August 20, 2017

Do you live in or near Hoffman Estates?

Are you interested in the ongoing history of your town?  Have you been to the Sunderlage Farm?










Have you seen the Sunderlage Farm smokehouse that is on the National Register of Historic Places?

Have you taken a tour of the Greve Cemetery?

If any of these sites interest you and you’d like to get involved, the Hoffman Estates Historic Sites Commission is looking for some enthusiastic volunteers to join their group.  Take a look at this video to find out more:

And, if you’re properly enticed, contact Sue Lessen at the Village of Hoffman Estates for additional information.  847-781-2606

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


August 13, 2017

This photo of Vincent Price and Carol Lawrence at the 1971 grand opening of Woodfield is part of the library’s archive.  From the beginning, my question was, “Why Vincent Price?”  It wasn’t until I mentioned it to another librarian and he began digging on his own, that we found the answer.

Vincent Price was an actor whose deep, distinctive voice lent itself to the multiple horror films for which he was predominantly known.  His more famous movies include The House On Haunted Hill, The House of Usher and Tales of Terror.  

In his off camera life however, Mr. Price was an avid collector of art and, in fact, had an art history degree from Yale University.  He was well known in the art world and in 1962, when Sears Roebuck & Co. decided to bring affordable art to the public, they tapped him to lead the program.  According to the Sears archive website,  Mr. Price “was given complete authority to acquire any works he considered worthy of selection.”

Over the years Mr. Price not only purchased many pieces of fine art for Sears, he also purchased entire collections and “even commissioned artists, including Salvador Dali, to do works specifically for the program.”  In addition, the Sears Vincent Price Gallery of Fine Art opened in Chicago in 1966.  

When Woodfield opened on September 9, 1971, it was named for General “Wood”, chairman of the board of directors at Sears, and Marshall “Field” of the similarly named Chicago department store.  It stands to reason that Sears, one of the first two main anchors of the mall, would have had significant input in the opening day festivities.  As a result, they brought in Vincent Price to be master of ceremonies for the day.

It didn’t stop there though.  Sears took advantage of his presence in the area and used him to develop a series of home decorating courses that were also held in the Woodfield store.  Additionally, they tapped into his other great love which was cooking.  Consequently, on September 9, he gave informative talks hourly from 9:30 to 2:30 on the subjects of art, gourmet cooking and home decorating.

Vincent Price was truly a Renaissance man and certainly enhanced the Woodfield opening day celebrations.  It would be interesting to know if there was a similar backstory for the presence of Carol Lawrence!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

A column from the September 10, 1971 Herald and an ad from the September 8, 1971 Herald assisted me in writing this blog posting.  

The photo of the imprint stamp originates from the superradnow.com blog.  We thank them for the use.  



August 6, 2017

The case began when I examined this wonderful photo that was taken by James Austin Bell whose local photos formulate the Stratford Farms collection donated by the Bell family.  This one room schoolhouse sat on the north side of Schaumburg Road, just west of Roselle.  It went by various names over the years.  Sarah’s Grove School.  Schween’s Grove School.  Schaumburg Centre Public School.  And, amazingly enough, the school still exists on the St. Peter Lutheran Church property.

The photo was taken around 1930 and shows us multiple aspects of the building that we weren’t aware of.  The playground on the west side of the building features a maypole swing.  Children would hold onto the boards, run in a circle and then lift up their feet to capture the feeling of flying through the air.  The multiple trees scattered around the schoolyard are a sure indication that shade was definitely appreciated in a school that wasn’t air-conditioned.  They also sheltered the separate boys and girl outhouses in the background.

The thing that really caught my eye, though, was the windows of the school.  You see, there is an earlier picture of the school from 1916–and it’s different.  Take a look for yourself.

Both photos give us the western perspective of the school.  In the 1916 photo, there are three windows.  In the 1930 photo there are five.  What happened?   Why would the school make such a dramatic change and what would propel them to do so?  And, did the same thing happen on the east side of the building?

Not having a clue, I touched base with LaVonne Presley who included histories of all of Schaumburg Township’s one-room schoolhouses in her book Schaumburg Of My Ancestors. We considered the possibility that maybe it wasn’t the same school in both photos–that maybe it was torn down and a new school was erected on the same spot.  But, that just didn’t seem likely.  Still puzzled, I decided to investigate later photos we have of the school that might indicate any possible clues.

