WHAT WAS THERE BEFORE WOODFIELD?

I get asked that question a lot.  And now, through the generosity of Richard Frank, a frequent reader of the blog, we are able to see for ourselves what the eastern edge of Schaumburg Township looked like before Woodfield Mall rose from the ground.

The photos belonged to his father who found them in a desk drawer when he worked for Sears. It took some time to figure out what he was looking at but, once he did, he hung onto them.  Sensing their historical value, Richard was kind enough to donate them to the library.

These aerial photos were taken on September 26, 1969 by Airpix, which was based on North Laramie in Chicago at the time.  We have to assume that the developers of Woodfield hired Airpix to take the photos just as development of the mall was beginning.  The views are from four different angles so it’s possible to get a 360-degree sense of the area.

This first photo looks towards the southwest at the large Woodfield plot.  Off to the left of the property, we can see several trucks gathered near the long diagonal, dirt road that stretches to the middle of the plot.  It appears that the construction trailer for the project is far to the right, along Golf Road.

While it’s impressive to see the enormous scale of the project, it’s just as interesting to see what skirts the property.  Note Route 53 in the foreground of the photo–or Rohlwing Road–as it was often called at the time.  A cloverleaf is in place to allow traffic flow from two-lane Golf Road to merge onto 53.  Having seen other earlier, aerial photos, I believe this cloverleaf was relatively new at the time.  It was clearly designed around the four lane bridge that goes over Golf Road.  Another interesting point is that there seems to be a rise in Golf Road just west of the cloverleaf.  Does anyone remember this before Golf Road was graded to a more flat terrain?

It is hard not to notice the farm in the foreground with its large white barn.  It is the Rohlwing farm.  The family, in fact, sold a portion of their property for the Woodfield development.  The home place on the east side of Route 53 was eventually sold to the Cook County Forest Preserve.  The barn was used for years as a maintenance location and was only torn down within the past decade.

The subdivision of Lexington Fields Estates in the background of the photo was begun in in the late 1950s and is obviously flourishing. The trees are well established and there is easy access to the four-lane Higgins Road that runs adjacent to the subdivision.

A very narrow Meacham Road bisects the back of the photo.  In addition, there are two other farms that are still obviously still operating.  The Edward Koenig farm is in the grove of trees in the top left corner.  The farm in the back center of the photo is the Emil Freise farm.  Notice the long lane off of Higgins Road that leads to the house.  You can barely see the telephone poles along the lane.  It is possible the small farmette to the right of this farm belonged to one of Emil’s brothers.  In the 1954 Farm Plat Book published by Paul Baldwin & Son, the initials H.F. are near that piece of property.  (He had brothers named Herman and Henry.)

This photo looks due south so we get a good view of the Woodfield site and Lexington Fields Estates.  Again, it’s a good idea to look at the periphery and catch a few things that become more obvious with a different perspective.

First of all, it’s possible to see that there IS a slight rise in Golf Road on the eastward approach to Route 53. We can also tell that Route 53 is a two lane road to the south of its intersection with Golf.

And, take a look at that jog Route 53 takes a bit south of the Golf Road cloverleaf.  Frankly, in looking at that area around Higgins Road, it’s pretty clear that work had already begun on a clover leaf at that intersection too.  We can see in this view that the main construction facility–for possibly both the mall and the roads–was on that curve and not in the trailer along Golf Road.  So, when the village fathers got started with Woodfield, they also started planning for the infrastructure that would make getting there much more feasible.

Isn’t it interesting to look further south on Route 53 and note a couple of roads intersecting with just a simple stop sign?  Imagine that today!  Also, note the big pond in the upper left of the photo and the smaller pond just beyond it.  Those are the former gravel quarries at the L.A. Scharringhausen Material Co.  They are now part of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District property.  The quarries began operation in the early 1950s under Scharringhausen.

Note, too, the many small groves of trees that are in the area.  The larger grove in the right background of the photo is today’s Spring Valley.  It was owned by Frank Merkle in 1969 and was even then a beautiful oasis in an arena of fields.

This view looking northeast gives us a completely different, more suburban perspective.  We can see Arlington Heights and Rolling Meadows in the background.  The Northwest Tollway (I-90) intersects the middle of the entire photo with the much larger cloverleaf at Route 53 clearly visible.

The Kassuba Trace apartments–later called Woodfield Garden–nestled in the northwest corner of the Northwest Tollway and Route 53, are visible as is the round parking lot of Pure Oil just below.

To the east of Route 53 is the all concrete Western Electric building in Rolling Meadows.  This building was later renovated by 3Com in 1998 and is now the Atrium Corporate Center.   To the right of Western Electric is the former Chemplex / Quantum Chemical Company / Helene Curtis / Unilever building that was purchased by Weichai America around 2012.  It was newly built when this photo was taken in 1969.   In the very middle background are the radomes on Central Road in Arlington Heights across from the relatively new Northwest Community Hospital.  These were used at the time as part of the Nike Ground to Air missile defense system with underground missiles in bunkers at that location.

This is a similar view with a more westerly slant.  The plane was a bit higher and further east so it gives us a greater perspective of northwestern suburbia.  We get a wonderful view of the magnificent Pure Oil property with its unique, circular parking lots.  Compare those lots to the regular, square parking lots of AT&T and Chemplex.  They are a combination of whimsy and futuristic design.

