Chicago Tribune, June 3, 1900
N the old days of the Bull’s Head cattle yards and the Bull’s Head tavern, which are still remembered by many living in Chicago, there was little of the city lying west of Reuben street. Only wide stretches of prairie, with an occasional farmhouse, formed what is now the Twelfth Ward, the most populous ward of any city in the world. What is now the Eleventh Ward was the far West of Chicago in the ’50s. The last known street was Reuben street.
If any one were to look for Reuben street today he would look in vain. It has been pushed off the map. In its place is the stately Ashland boulevard. To ask an aristocratic resident of Ashland boulevard if he lives on Reuben street today would leave him in doubt as to what he meant.
Once Reuben street was thronged with a mighty gathering of people. They were there on foot and in carriages, and in wagons and on horseback. Everybody in Chicago was nearly there, and many people had come from surrounding towns. Lemonade fakers and popcorn vendors did a great business, because it was a warm day and people got thirsty and hungry waiting. Some of them had come at early morning to get a good view point.
The attraction of all this crowd was William Jackson. Except for this event, which gave Chicago a holiday, and the last of the sort it ever had, Mr. Jackson’s name does not figure in the annals of this great city. He had been tried and convicted for the murder of Ronan Norris of Libertyville, Lake County, Ill., and June 19, 1857, he was executed. The execution was a public affair, and that is what brought out the crowd. It took place in the Bull’s Head cattle yard. The scaffold was built high so that everybody could see the miserable man as he stood on the trapdoor before he was let drop. It is a still well remembered event by many of the old residents of the West Side.
This famous old cattle yard was in the rear of the southeast corner of Madison street and Ogden avenue, in the Eleventh Ward. It was established in 1848 and was the firat cattle yard in Chicago; the forerunner of the great Union Stock-Yards in the Twenty-ninth Ward. It was not a place for the slaughter of cattle, but simply a market for their sale. All of the cattle that came to it were such as were driven in by the dealers and raisers. There were no railroads and the market was confined to cattle raised in the surrounding country.
NOVELTY IN ARCHITECTURE.
For the accommodation of the patrons of the yard a tavern was built on the spot now occupied by the Washingtonian Home. It was given the same name as the yards. It was built by Matthew Laflin. The style of the architecture was new. It was called “balloon construction” or “balloon frame.” This style of building was invented by George W. Snow, a local carpenter. It was popular until the time of the fire.
The old tavern continued to be the best patronized hostelry on the Wets Side until 1861, when the Union Park House was built across the street from it. For several years the new hotel and roadhouse was the favorite resort. The ‘bus lines that ran in West Madison street and in West Randolph street had their terminal at the Union Park House, and later, when the West Side street car lines were built in these streets, they, too, ended at the Union Park House.
Union Park was the only West Side park and was the pride of that part of the city. Formerly three short streets divided the ground it now occupies. These were Wright place, Webster place, and Larned place. The pride of the people in Union Park was not, however, equal to the ambitious proposition made to the city in 1868, when Samuel J. Walker offered to sell to the city a tract of ground for the enlargement of the park. His offer was to sell to the municipality all of the land lying between the park and Madison street for $100,000. The newspapers of that day were careful of the city’s treasury, and they set up a cry of corruption and the deal was knocked out in discrace.
Shortly after Charles T. Yerkes gave the electrical fountain to Lincoln Park he was accredited with offering a large donation for the erection of an equestrian statue of General Phil Sheridan to be placed in Union Park. The statue was never erected.
The great West Side Park is Garfield Park, in the Twelfth Ward. Since 1869 it has been improved in places until nearly all of its area is now beautified. It has more flowers than any other city park, and has many other attractions. The finest bicycle track in the United States is in the south half of the park. It has a band stand of marble with mosaic mural adornment that is a magnificent and costly structure. At present Garfield Park is the pride of the West Park District.
Garfield Race Track, 1890
Just west of the south half of the park is the site of the old Garfield Park racetrack, which obtained a notoriety in 1892 that led to its being closed. It was run by the Hankins brothers and was notorious as a gambling place. In September, 1892, the police raided the place, and a gun fight ensued, in which a racehorse owner Brown was killed and several were wounded. That marked the end of the widely known racing course.
Years before it was converted into a modern racetrack it was the site of agricultural and stock fairs, and contained at that time a racetrack. It was afterwards used by Buffalo Bill as a show grounds for his Wild West performance when it first appeared in Chicago/ Since 1876 the ground the old racetrack occupied has been owned by Lambert Tree, ex-Minister to the court of Spain. Since the Garfield racetrack was closed the ground has been laid out in lots, but there is not a house on it.
Two of the most distinctly remembered tragedies that have occurred in Chicago had place in the Eleventh Ward. The one of the Snell murder and the other the sad ending of Mayor Carter H. Harrison, the elder.
In the handsome stone building at 425 Washington boulevard Amos J. Snell, a millionaire and an old man, was murdered on the night of Feb. 7, 1888. The body was found by the coachman, Henry Winklelocke, at 7 o’clock the next morning, in the hall, near the stairway. Suspicion fell upon a young man named Willie Tascott who had been leading a life of dissipation, and who has been known to have been familiar with the Snell residence. A number of valuable papers were stolen from a safe in the house, and some other minor articles disappeared. Notwithstanding that a reward of $50,000 have been offered for the arrest of Tascott ever since no trace of him has ever been found.
The mystery surrounding the crime has never been dispelled, and no one has ever been made to answer to the law for it.
