Last fall the Schaumburg Township Historical Society received a phone call from the Arnold family about a collection of photos they took in the early 1970s. The pictures of early Schaumburg had sat in a drawer for the past forty years and they were hoping to pass them on to someone who might be interested. The Historical Society gladly accepted the photos and then kindly donated them to the library to add to our Local History Collection.
The story of these photos begins in 1971 when the Arnold family moved to Schaumburg from southern California. They were surprised at the amount of open space in Schaumburg Township still occupied by farm fields and undeveloped acreage. Mrs. Arnold said, “We were amazed at all the open field but knew that wouldn’t last long. I decided to take pictures of the ‘before’ of Schaumburg.” She then began to drive the roads of Schaumburg, taking photos of various buildings and intersections.
One of the areas that Mrs. Arnold photographed was of Meacham, Golf and Higgins Road. Below are a few of those photos.
Meacham Road between Golf and Higgins—looking east towards the Woodfield area.
The year is 1973. Woodfield Mall, in the background, opened two years ago in 1971 along with the water tower that was necessary for the mall’s development. The distinctive orange and yellow globe is sitting by itself with the skeleton of one of the first multi-story office buildings near it. Two cranes loom over the structure and appear to dwarf the trees to their left. Notice that the road is two lanes and has suffered through the winter.
Looking southwest on Meacham with the Bar Harbor Condominiums in the background.
The first condos of the area were begun in 1971 and were originally designed as four ten-story buildings, later scaled down to five seven and eight-story buildings and eventually opened in 1972 as two five-story buildings. They were developed by Elmer Gleich.
Looking northeast at the corner of Meacham and Higgins.
The photographer is on Meacham Road, looking through the crossing at Higgins Road. The intersection has clearly been widened in anticipation of both Woodfield Mall and the development that is to come. There is traffic but it is certainly not overwhelming the intersection. Also, note the overhead power lines that are no longer in existence. Another skeletal office building is under development in the background and is the first of three office buildings that will be Woodfield Park Office Plaza.
Looking south at Meacham Road between Golf & Higgins Road.
This a rather bleak photo that exemplifies how much Schaumburg grew in the future. The roads are empty and in need of repair. Utility poles line the road. A few trees dot the horizon and the area seems to already have been set aside for commercial and business development.
Meacham Road between Golf and Higgins Road.
Woodfield Mall can be seen in the distance–with nothing around it. The brown brick of the J C Penney wing is to the left with the white brick of center court and the rest of the mall to the right.
Meacham Road looking north between Golf and Higgins.
The American Savings Association building shown above opened on September 29, 1972 on the west side of Meacham Road. According to local architect Jeff Whyte, it is a nice example of the 1970s modernism style. It remained American Savings until Weber Grill bought the property. The building was demolished to make way for the restaurant that opened in 2005. The tan buildings in the background are that of the Woodfield Commons shopping center. Turn Style was one of their first anchors.
Meacham Road looking northeast between Golf and Higgins.
This is the first of the three Woodfield Park Office Plaza buildings. The owner and developer of the 385,000 square-foot complex was J. Emil Anderson & Son, Inc. of Des Plaines, IL. The three identical buildings that make up the plaza are “pre-cast concrete structures sheathed in dark reflective glass.” [Commercial Renovation: How to Acquire, Renovate, and Remarket Existing Properties by Matthew Kiell and John Casazza] The buildings were later renamed National Plaza at Woodfield. Below is a later photo of one of the completed buildings.
Take a look at this photo from the collection of the University of Illinois at Chicago. It is a view of the first Plaza/Zurich Tower going up in 1985. You can see one of the completed Woodfield Park Office Plaza buildings as well as the American Savings Association edifice in the background.
Looking north on Meacham Road between Willow and Schaumburg Roads.
Again, the emptiness of the surroundings is very evident. It certainly clarifies why the Arnolds were so intrigued with the huge swaths of vacant fields separating Woodfield Mall and the residential areas of Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg to the west.
We know what the “after” of the greater Woodfield area looks like but, thanks to the Arnolds, we now have a good idea of what the “before” looks like too!
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Libraryjrozek@stdl.org