The Central Avenue “Nazi House”

When I was growing up on the Northwest Side in the 1960s, the two-flat at 4819 North Central Avenue was notorious among my friends.  That was the building with the swastika.  We called it the “Nazi House.”

We didn’t know that the swastika was an ancient symbol of good luck that the Nazis had appropriated.  The two-flat was from the 1920s, and had been built when Hitler was still a minor-league rabble-rouser.  Hardly anyone on this side of the Atlantic had heard of him or his party then.  Whoever had decided to put up this particular swastika likely had no political motives.

Today Confederate flags and other symbols of an unenlightened era are consigned to the junk heap.  I wonder what passers-by thought of the Central Avenue two-flat during World War II, when the United States was actively involved in a death-struggle against the Nazis?  Or did the owner of the building cover over the swastika until V-E Day?

I took the photo of the “Nazi House” when it was being torn down in 1974.  An apartment building now occupies the site.

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Then and Now, Jackson-Ashland

1955–Jackson Boulevard @ Ashland Boulevard, view west

2019–the same location

In the later 19th century this West Side neighborhood was home to many rich families with roots in Kentucky—Ashland Boulevard was named after Henry Clay’s estate in Lexington.  But by the 1950s, the area had gone into decline.  Most of the old mansions had been torn down or cut into smaller units.

Today the area around the onetime “Kentucky colony” is on the upswing.  There are boutique hotels and trendy restaurants.  The Illinois Medical Center has expanded into these blocks as well, with a pedestrian bridge spanning Jackson Boulevard to a new parking garage.

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Then and Now, Berkeley-43rd

1909–Berkeley Avenue @ 43rd Street, view north

2019–the same location

In 1909 this area of East 43rd Street in the Oakland neighborhood was recognized as a desirable location.  The Illinois Central Railroad and the Kenwood Branch of the South Side ‘L’ had stations nearby.  A few blocks to the east, there were Burnham Park and Lake Michigan.  The housing stock was solid, substantial, and pricey.

Oakland went into decline during the second half of the 20th century.  Though commuter trains no longer stop at 43rd Street, and the Kenwood ‘L’ is long gone, today the neighborhood has been reborn.  All the buildings in the 1909 photo have been replaced by newer structures—including the townhouses a block north, which mimic the style of their predecessors.

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Our Daley Bread

Today would have been Mayor Richard J. Daley’s 117th birthday.  In his honor, I’m posting an artifact from his last campaign, in 1975.  Here we have a recipe from the mayor’s wife, Eleanor “Sis” Daley.

The recipe is in a pocket-size 32-page booklet titled Shopping Tips—Compliments of Mayor Richard J. Daley.  It’s actually a pretty useful tool for your trip to the grocer.  There are tables of weights and measures, a guide to the amount of vegetables to buy based on the size of your family, as well as homey reminders to always shop from a list, check expiration dates, look for seasonal sales, and so on.

I must admit that our family never did try Mrs. Daley’s white bread recipe.  If anyone does do that baking and you like the result, please tell me—or better still, tell Rich Daley.

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Chicago’s First Mother’s Day (5-9-1909)

Chicago first celebrated Mother’s Day exactly 110 years ago—May 9, 1909.

The American version of Mother’s Day was started by Anna Jarvis, after the death of her own mother in 1905.  To honor all mothers, Jarvis asked people to wear white carnations on the second Sunday in May.  The first observances were held in Grafton, West Virginia, where the late Mrs. Jarvis had been a teacher.

Anna Jarvis

By 1908 Mother’s Day was being celebrated in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and a few other places.  Meanwhile, Jarvis worked to spread the holiday.  She sent pamphlets to women’s clubs in various cities, asking for help.

In Chicago, the Mother’s Day cause was taken up by Sarah Warrell.  On May 4, 1909, the Tribune ran a short interview in which she described the holiday.

Warrell called on ministers, teachers, and charitable institutions to get out the word.  Wearing the white carnation was the first step.  Then people should use the holiday for positive action, to help the aged, the sick, and the needy.  “If everyone in the city would volunteer to do what he could to observe the spirit of Mother’s Day, much happiness would result,” Warrell said.

May 9th came.  Men, women, and children were seen sporting the white carnation.  Some groups, like the YMCA and the Grand Army of the Republic, had enlisted their entire membership.  Pastors mentioned Mother’s Day in sermons, and in Oak Park, the First Presbyterian Church was filled with the symbolic flower.  Carnations were also distributed at various hospitals and orphanages.

With less than a week’s publicity, the first Chicago Mother’s Day was a great success.  During the next few years, the local movement grew.  In 1910 Governor Charles Deneen declared Mother’s Day a state holiday.  Not to be outdone by a Republican, Chicago’s Mayor Carter Harrison Jr. issued his own proclamation in 1911.

The holiday was a likely time to remind Chicagoans of the problems faced by single mothers—“illegal mothers,” as they were then called.  On Mother’s Day 1911, the St. Margaret Relief Society held a special meeting at the La Salle Hotel.  Single moms told their stories to an audience of 200 local club women, asking for help to maintain the “maternity home for dependent women.”

1912 Chicago newspaper ad

 Chicago’s 1912 Mother’s Day was the biggest one yet.  The holiday had become so popular that local florists ran out of carnations.  The Tribune published a special section in which prominent Chicagoans wrote about their mothers.  There was some talk about changing this first Sunday in May to a Parents’ Day—or maybe even having a separate Father’s Day.

Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation officially designating Mother’s Day as a national holiday.  We’ve been celebrating it ever since.

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Chicago Trivia Quiz #12–Answers

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1.  When was Mother’s Day first celebrated in Chicago?

(C) 1909

2.  What did Chicagoans wear to celebrate their mothers on that first Mother’s Day?

(B) white carnation

3. Who was the first recorded woman to become a mother in what is now Chicago?

(D) Suzanne Pelletier (Du Sable’s daughter—gave birth to daughter in 1796)

4. Why is Sophonisba Harrison a prominent Chicago mother?

(D) She was the first wife of a Chicago mayor to be the mother of a Chicago mayor.

(Carter Harrison Sr. and Carter Harrison Jr.) 

5. What is the “Mother Church” of Chicago’s Polish Catholics?

(B) St. Stanislaus Kostka

Chicago Trivia Quiz #12

5-8--mothers' day image.jpg

A Mother’s Day Chicago Trivia Quiz.  Answers posted at 5 PM!

1.  When was Mother’s Day first celebrated in Chicago?

(A) 1837

(B) 1893

(C) 1909

(D) 1921

2.  What did Chicagoans wear to celebrate their mothers on that first Mother’s Day?

(A) red rose

(B) white carnation

(C) tulip (any color)

(D) ribbon with mother’s name on it

3. Who was the first recorded woman to become a mother in what is now Chicago?

(A) Virginia Dare

(B) Therese Wabash

(C) Catherine DuSable

(D) Suzanne Pelletier

4. Why is Sophonisba Harrison a prominent Chicago mother?

(A) She bore the greatest number of children of any Chicago mother.

(B) She gave birth to triplets during the Great Fire of 1871.

(C) She was the only mother of a U.S. President born in Chicago.

(D) She was the first wife of a Chicago mayor to be the mother of a Chicago mayor.

5. What is the “Mother Church” of Chicago’s Polish Catholics?

(A) Old St. Mary’s

(B) St. Stanislaus Kostka

(C) St. John Cantius

(D) St. Hyacinth


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