Also more visible are the many apartments in the Woodfield Garden complex.  Across Route 53 is the site of the future Rolling Meadows Holiday Inn. The hotel is in the same state of construction as the Woodfield site and opened in 1970.  If you look further back in the center of the photo you can see the round oval of the Arlington Race Track.  To the left of the track is the multi-story Arlington Hilton.  You can also see the big curve Route 53 takes going north.

If you spot something else I haven’t seen, please let me know.  I’m happy to add the details.  And, let’s once again thank the Franks for keeping these marvelous photos for so many years.  In addition, we must thank Barbara Perricone, President of the former Airpix company for granting permission to share these photos.  It all rolled into a wonderful opportunity to view our area’s history from the air.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

11 Responses to “WHAT WAS THERE BEFORE WOODFIELD?”

  1. Diana Dobrovolny Says:

    I was a student at Conant High School in 1969 when Woodfield Mall was built and then Schaumburg High School as one of its first employees. I remember we watched the large orange water tower be built. In Weathersfield we were used to low concrete wells. One sunny day one of the painters fell into the tower and died. We were sad and shocked. My parents were optimistic. They liked the town plan of no taxes to the first stores in for 5 years to stimulate growth and commercial income in Schaumburg. They were dissappointed that the heritage downtown of Roselle and Schaumburg roads might get hurt but this was good for long term growth of the town. I was one of the first employees of a woman’s retail clothing store. We set up inventory before the mall open. It was interesting to watch workers complete the then largest mall in the world.

    • jrozek Says:

      Thank you for your interesting, personal perspective on those early days of Schaumburg. I have a couple of questions if you have time? What type of low concrete wells are you referring to in Weathersfield? Were they community wells? If so, where were they located? Also, do you remember the name of the woman’s clothing store you worked at in Woodfield? I have an ongoing list of Woodfield stores and I’d like to be able to add it to the list if you remember.

      Thank you!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

      • jkunzer Says:

        Diana might be referring to the concrete dome that existed on property at Campanelli School. I believe that was a well and was removed once Schaumburg switched to city water from Lake Michigan.

      • jrozek Says:

        I’m unfamiliar with this dome. How tall and wide was it–as an estimate? Were there any others around town? I’m going to have to look into this!

        Jane Rozek
        Local History Librarian
        Schaumburg Township District Library
        jrozek@stdl.org

  2. Susan Says:

    Lots of memories watching the mall and area being built to what it is now…. a traffic nightmare! Thanks for providing these to remember as it was when it was a little easier to drive around.

  3. Larry Rowan Says:

    Two corrections…..reference was made of an A.T.& T building. It was actually a Western Electric engineering headquarters building…Yes Western Electric was owned by ATT, however it was not an ATT installation. (I worked there for 8 years). Also a mention was made of the Radar Domes and the Air Force. No Air Force there. The Radar antennas were part of our Nike Ground to Air missle defense system with underground missles in bunkers at that location. The Nike base was built in the 1960’s at the former site of a Navy landing strip at that site. Never associated with the Air Force. The pre construction of Woodfield and rt 53 improvements at Rt 72 forced HIPPO’s hot dogs to move from their first location at that intersection (in an old van) to the later location near Old Plum Grove Road on Higgins.

    • jrozek Says:

      Thank you for making the suggestions Larry. In the articles I found on that building, they referred to it as the AT&T building so I went with that. Armed with the Western Electric name, I did some further research and discovered you are correct. I have since updated the blog posting to reflect both the Western Electric and the Nike base information.

      Good info!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library
      jrozek@stdl.org

  4. Brandon Pepe Says:

    I believe the farm next to Emils was his brother Edwin or John??? I believe those 3 were the last to sell there farms.

    I just randomly came across this site while doing family research. Edwin Freise was my great grandfather.

    • jrozek Says:

      Hello Brandon,

      In looking at the various plat maps we have, W.H. Freise had the plat of land just north of Emil. Edwin’s was to the south and east of Emil’s–sort of where Streets of Woodfield is today. John’s property was the current Motorola campus. They kind of cornered that whole north and east area of the township.

      Thank you for commenting!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library
      jrozek@stdl.org

  5. Larry Rowan Says:

    Note: The Woodfield Gardens apt complex mentioned was not renamed that until 3 years after Woodfield opened up. At the time of the photo it was the “Kassuba Trace” complex built and owned by the Kassuba company that had many apt buildings thru out our area (I lived in there at the time).
    Interesting story you can find in the archives of the Herald about that Kassuba Trace complex. As Woodfield was being built, there was a runaway large bull dozer that went unmanned North of rt 58, took a chain link fence down and crossed I-90. Entered the Kassuba Trace parking lot and stopped a couple feet from the end of one building. The fence it was dragging and cars in the parking lot stopped it just short of the building. Had it entered the weak frame building, it would have fallen thru the floor to the basement and would have traveled the length of the building knocking down the supports. Would have been quite a strange disaster!

    • jrozek Says:

      Cool bit of information Larry on that bulldozer. It must have been chugging along pretty quickly to make it across I-90!

      I’ve updated the post to include the Kassuba Trace name. Thank you!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library
      jrozek@stdl.org

Leave a Reply to jrozek Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: