December 18, 2010

The Hager Sisters and Uptown Chicago in the Late 1800s

Here's another great memory from reader Bill Matteson. Click the link at the bottom of the post that says "Memories from Readers" to read more of his letters to us.


The very last stop on my newspaper route was the Hager sisters at Winthrop Ave and Lawrence near the NW Corner. They were without a doubt the oldest people I knew, in and about 1944 I guessed them to be around 90. They were short and round and always tried to make me drink milk with the homemade cookies they gave me. I hate milk. But they were always good for a dime tip.

I complained about the freezing weather one particularly cold day. They told me I had never really experienced cold. Then came the history lesson.

In the days I believe before the Chicago Fire, at the site of the present Uptown Theater, was an old ramshackle frame structure that housed a tavern. People would wait for a mule-drawn conveyance that ran on tracks down Broadway. Men waited inside the saloon for the transportation, but no self-respecting woman would
ever go inside one. Regardless of the cold.

But these men were gentlemen and would build a council fire for the women to do a squaw dance around the fire to keep warm by. On the other side of Broadway was swamp that ran east to Kenmore Ave where the Lake proper started. Land fill came and the Lake was pushed back to where Clarendon Ave is. Hence the Clarendon Beach Bath House, later to become the Clarendon Field House and Teenage center where I used to hang out as an early teenager. More land fill pushed the lake back to its present position.

I loved those two old Ladies; they were the nicest people on my route. I moved out of the area when I was 16 in 1952. As far as I knew, they were never married and they were not twins.

I now am 75 years old and I think about those days a lot

Bill Matteson


Anonymous said...

The first conveyance that ran down a track on Broadway at Lawrence was an electrically powered trolley of the Chicago North Shore Street Ry Co. It began operations from Irving Park Rd into Evanston in June 1893. No mule or horse drawn vehicle ran down the tracks in regular service. However, there could have been if there had been a disruption to the electric power.

Joanne said...

In the 1880s a sort of roadhouse, Pop Morse's Gardens, operated at that location. It might have been the "saloon" mentioned by the Hager sisters. According to Jazz Age Chicago, it was "a well-known stopover for travelers and a popular destination for day-trippers from the city of Chicago." (Eventually it was bought out and the Green Mill Gardens built in its place.)

I imagine there must have been some sort of conveyance along Broadway (Evanston Ave.) prior to the electrified trolley service. Not long ago I saw a map of horse-drawn lines at the time of the 1893 Columbia Exposition; they were still fairly common and stretched up to Devon, at least along Clark. I'll try to find it and post the link.

If anyone has a good link to a site on horse- or mule-drawn conveyances in the area, I'd love to see it.


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