About six years after Levy Mayer bought the Stratford Hotel in 1907 at the corner of Jackson and Michigan in Chicago, he also bought a farm in rural Schaumburg Township.  The plan was to grow chickens, cows, pigs, produce, etc. to supply the restaurant in his hotel.   Rather than paying wholesalers for the items, the hotel would go right to the source.  Thus began Stratford Farms on Roselle Road in Schaumburg.

In October 2011 I wrote a blog posting about this farm and, even though it’s been 5 1/2 years, Sandra Nobles found the blog posting.  Amazingly enough, her great grandparents, James Austin and Florence Bell, managed and lived on the farm with their children for a period of time in the late 1910s into the 1930s.  Even more astounding, they took wonderful photos of the farm during the time they lived there.  Enjoy this view of Stratford Farms–and a view of Schaumburg Township along Roselle Road in the roaring twenties.


Pictured below is one of the two houses on the farm.  The Bell family lived in this house.  Roselle Road can be seen in the middle of the photo.  Electricity had not yet come to Schaumburg Township so we can confirm that it is a telephone pole along the road.  There are a variety of outbuildings behind and to the right of the house.  And, clearly, the owners saw a strong need for water as they built their own water tower for the animals and the produce they raised.

This is closer view of the farm’s buildings.  The other house on the farm is in the background of the photo.  The farmhands lived in this house.  Notice the two figures posing for this photo on the catwalk that surrounds the water tower.  Irv Flaherty is one of them.

This photo is taken from the front porch of the house on Roselle Road.  It looks east as far as the eye can see.  Imagine standing on Roselle Road at Hartford Drive today and looking east with nothing to impede your view.  That is what you see here.

In this photo you get an idea of the scope of produce the farm was growing for the hotel.

These were some of the pheasants raised for dining purposes for the hotel.

Here is another view of the countryside–and of a snazzy looking roadster–most likely owned by Mr. Edwin F. Mayer, who was a brother to Levy Mayer.  (According to Florence Catherine, her sister, Edwina, was named for him.)  Again, the land and the view seem to stretch on forever.  Some of you car buffs may be able to determine what make and model this is.

The Bells moved to the farm from Ohio with their young daughter, Florence Catherine “Kate”, after she was born in 1917.  In January 1920 they had twins, a girl and a boy, named Edwina and James Austin, Jr.  One year later, in October 1921, they had a son, John Robert.

In the photo below are, from left to right, Edwina, John Robert, Catherine and James Austin Jr.

The next photo is another scene of the Bell family.  The children from left to right are:  James Austin Jr., John Robert, Edwina and Catherine “Kate.”  Their mother, Florence, is holding John Robert, who is still fairly small.  This helps to place the time of the photo as 1922 or 1923.

This is a photo of Florence Catherine on the occasion of her birthday.  She has on a beautiful, sparkling clean dress and stockings with, what look to be, new shoes.  Edwina is standing on the grass and James Austin is sitting on the steps behind her.  Her mother appears to be standing in the house behind the screen door.

We are also treated to a photo of James Austin Jr. and Edwina dressed up in their very best too.  Maybe they are on their way to the Roselle United Methodist Church where the family attended services.

This is a more casual day.  From left to right are James Austin Jr., Florence Catherine “Kate”,  John Robert and Edwina.  Notice how they are dressed.  It was a carefree existence for the children and there was no reason to dress up.  Very seldom do we see photos of this type, where children of this time period in Schaumburg Township, are dressed in their every day garb.  This is a unique view.

This is a photo of the twins, Edwina and James Austin.  Irv Flaherty, one of the farmhands, is holding on to Edwina who certainly seems like a lively child!

James Austin Bell, Sr. farmed for the Stratford Hotel, but he played baseball for the Great Northern Hotel which was also in Chicago.  Here he is dressed in his baseball uniform.  One wonders if he drove a car to his games or took the train from Roselle into the city.

In 1930 the family is listed in the census with Florence being 12, Edwina and James Austin 10 and John Robert 8.  Ada and Fred Hafner are also listed with their children:  David 19, Daniel 18, Bethella 12, Paul 10 and Phillip 7.  By 1940 both families had moved on.  But, aren’t we lucky they took these marvelous photos when they did?  What an interesting perspective of everyday life on a busy farm in the twenties.  Thank you to the extended Bell family for providing the photos!

To this day, we commemorate the heritage of Stratford Farms by the farm’s marker that can be found behind the Turret House.  In fact, you can see this same marker in the above photo that looks out to the east across Roselle Road.  According to Florence Catherine “Kate,” she and her siblings used to climb these posts and sit on them.  What a nice way to bring this story full circle!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

The photo of the Stratford Farms marker is used courtesy of the Village of Schaumburg. 



  1. Jacqueline Manning Says:

    I am sitting with Florence Catherine Bell as of 7/24/2017 she is 100 years old. I have shared your article with her, and she would like to clarify some facts that were not correctly represented.

    The car in the photo looks like one owned by Mr. E.F. Meyer for how her sister Edwina Francis was named after.

    The photo where F.C. Bell is standing in her best clothes is more probably from her birthday. She recalls a woman from Blooming Dales bringing a cake (Mrs. Malcolm, she thinks she was in realistate)

    The photo of the “farm hands holding the children” the gentleman holding the baby his name was Flaherty- “he came thru looking for work and Pa put him to work” he is also the gentleman performing the stunt of standing on the water tower. He came from Canada

    F.C. Bell says” all he ever talked about was the Great Northern Hotel” in reference to the photo of her father in his baseball uniform. That uniform was frim the Great Northern Hotel.

    Written by F.C.Bells granddaughter.
    With F.C. Bell

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