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 amazing, they took wonderful photos of the farm during the time they lived there.  This, then, is a view of a working 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. Roselle Road ran in the front of the house.  Electricity had not yet come to Schaumburg Township so we can confirm the telephone pole in front of the house.  There are a variety of outbuildings behind and to the right of the house.  And, clearly, the owners saw a strong need for water so 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.  Notice the two figures standing purposefully, I would think, for this photo on the catwalk that surrounds the water tower.

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 producing for the hotel.

These were some of the hens raised for the hotel.  Can anyone tell me what type of bird this is?

Here is another view of the countryside–and of a snazzy looking roadster.  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, in the late 1910s. In January 1920 they had twins, a girl and a boy, Edwina and James Austin, Jr., respectively.  Two years later they had a son, John Robert.

The Hafner family also lived and worked on the farm.  Ada (Bell) Hafner was a sister to James Austin Bell Sr.

In the photo below are, from left to right, Edwina, John Robert, Florence 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 Florence Katherine “Kate.”  Their mother, Florence, is holding John Robert, who is still fairly small so the photo was taken in 1922 or 1923.

I suspect this is Florence on her first day of school.  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.  Can you see her mother 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.

This is a more casual day.  From left to right are James Austin Jr., Florence Katherine “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 with, it is presumed, two of the farmhands.  Edwina certainly seems like a lively child!

Interestingly enough, James Austin, Sr. not only farmed but he also played on the hotel’s baseball team.  Here he is dressed in his baseball uniform.  Did he drive the car to his games or take 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.  The next time you visit Lou Malnati’s, stop and take a look!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

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


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