This photo shows the school shortly after it was moved to the St. Peter property.  The east side of the building has two windows with awnings and a white door.  It appears, then, that the three original windows in the 1916 photo were likely kept but, at some point, a door took the place of one of the three.  It is my supposition that the door was added after the school closed when the building was used for business purposes.  (Also, you’ll notice an addition was added to the front and features two windows and a door.  This was done before the school closed as we have a photo from the 1940’s in our collection showing this arrangement.)

Fortunately, LaVonne didn’t let the window issue go either. She speaks regularly to a cousin who was involved in the rehabilitation of North Grove School in Sycamore.  According to her, they discovered during the renovation that Illinois dictated regulations on everything in schools from desks to heating to sanitation–including in one room schools.

Upon doing a bit of online research I discovered the 1917 Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for Illinois.  And, lo and behold, it addresses how Cook County Schools stipulated how the number of windows came to be changed from 3 to 5 on one side of the school.  It states:

“In buildings in use before July 1, 1915, all windows in the wall which the seated pupils face shall be permanently walled up so that no light may enter from that direction.  (This would have been the north wall in our school where, to the best of our knowledge, there never were any windows.)

If there are full length windows on the right of the seated children, the lower sash shall be shaded so as to completely shut out the light from that part.  (This would have been the east wall in our school.)

If this makes the light insufficient, additional windows shall be provided to the left.”

Case closed, mystery solved. At some point, in the 14-year time span between 1916 and 1930 (the dates of our photos), Cook County complied with the regulations.  They provided an allocation in their annual budget for the modification of the building from three windows to five on the west side.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to know who did the work?  And what year it actually occurred?

Interestingly enough, after the building was moved to its current location, another renovation was done.  As you can tell in this Daily Herald photo, five windows were added to the other side of the school to create a more symmetric building.  To view this nice touch of harmony, take a tour of the school on Labor Day weekend.  It will be open Saturday, Sunday and Monday (September 2-4, 2017) from 9-4.  The Schaumburg Township Historical Society would love to have you there.

The greater mystery, though, is why would Illinois request that windows in one room schools be shaded on one side?  How would closing the blinds on one side allow for more light in the building?  Wouldn’t this prevent cross ventilation in the warmer months?  Of course, on the other hand, it might have helped prevent cold air coming into the school in the winter when most schools were in session.    If you have any ideas, please add your comment or pass on an email to me.  It would be nice to get to the root of this issue!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

My thanks to LaVonne Presley and her cousin, Bernice, for sending me in the right direction to get this mystery solved.  It would have been tough without them!



August 5, 2017

Schaumburg Center schoolThe Schaumburg Township Historical Society will sponsor an open house of the Schaumburg Center School on Sunday, August 13, 2017.  The open house will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  The schoolhouse is located on the St. Peter Lutheran Church property.

Constructed in 1872–and first called Sarah’s Grove School, it is believed to have been the first of five public schools in Schaumburg Township. It was later renamed Schween’s Grove School and called Schaumburg Centre Public School until 1954. For 82 years, the building served as a one-room schoolhouse, and was the last active one room schoolhouse in District 54.

With the widening of Schaumburg Road, the building was saved from demolition and temporarily placed on the grounds of the Town Square Shopping Center in 1979. It was permanently relocated to the St. Peter Lutheran Church property in September, 1981. It has been fully restored as a museum and is under the auspices of the Schaumburg Township Historical Society.


July 30, 2017

While the old Jewel in Hoffman Plaza is being reconfigured, we’ve been delighted to see remnants of it still visible as the outer facade was torn off.  We’ve seen the barrel roof and brick walls that have been uncovered.

And, just recently while traveling down Roselle Road, I noticed that the curved struts and braces of the interior are now visible.

Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian, noticed the same thing and was able to take the picture below that is even more up close. The condition appears to be quite sound.  It is amazing to us that the developers saw the worth in this part of the structure and incorporated it as part of the new building.

It’s fascinating to consider that this structure is now almost 60 years old.  This brief timeline of Jewel in Hoffman Plaza gives you an idea of the importance of this location.

  • Jewel opened Summer of 1959.
  • Osco opened in the Jewel in September 1964.
  • The Jewel-Osco relocated to its current location on April 14, 1973.

This is today’s Jewel, still in the 1973 location, with the 1955 water tower ever present in the background.  You can also see the water tank in the background that was built in 1962.  (For more information on these water storage facilities of Hoffman Estates, read Pat’s column from August 2010.)

