 years before my parents moved to Lincolnwood. It was located at Lincoln and Pratt and offered nightly dancing and specialties including aged steaks and milk-fed chicken. For those who love Tiki bars, it must have been awesome with its painted murals of beach scenes and palm trees behind the bar, bamboo around the front of the bar, and fish nets and floats on the ceiling in the dining area. The matchbook is pretty risqué for its time!
According to the ebay seller, Yellowstone existed in the 1930s to 1940s. Obviously it would have to be 1936 or later since that is when Tessville became Lincolnwood. I couldn’t find any other details about this establishment.
My parents have no recollection of this super cool drive-in, so it was obviously defunct by the time they moved to Lincolnwood in 1959. It looks pretty darn cool – this place likely existed in the 1940s, but I couldn’t locate the exact dates nor anything else. I don’t know if it was still around on December 20, 1951 when the Edens Expressway opened with exit and entrance ramps at Touhy just west of Cicero.
Given the address and name, this must be the same restaurant as Allgauer’s Fireside, although this postcard is dated 1945 on the back. In 1951, this restaurant was definitely Allgauer’s Fireside, also called Allgauer’s and Allgauer Restaurants – perhaps it was owned by somebody else in the 1940s.
Gustave Allgauer built his reputation with 2-pound lobsters and oversize prime steaks. The Lincolnwood location is quite infamous due to a presumed mob hit which burnt the restaurant to the ground. Two masked gunmen entered the popular restaurant on May 13, 1958. While one hoodlum stood guard over a night crew of seven porters and bus boys, the other drenched the interior of the restaurant with gasoline, draped the tables and chairs with rolls of toilet paper, and set the place on fire. Damage to the restaurant amounted to about $1,400,000 and the crime was never solved. Allgauer’s on the Riverfront restaurants operate today in Hilton Hotels in Alsip, Lisle, and Northbrook.
The House of Pierre was at the same intersection as Allgauer’s Fireside, however, it must have been on a different corner since The Fireside was definitely around in 1945. I love how Lincolnwood is defined as “Outskirts N.W. of Chicago” on the menu cover. Back then it was likely way off the beaten path for most Chicagoans. The only thing I could find was an unsavory news item from January 1950. Apparently, suspected members of a gang had been preying on many fashionable Chicago area night spots. James Ziedman, a 26-year-old man from Chicago was shot twice and fatally wounded when he attempted to flee officers questioning him outside The House of Pierre. What is it about this location – it seemed to be cursed?!
The Purple Hotel
No trip down Lincolnwood memory lane is complete without a mention of the Lincolnwood Hyatt house, aka the Purple Hotel. Hyatt House-Chicago broke ground in January 1961 at the corner of Lincoln and Touhy, the former site of Allgauer’s Fireside restaurant. In the 1960s-1970s, the hotel was a swinging Chicago hot spot where Barry Manilow, Roberta Flack, and Perry Como among others stayed when performing in the Chicago area. In 1981 when I married my first husband, several out-of-town relatives stayed at the Lincolnwood Hyatt House.
The grisly, unsolved murder of Teamster Allen Dorfman in the parking lot on January 20, 1983 spelled the beginning of the end for this once swanky hotel. Dorfman was convicted of conspiring to bribe a U.S. senator and faced up to 55 years in prison. He was shot eight times with a .22 caliber pistol and FBI wiretaps revealed the Chicago Mafia may have been connected to his execution-style murder. Although the case was never solved, it was speculated Dorfman was killed out of fear that he would divulge information related to his longtime ties to organized crime. The same year, Oscar Gerber, owner of Gerber Plumbing on Lincoln was murdered at the hotel by a mentally ill employee. The hotel had one last claim to fame when a young basketball player named Michael Jordan stayed there on his first visit to Chicago in 1984.
In 2004, Village Resorts, Inc. assumed management of the hotel and dubbed it the Purple Hotel. Despite fully renovated and tastefully furnished guest rooms, the hotel had a rep for sleaze. The Lincolnwood Police frequently busted patrons on prostitution and drug-related charges and the hotel hosted sex parties and sleazy conventions. In 2006, an inspection turned up more than 30 violations such as a leaking roof, garbage disposal issues, a failure to exterminate insects and rodents, and moldy rooms. Unable to cover the cost of renovations, the hotel was ordered to close in January 2007. It took more than 6 years for the hotel to be demolished in August 2013. Purple bricks from the hotel are still being sold on ebay.