Carter H. Harrison residence
231 Ashland Boulevard
The murder of Carter H. Harrison took place in the evening of Oct. 28, 1893. He has been elected Mayor of Chicago many times, and after a lapse was returned to that office as the World’s Fair Mayor. Only a few days of the great fair remained, and the city was still thronged with visitors from every quarter of the world when a young man named Joseph Prendergast went to the residence of the Mayor in Ashland boulevard, at Jackson boulevard, and entered the parlor. After a few words he drew a pistol and fired. Mayor Harrison expired from the wound in a few minutes. The murderer went to Desplaines Street Police Station and surrendered himself. He said had been disappointed in seeking office, the only reason he gave for the crime. He was hanged for murder. The funeral of Mayor Harrison was the greatest funeral cortége ever seen in Chicago.
The headquarters of the Salvation Army and its offshoot, the Volunteers of America, are in West Madison street, in the Eleventh Ward. These great organizations for good occupy two of the largest halls on the West Side, and in them are held nightly religious services.
In the Twelfth Ward is the medical region. This embraces the hospital and medical college districts. Gathered about the County Hospital are Rush Medical College, Chicago Post Graduate Medical College, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Chicago Homeopathic Medical College, Chicago College of Dental Surgery, Chicago Ophthalmic College, Bennett Medical College, Northwestern University Women’s Medical School, Illinois Training School for Women and Children, Chicago Homeopathic Hospital, and the Detention Hospital.
These institutions, together with the group of medical colleges and hospitals on the South Side and the several large hospitals on the North Side, explain why Chicago has more medical students than any other city in the United States. The great free institution of the County Hospital is the center about which these institutions have gathered. The County Hospital occupies a series of buildings, all connected. The main building faces in Harrison street.
The oldest and the largest of the schools is Rush Medical College, which was founded in 1844. It occupied a building, at the beginning, on the North Side, at Dearborn avenue and Indiana street. When the buildings od the college were destroyed by the fire of 1871 they were not rebuilt there. The County Hospital was removed to the West Side, and the medical college followed it.
THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS.
As a result of the growth of the medical colleges Chicago is beginning to discover it has a student body of such proportions as to be not overlooked. The first intimation of the existence of this lively, spirited portion of the community was exhibited when 2,000 medics participated in a snowball riot in West Harrison street. The rioting continued for more than an hour and three policemen who tried to quell it were badly hurt. A later exhibition of the influence of this student body was when an equally large number of medical students broke up a meeting of “Dr.” John Alexander Dowie, the faith healer, in spite if the efforts to protect the meeting. Several patrol wagon loads of students were carried off to the police station that night.
In addition to these medical colleges there is a theological seminary in the Twelfth Ward. The Chicago Theological Seminary, established in 1857, is situated at Warren avenue and Ashland boulevard. Young men are trained there for the ministry of the Congregational church. The Western Theological Seminary is in Washington boulevard near California avenue and Garfield Park. It is an institution of the Episcopal Church for the training of young men for the ministry. The Lewis Institute and polytechnic school is in the Twelfth Ward at Robey and West Madison streets. Besides these there are two public high schools in this ward and a large number of grammar schools and parochial schools and convents. It is easily the educational ward of the city.
The Martha Washington Home for the treatment of women inebriates was established as an auxiliary institution in 1881. It is situated on the North Side at Western and and Graceland avenues.
One of the public schools that has a fantastic history was originally in the Twelfth Ward. It was the Brown School, built in 1855. It was a frame building and was in 1858 moved to make place for the new Brown School, which was the pride of the West Side in its early days. This new building was the first public school in Chicago to be heated by steam.
The old Brown School house had only begun its wanderings when it left the Twelfth Ward. It was taken to to the Fourteenth Ward and then to the Fifteenth Ward and back again to the Fourteenth Ward. It had many vicissitudes, which will be recounted in the story of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Wards next week.
There is less historical interest in the Thirteenth Ward. It has many pretty homes and a large number of important manufactures, but it did get much in the way of historical things while Chicago was being made. West Lake street belongs more to the Thirteenth Ward than to any other ward. The old bus line from the City Hotel ran out Lake street and ended in it. It was the most important West Side bus line in 1860, making half hourly trips. The down-town terminus at Clark and Randolph was the forerunner of the Sherman House, the oldest hotel in Chicago of continuous history, except the Tremont House. After the bus line came the horse cars, which were not abandoned until recently. The first West Side “L” road was built in Lake street with its terminus at Fifty-second avenue, at the western edge of the Twenty-eighth Ward, which was the city limits until Austin was taken into the city last year. The coming of the “L” road changed conditions in West Lake street and nearly all the prosperous retail stores that fronted the street in the days of the horse cars have gone.
Just five years after the above article was written, Sears, Roebuck & Co. started excavating in the Twelfth Ward to build their massive Catalog Plant. The plant was fully occupied on January 22, 1906.
Chicagology is proud to present the entire set of the fifty stereoscope cards that were sold to flaunt Sears’ new Homan Avenue campus. It is believed that the photos were taken by Fred Conley and James Drake, vice president and general manager, respectively, of the Conley Camera Company, a supplier to Sears. One of the stereo cards from this series is used in later catalogs as an example of an image made with a Conley Model XVIII stereo camera (right). It is known that Conley and Drake traveled to Sears headquarters in Chicago in October, 1906, shortly before this series was released. The cards were first advertised in the 1908 Fall Catalog No. 118.