Who knows if the old Jewel will ever be uncovered again?  We’re just glad that we got a glimpse of it before it was encased in the redeveloped Burlington Coat Factory.  It was nice to take the photographs when the opportunity presented itself!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


July 23, 2017

As magnificent as the Stratford Hotel was on the corner of Jackson and Michigan in Chicago, Stratford Farms in Schaumburg Township was just as nice in its own way.  After running photos in an earlier blog posting that the James Austin and Florence Bell family passed on of the farm along Roselle Road, it is a pleasure to share a few more.  These pictures are of both the farm and of the hotel memorabilia the family owns.

Levy Mayer, a wealthy attorney and senior member of the law firm of Mayer, Meyer, Austrian and Platt was the owner and developer of the Stratford Hotel.  According to a Chicago Tribune article that appeared after his death on August 14, 1922, he “was reputed to be the wealthiest practicing lawyer in the country.”  He was known for his work on cases involving the meatpackers, the Iroquois fire, child labor, woman’s suffrage and the constitutionality of the stockyards act.  When he died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage, it was just a few years after the Bell family began managing Stratford Farms in Schaumburg.  But, it was long enough to meet and become familiar with Mr. Mayer who must have visited the farm a time or two.  At some point he was nice enough to pass on this self-portrait postcard with a note handwritten on the back.

Judging by the note, he was obviously a busy man who had been unwell.

The following items are memorabilia of the Stratford Hotel.  Imagine a maximum $6 stay at the hotel.  Or, having the option of paying for a shower or not!



This is a silver creamer with the hotel’s name stamped on the underside.










Additional photos of the farm were also passed along.  This panoramic view of the farm is taken from the west, looking east.  The thin, white strip that bisects the photo behind the windmill and in front of the grove of trees is Roselle Road.  The house to the right is where the farmhands lived who the Bells hired.  In fact, one of those farmhands was Irving Flarity who came from Canada and found himself in the Schaumburg Township area.  The Bells hired him and he worked for them for many years.  In the photo below he is standing on top of the water tower with his arms opened wide.  It took a fair amount of guts to perform that stunt!

This gives you a better idea of the location of the buildings on the farm.  It is essentially a reverse of the photo above and we are looking east across Roselle Road at the farm.  The big white dairy barn is on the left.

This barn caught fire one day in the late 1920s or early 1930s.  Catherine Bell was doing her homework when her cousin from across the road ran over to tell them that the barn was on fire.  Catherine called the fire department but the farm was not part of the district so they required $200 to put out the fire.  Not being able to guarantee that amount of money, she ran down Roselle Road to get her father who was in “town” at Schaumburg Center and when they returned the barn was nearly gone.  Many neighbors had gathered to try and put the fire out but it was a lost cause.  According to Catherine, the fire was so hot that it was possible to hear the milk bottles in the barn popping and breaking from the heat.

In the photo below, the water tower is to the right of the barn.  Both houses had easy access to Roselle Road with the two story farmhouse where the farmhands lived to the left and the 1 1/2 story house where the Bell family lived to the far right.  According to Catherine, “Mr. Mayer had a fella with a camera come to the farm and take that photo.  Mr. Mayer had that photo hanging up in his house.”

A flock of geese was part of the farm’s bird population.  In this photo they are near the water tower and windmill.

The threshing team is hard at work on the farm.  Irving Flarity, the man who was obviously not afraid of heights, is standing on top of the pile of straw.

The Bell children pose in their front yard.  From left to right are James Austin Jr., Florence Catherine “Kate,” John Robert and Edwina.  Catherine was the oldest, followed by James Austin Jr. and Edwina who were twins, with John Robert being the youngest.

The Haffners were the Bell family’s cousins who lived on a farm across Roselle Road in the grove of trees.  The Haffner family also lived and worked on the farm.  Ada (Bell) Haffner was a sister to James Austin Bell Sr.  According to Kate Bell, there was a low spot to the left of the tree line where the field tile was broken.  The area would flood, forming a temporary pond that would freeze in the winter where both families would ice skate.  One has to suppose that, because it was shallow, it would freeze relatively quickly and also allow for comfortable skating.

Catherine also says that when it rained, “we would slide around in the wet grass.”  And see those white rocks?  She also said that when they mowed the lawn, they had to move all of the rocks beforehand so that they got a nice, clean swipe along the driveway.


These farm photos were all taken with a big, black Kodak type camera by James Austin Bell, the patriarch of the family.  According to Catherine, “Pa was proud of his camera [and] nobody touched his camera.”  We don’t know why he bought the camera in the first place but, presumably, he had an interest in photography, was able to get the camera for a reasonable price and was eager to take photos of his growing family and the land he farmed.  Thank goodness he did!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


July 16, 2017

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

Moving to a home out in farm country was exciting back in 1965.  With 2 young children, my husband and I bought the perfect home with a large yard for a little baseball, playing croquet and room for a swimming pool.