Other Defunct Businesses
Some Lincolnwood businesses bit the dust recently like Whistlers on Devon, Myron & Phil Steakhouse on Devon, and Kow Kow at Pratt and Cicero, however, this blog is primarily devoted to more vintage memories.
Novak’s was apparently a classy restaurant with live entertainment, as noted in this Chicago Tribune article. I have no recollection of Novak’s whatsoever, likely because my family never ate there. Lou Malnati bought the property from the former owner of Novak’s Chicken in the Rough when it closed in the early 1970s. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria has been at this location since 1971 and is wildly popular with a cult-like following!
It was either gutsy or foolhardy to establish a pizza restaurant less than a block away (at 6717 N. Lincoln) from the venerable Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria at 6649 N. Lincoln! A Renaldi’s restaurant still exists on Broadway in the Lakeview area, although I am not certain it is the same owner.
The Kenilworth Inn was an independently owned restaurant at 7110 N. Lincoln at Kostner, just north of Proesel Park. In 1979, Lettuce Entertain You Founder Rich Melman opened Bones at this location. I remember going to Bones once, but my parents preferred Carson’s Ribs in Skokie. According to Melman, he decided to change-up Bones and open up L. Woods due to declining sales and an aging clientele. We have been to L. Woods several times, but when we celebrated my mom’s birthday there 3 years ago, we were disappointed with the ambience and food.
Pedian Carpet’s flagship location at 6535 N. Lincoln boasted this tacky but cool roadside architecture sign. According to their website, they are in Highland Park and have served Chicagoland for more than 100 years. In 2005, the Lincolnwood showroom received very poor marks from a trade publication.
I have vivid memories of the Doral Restaurant sign, but we never ate there. The popular, lively restaurant Psistaria Greek Taverna was established at this location by the Bournas family in 2005. I am pretty certain the Doral went out of business and sat empty for quite a few years prior to that.
Located on Devon about one block west of McCormick, The Milk Pail was a perennial family favorite. They had an excellent deli department with delicacies my dad loved, such as pickled lox and smoked trout. I particularly liked going to The Milk Pail in high school because a lot of cute guys I grew up with worked there. When I was married to my first husband, he worked with a woman who was married to the owner – this was around 1990, if I recall correctly. By then, the only Milk Pail still in business was in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Lincoln Village Shopping Center
I have incredibly fond memories of Lincoln Village Shopping Center, just east of Lincolnwood at the intersections of Devon, Lincoln and McCormick.
When I was in grade school, we shopped at a cool ma & pa children’s department store called Howard Juvenile. When I was in junior high, I loved a gift shop called Harmony Hall that sold all sorts of gag gifts, Mad Libs, limited art supplies, greeting cards, and other nifty things. My dad was a stereophile before it was a fad and loved buying expensive gadgets at Devon Audio, which was right near Harmony Hall. Of course we adored shopping at Wieboldt’s and I have fond memories of getting little gifts with S&H Green Stamps in the basement. Hit Or Miss was one of the first off-price discount stores long before the existence of Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Ross, or Nordstrom Rack. Even though it was more miss than hit, it was fun shopping there. The National grocery story in the above picture predated the Treasure Island grocery store that I remember.
Bronson Coles Photography Studio
My close friend Joan worked at Fannie May in Lincoln Village and told me about a help wanted sign posted next door at Bronson Coles Studios looking for a photo retoucher. The studio was located approximately to the left of the rear end of the Honda Civic in the below picture.
I was very lucky to get a job as a high school junior retouching wedding and Bar Mitzvah photos – back in the day when this was done with tiny brushes and dyes! I graduated early from Niles West in January 1976, so I was able to work at the studio full time until I went off to college. In one of those serendipity moments, the darkroom technician Dennis left to start his own studio in Park Ridge, so I was promoted to his position. I worked at the studio full time until I went off to RISD and then every summer during college. Joan and I would meet in the scary communal basement bathroom when we were on breaks. In retrospect, this was a darn good job for a kid who always loved photography, moreover, everyone I worked with was super nice! Sadly, the entire Bronson family passed away – my former boss Robert Bronson in February 2014 and his lovely wife Jane just 12 days later. They were preceded in death by their son Dr. Darryl Bronson, a prominent dermatologist who passed away in September 2012, and daughter Corinne Bronson-Adatto, a well-known dietician who passed away about 2 weeks before her father.
In 1949, Louis Klatzco, his wife, and older son Richard opened Hollywood Kiddieland, on the northwest side of Lincoln Village Shopping Center. When their son Buddy returned from the Korean War, he established Hollywood Miniature Golf next to Kiddieland. In 1955, the five Acciari brothers bought Hollywood Kiddieland from the Klatzcos. Their purchase included 18 rides and concession stands. They added an arcade in 1958.
