DRUMS WERE ONLY A PART OF IT: THE SLINGERLANDS OF SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

When you are Gene Krupa and you’re the drummer for Benny Goodman’s band in 1936, it’s important that your drum kit is the best.  And if you’re Gene Krupa and you’re from Chicago, who do you turn to for a well made set of drums?  That would be the Slingerland Banjo & Drum Company.  But, you ask, what does that have to do with Schaumburg?

It begins with Walter Robert Slingerland who was born in Manistee, Michigan on March 30, 1889 to Samuel and Amalia Slingerland. One of eleven children, he left the farm and his family and moved to Chicago where he went to work for Armour & Co., the big meatpacking firm.  Eventually, he was transferred to South Bend, IN and later, Detroit.  On June 5, 1917 he registered for the World War I draft and was called for enlistment almost a year later on April 26, 1918.  He served with the 85th division U.S. Army and was released the same year on November 27.

He went back to work for Armour and, while working there, his oldest brother Henry convinced him to move back to Chicago.  Once there, he joined him at the Slingerland Correspondence School of Music, where they offered a free, Slingerland-manufactured ukelele and twelve lessons.  As stated in The Slingerland Book by Rob Cook, “H.H. was considered the money man while W.R. was in production and day-to-day operations.”  They eventually moved into producing banjos and guitars and were well on their way with drums in 1929 by the time their second drum catalog came out.

On January 12, 1924 Walter married Helen Rittenhouse of Hillsboro, Ohio in Chicago.  They had their first child, Robert, in 1925 followed by Walter Jr. in 1927.  The family lived on Belden Avenue on Chicago’s northwest side but, like his older brother, Henry, Walter was eager to get back to his farming roots. According to a 1959 article in the Daily Herald, “in 1941 they [Walter and Helen] purchased the 160 acres on Schaumburg Road where they still make their home.”  This land (where the Schaumburg village offices are today) was originally purchased from the government by Conrad Salge in 1847 and eventually sold to a group of investors in the 1920s who created a golf course on the property. According to Wayne Nebel, one of our oral historians, the Slinglerlands converted the property back to its farming roots and paid tenant farmers to work the land.

In 1945, during the final war year, their son Walter Jr. joined the Navy. According to the same Daily Herald article mentioned above,  the Slingerlands moved their household to Schaumburg Township the following year and lived in “the house which was built over 100 years ago [and] was remodeled by Walter and Helen soon after they bought the property.”  It was a pivotal year for Walter Slingerland because, not only did he move his family but his brother Henry died on March 13. Walter subsequently became president of the company that was now simply called the Slingerland Drum Company and commuted into the city for work.

In 1951 Walter Jr. married his own Helen who was part of the Siems family of Roselle.  The elder Slingerlands gave a parcel of land to the young couple on the edge of Schaumburg Road.  This is the building permit from Cook County that was signed on December 11, 1950 by Walter Slingerland Sr. who owned the property.  It appears Walter split his 160 acres and denoted this as an 80 acre farm/tenant parcel.  Note that a fair amount of the fees were for the septic field that would be added to the property.

Walter and Helen then built and moved into this ranch house in the same year they married.  The ranch was designed by Elmer Gylleck, Architect of Elgin, Illinois.

You’ll notice that the breezeway was closed in at some point and a second garage was added.  A third bedroom was also added on in the back of the house in the 1970s.

Three years later, in 1954, Walter Sr retired from the Slingerland Drum Company. Having lived in rural Schaumburg Township for eight years, it must have been apparent to Walter that change was coming. Given the small population, his business background and his farm’s prominent location on Schaumburg Road, he was familiar with others who were just as concerned about the coming growth.  As a result, Mr. Slingerland was placed on the ballot for village trustee in 1956.  He was successfully elected as one of the village’s first six trustees and served in that position for twelve years until 1969.

During those years he served primarily as Building Commissioner.  This was a position that oversaw the entire building process from permit to construction to signing off on the completed structure.  The village now has multiple people to handle this process so we can imagine how, in the early years, Mr. Slingerland’s personal involvement was so crucial.  Below is a sample building permit that Mr. Slingerland signed with a stamp of his signature.

He also served on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Plan Commission, in the Public Works Department, twice on the Township’s Quadrennial Land Assessment Committee which evaluated land values, and was the trustee who pushed to change the village’s name from Schaumburg Center to Schaumburg.  In addition, his wife Helen served as the village’s first treasurer and was a charter member of the Schaumburg Historical Society.  Their involvement was key at such a dynamic period in village history.

Prior to his retirement, the Slingerlands sold their property in 1962 and built a new ranch home at 400 Columbine Drive in Lexington Fields.  They sold their portion of the farm to William Lambert who intended to develop a large scale, high density apartment complex in the area.  He also planned to donate 40 acres of the property to the Village of Schaumburg with the intent that it would be the site of a civic/culture center.  The Heritage Center complex never did get built but the village opened their Municipal Center in 1974 on the lovely spot we find it today.

Amazingly enough, the old home that the Slingerlands bought in 1941 survived the development.  During construction of the Municipal Center in 1973 or 1974, the home was moved across the street to the St. Peter Lutheran Church property and can still be found there.

If the dates are correct, this makes that home one of the oldest structures in the village. As you can see in the 1978 photo above, the home was a bit worse for wear but new siding was added around 1982.   Thirty years later in 2012, the house was resided once again and remains in good condition.

When the elder Slingerlands sold their property, the younger Slingerlands opted not to sell and remained in their ranch home.  They were very active at St. Peter Lutheran Church and Walter served as one of the first presidents of Schaumburg High School’s parent group, the VIP’s.  As the village property grew to include the Prairie Arts Center for the Arts, the Slingerlands sold their house to the Village in 1989.  They worked out an agreement that allowed them to stay in their home until a time when they were ready to move.  The home would then revert to the village. This happened in 1994 when the Slingerlands moved from the area.

The house was remodeled and the Nursing and Senior Services Division of the village opened in 1995.  This past summer, in 2017, the village board voted to move the Division out of the house and into the Market Square shopping center at Plum Grove and Schaumburg Road.  This paved the way for future destruction of the house which will occur sometime after the move in July or August of 2018.

We are fortunate that we still have the original house on the St. Peter property, close to the final resting place of Walter and Helen Slingerland Jr. at St. Peter Lutheran Cemetery. Both generations of Slingerlands definitely left their mark on the area, whether it was their houses or their time. In commemoration of all they gave, Slingerland Park in the Pheasant Walk subdivision and Slingerland Drive off of Weathersfield are named for the family.  Do take a moment and think of them the next time you are there.

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

Many thanks to Mary Helen Slingerland Owens, daughter of Walter and Helen Slingerland, for discussing details in this blog posting.  She was most gracious with her quick responses and also passed on the building permit and architectural sketch of her parents’ home.  

Details for this blog posting were derived from the obituaries of the Slingerlands, war records on Ancestry.com, various articles from the Herald and The Slingerland Book which the library owns.

The photo of the Slingerland Drum Company comes from coopersvintagedrums.com  We thank them for the photo.

 

 

2 Responses to “DRUMS WERE ONLY A PART OF IT: THE SLINGERLANDS OF SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP”

  1. Fred Luft Says:

    Jane,Thanks again for providing unknown history to everyone.

  2. Mike Says:

    I now know the origin story of the street I live on. Thanks!

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