Shopping, bowling and a movie theater just within walking distance made for happy parents and kids.  We seemed to have everything we needed except for a nearby doctor and hospital.

With a new baby in the house, the long trip to the city to see the family doctor was inconvenient especially since I was just learning how to drive.  It didn’t take long to find a local doctor in Elk Grove Village.  The kids played outside the better part of day and we seemed to keep him busy with broken bones, stitches and miscellaneous bumps & bruises.


We had to take the kids to St. Alexius Hospital in Elk Grove Village on Biesterfield Rd that had just opened in the summer of 1966. It was a long ride when you had a kid bleeding or screaming in pain.  It took a few trips to the hospital before I learned the route.  Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights had opened in December of 1959 but it was no closer and our doctor was not on staff there.  We survived those early years without our own hospital.  We now had 4 kids and kept the emergency room busy with all the mishaps that came from falling out of trees to falling out of bunk beds.

It was a wonderful day when American Medicorp built the Community Hospital of Hoffman Estates.  The doors opened on September 6, 1979 to a six story twin tower 356 bed hospital on Barrington Road just south of Higgins Road.

It was so welcome to all the families, not only in Hoffman Estates but other surrounding suburbs who, like myself, had those day to day emergencies with their little ones and health issues as us parents were growing older and in need of more care for ourselves.  Along with the hospital came doctors buildings and the Behavioral Health Facility.

It was difficult to keep up with the hospital’s frequent name changes.  It was sold to Humana Inc. and became Suburban Medical Center Hospital of Hoffman Estates, then in 1983 the name became Humana Hospital.  In 1993 the name changed again to Hoffman Estates Medical Center.  Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. purchased the hospital and the name changed once again.  It was now Columbia Hoffman Estates Medical Center.  This lasted for one year when it reverted back to Hoffman Estates Medical Center when there were plans to sell the hospital.  In 1999 Alexian Brothers Health System purchased the hospital and changed the name to St. Alexius Hospital.

With the opening of the beautiful Woman’s & Children’s Hospital in April of 2013, the St. Alexius Medical Campus is a dream come true for all of us.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Historian

The photo of St. Alexius Hospital originates from the PatricksMercy Flickr account.  We thank them for the use.  


July 15, 2017

Join the Hoffman Estates Historical Sites Commission as they conduct tours of the Sunderlage Farmhouse at their annual open house.   Cookies and refreshments will be served.

In addition, the Schaumburg Township Historical Society is sponsoring the Sharon Kimble Ice Cream Social.  Come see how ice cream was made before we had Baskin Robbins or Dairy Queen.    If you enjoy socializing, learning about history and eating ice cream then stop by.  This is free but, as always, a donation will be accepted for the ice cream or our Raise the Flag Fund.

Take this opportunity to view this historical farmhouse and its National Register smokehouse, talk to the Civil War reenactors,  check out the cute animals and eat some delicious ice cream!

When:  Sunday, July 23, 2017 from 12-4 p.m.
Where:  Sunderlage Farmhouse at 1775 Vista Lane, Hoffman Estates


July 9, 2017

Bowling must have been right up the alley for Schaumburg Township residents in the early years.  Even though Hoffman Lanes opened first in 1961 and Schaumburg Lanes in 1975, it clearly wasn’t enough space for local bowlers.  To fill that need, Martin Weber, who also owned Striking Lanes in Mount Prospect, decided in the late seventies, to build the biggest bowling alley in the area.  And, boy, did he ever.

Woodfield Lanes opened in March of 1980 at 350 E. Golf Road in Schaumburg with 44 lanes, a bar, restaurant and playroom.  Because of its size, it attracted a large number of leagues for men, women and children.  Leagues were begun by apartment complexes, organizations like the Knights of Columbus, and groups of senior citizens and, especially, of women.  Most prominent were the many women leagues that played in the large facility.  The sheer number of leagues also led to many tournaments being held.

Mr. Weber also tried his hand at incorporating a nightclub into the alley.  A DJ played music from stacks of records while patrons lounged at the banquet tables and danced on the dance floor.  New Year’s Eve celebrations were also held at the bowling alley, complete with refreshments, music, dancing and showtime bowling which featured special lights and cameras.  The facility was even so big that it had a meeting room available for the public to use.

Woodfield Lanes kept its customers happy until league play began to decline, and the upkeep and taxes on the large building started to climb.  The business made the decision to close and notified its leagues in late 2000 that the business would be sold and torn down to make way for a larger Woodfield Lexus dealership.