In the mid-1960s, the Klatzco family bought Novelty Golf & Games and the Bunny Hutch at 3650 W. Devon in Lincolnwood, which are both still in business. I went to Kiddieland as a little kid at least once every season. My favorite ride was the Little Dipper roller coaster, pictured above – the subtle drops and few curve spins on that ride were enjoyable. My favorite Kiddieland memory involves the batting cages and a sweet boy named Jim who I dated for a few months our junior year in high school. I was not supposed to be there so we had to crouch down in this little booth to avoid getting in trouble. I’ll never forget kissing Jim in this cramped booth with the distinctive sound of baseballs hitting wooden bats providing a unique “musical” interlude to our sloppy, innocent kisses. Sadly, Kiddieland was razed in 1975, but I will always have those sweet memories of youth and stolen puppy love kisses.
A Little Farther Afield
Due to its close proximity and the fact that my parents lived in Rogers Park prior to Lincolnwood, we often shopped on Devon Avenue. Two bakeries from my youth still exist – Tel Aviv and Levinson’s. The Red Hot Ranch was really just a shack, but the hot dogs on poppy seed buns and the crispy, greasy fries were to die for.
Just east of McCormick and Lincoln Village on Devon was a lighted baseball stadium called Thillens. When I was on a Lincolnwood Girls Softball Team during high school, we played one night game in this stadium. WGN-TV televised youth league games from Thillens, pioneering the use of the center field camera there back in the mid-1950s, about the same time the iconic baseball was installed. The Thillens family established the stadium in 1938 and in 2005, donated it to the City of Chicago. While it is listed online as being in Chicago, I think it is actually within Lincolnwood borders. The cool baseball started crumbling and actually became more of an eyesore over the years – it was removed in June 2013, much to the dismay of grown ups like me who played in the beloved stadium in their youth.
Just to the east of Thillens was a super cool, Art Deco diner. I am not certain if this is officially in Lincolnwood or in West Rogers Park – hard to tell on an online map. My mom and I ate at the counter several times after I graduated from high school and once or twice before it was torn down when I was in college. It was a greasy spoon but they had very good burgers and fries and the architecture was classic. There was a bus terminal nearby and of course, the stadium, which must have sustained it for awhile. I vividly remember the lone waitress who served us – a gruff, tough blonde with a heart of gold.
A quaint neighborhood of Chicago just west of the Lincolnwood Towers, Edgebrook was home to several fun businesses during my childhood. Joan and I would ride our bikes there during their annual summer sidewalk sales. Among my favorites was Charles Value-Ville on the south side of Devon – a sign in the back alley still exists as an artifact of this long defunct business. Cut Rate Toys opened in this location a few years after they closed their flagship store in Rogers Park.
On the northwest corner of Devon was Lockwood Castle. While their food was mediocre, they were known for spectacular fountain creations. The Giant Killer was a 24-scoop sundae topped with hot fudge, strawberry, marshmallow, caramel, cherries, wafers … and sparklers in a large glass bowl. If your group could eat it in one sitting, you were given a free one on your next visit. In retrospect, putting lit sparklers in soda fountain glasses … pretty dumb and unsafe, but the colorful crepe paper fans and umbrellas were very cool. I remember going here for my grandfather’s birthday in the mid 1960s.
When my childhood friend Myra and I were about 5-years-old, we walked by ourselves all the way to Touhy to a tiny toy store. This was on the south side so we didn’t have to cross the busy street. I cannot find anything about this store, so if anyone remembers it, please comment. Another vague memory is of a card shop and a small coffee shop on the east side of Cicero, just north of Devon. Don Koehler, a true life giant (he had a pituitary condition called acromegalic gigantism) was hanging out at the coffee shop while we were dining – I was about 5 or 6-years-old. While not as famous as the giant Diane Arbus photographed, Koehler was famous in his own right for being over 8 feet tall! Thank you to the readers who identified him by name – he lived in Rogers Park – not Lincolnwood, but perhaps he was a friend of the card shop and/or coffee shop owner.
Lincolnwood will always have a special place in my heart – if you feel the same way, share your memories. If you have vintage Lincolnwood photos you wish to share, please send me an email and I will consider adding them to this blog.
Click here to read The Village Once Called Tessville – Lincolnwood, Illinois Part 2.
Photo sources: ebay, Cinema Treasures, Illinois Digital Archives, Pinterest, 70sSkokie.blogspot.com, Thilllens, Yelp