This gave many of the leagues time to find new digs at Hoffman Lanes and Poplar Creek Bowl, the other bowling alleys that were still open in the township.  An ad appeared in the April 13, 2001 edition of the Daily Herald, listing various items for sale:  showtime lighting & sound, lounge & restaurant equipment, booths, chairs, sports memorabilia and more.  The bowling equipment, including the 44 lanes, pin-setters, pins, scoring equipment, bowling balls and shoes were dismantled over a three-week  and sold to a company in Detroit.

Before the bowling alley closed, I was able to take some photos of the interior and exterior of the building with a not-so-great camera.  But, it still gives you a decent view of the exterior and interior in the last days that it was in business.

May 7 was the last day of operation for Woodfield Lanes.  Gone was “Cosmic Bowling,” the fun of league play, the music and the dancing.  The sounds of balls rolling down 44 alleys and the ten pins being whacked by those 44 balls must have been something during the heyday.  If you have any memories to share of Woodfield Lanes, please leave a comment or send me an email to the address below.  It would be great to hear the personal side of such an iconic bowling alley!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

The top photo was taken by Gus Weiner and is used, courtesy of his son, Keith Weiner.


July 2, 2017

Over the years there have been many stories about how tough it was in the early days of Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg for working spouses to get into Chicago for their jobs.  Even though the Northwest Tollway was in place by 1958, many families had only one car.  This meant a spouse was left at home with no means of transportation for errands and appointments.  If you were lucky, your spouse carpooled so that you could have the car at least a few days of the week.  Or you made use of the only option left–the train.

The problem was that there were only two train stations within driving distance–Roselle and Palatine–and it remained this way for many years.  By the summer of 1976, the village of Schaumburg was posting reminders in the Cracker Barrel,  their village newsletterthat all riders should park their cars carefully so that all 1000 spaces could be used effectively.  In other words, the demand was growing, things were getting tight and village officials in the area knew it.

By 1978, a station plan was in the works and Mayor Ray Kessell was reporting on the status in the September Cracker Barrel.  The concerns were the station, the access road and the parking lot.  The station was scheduled to be constructed by the RTA, the access road would be constructed by the Cook County Highway Department after the village acquired the property, and the parking lot was being overseen by the Federal Highway Administration.  The project was on its way.

In the meantime, parking at the Roselle station was proving to be more and more of an issue.  It was so much so that the Schaumburg Transportation Company, in conjunction with the Northwestern Transit Company, began providing bus service to and from the station from various points in Schaumburg Township.  This process, highlighted in the June 1979 issue of the Cracker Barrel, was a stopgap measure designed to help with “the hardships of obtaining parking permits at the train staion” and with “the potential gas shortage” that was threatening the country at the time.

Ground was finally broken for the station on October 16, 1981 with U.S. Representative Phil Crane attending the ceremony.  The project consisted of three phases as can be seen on the map above.

The train station would be built through a $600,000 Mass Transit grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation and a $100,000 Mass Transit grant from the State of Illinois.

Another phase consisted of an extension of Springinsguth Road that was constructed early on as a two-lane stretch between Irving Park Road and the train station.  The total dollar amount of that project was $900,000, which was provided by Cook County and the Village of Schaumburg.

The parking lot phase was also funded by multiple sources and, at $2.7 million, was the priciest part of the project.  But, then, it was the best part of the project too.  There would finally be enough parking to accomodate the demand.

So, when the Village of Schaumburg finally celebrated the grand opening of the new commuter train station on November 1, 1982, it was a long time coming.  Modest in appearance, the station was “built in an Early American style… [and was] a 69-ft. by 21-fit. brick structure with a public waiting room, two 850-ft. platforms, high intensity lighting and landscaping.  Both platforms and station [were] accessible to the handicapped.”  [The Cracker Barrel, December 1982]

The parking lot had a “capacity for more than 1300 cars in addition to reserved areas for buses, taxis and “kiss and ride” passengers.”  This was expected to be enough parking despite the fact that ridership was expected to double by 1992.  As a bonus, the village expected the facility to stimulate industrial and commercial development in the southern part of the community.

In fact, the station was everything the area could want and even more.  It proved to be such a godsend that, 22 years later in 2004, it was torn down to make way for the current, more elaborate replacement.  But, in 1972 when village officials officially recognized a need for local transit, who really knew the patience, perseverance and planning it would take to bring the project to fruition?   Indeed, that wasn’t officially proven until the first train pulled into the station and put downtown commuting on the fast track once and for all.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library