Green Tree Tavern Chicago Hotel (1838), Railroad House, Noyes Hotel (1848), Atlantic Hotel, Lake Street House, Green Tree Tavern (1881).
Life Span: 1833-1902
Location: Northeast Corner of Lake and Canal Streets, moved to Southeast Corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Fulton Street in the fall of 1880.
Architect: (Built by) James Kinzie
Chicago Antiquities by Henry H. Hurlbut, 1881
In the year 1833, there was built, by James Kinzie, on the N.E. corner of N. Canal and W. Lake Streets, a house, constructed for a tavern, and which, from a scrub—though-verdant oak of the prairie, in its immediate neighborhood, the house gained the name of the Great Tree Tavern The house, it is believed, was made tenantable that same year of 1833, and we have heard that a man named Lawton first kept the tavern. It was the Stage-House in 1835 ; a traveler who arrived here from St. Louis that year says:
The scanty accommodations of the town were over-filled by a horde of land speculators, who had come to attend the public sale to take place in June, and the landlord in reply to our application said he had not a space on the floor but which was engaged three
A Mr. Cox (David Cox it is believed, who was living in the 4th Ward and one of the judges of election in 1837) was the landlord in 1835, and we think so continued until 1839. The house in 1836 was called the “Chicago Hotel.” Mr. John Gray, afterward sheriff of Cook County, we think took the house in 1839. He kept it for about two years. In 1844, the “Chicago Hotel” was kept by George W. Rogers. How long Mr. Rogers conducted the house we can not say, nor what others kept it afterward; we have heard though, that at some time later it was called the “Lake-Street House.” (E. H. Aiken kept the “Lake-Street House” in 1849, and several succeeding years.) Below is a view of the Green-Tree-Tavern house taken about 1876, though not then a tavern. The lower front was a saloon and the remaining part let as tenements. In 1880, the building was removed to Milwaukee Avenue, where it appears in Nos. 33, 35, 37; its uses, much as last before named, a saloon at the front.
Green Tree Tavern
It has been confidently told of Mr. S. B. Cobb, a gentleman well known in the City, that when he arrived on the 29th day of May, 1833, when his entrance within the portals here, of an active life-journey, became a demonstration at Wolf Point, he had not a dollar left in his pocket after paying his fare to the captain of the schooner Atlanta, upon which vessel he came up the Lakes. With the determination, however, of a live Yankee, not to give it up so, which trait confers honor (not only upon the memory of Henry Cobb, the first of the Cobbs in New-England, and who was in Plymouth Colony as early as 1629, but upon that of Ebenezer Cobb, who died in 1801, at the age of 107½ years, said to have been the oldest man who was born and lived upon the soil of Massachusetts), he took a job as boss carpenter or jour, in the construction of the coming Green -Tree tavern, though he knew nothing particularly of that sort of occupation. Mr. C. could easy enough have built you a saddle or a harness, but building a house was a different affair; there was little in common between bridle-bits and beams, blinders and braces, tugs and tenons, reins and rafters, sills and surcingles, hames and hall-stairs. Hut we are told that Mr. Cobb was then eminently successful, and though he could scarcely afford to avoid Wolf Point in 1S33, we have yet heard that the point is generally conceded, that he has at length (in 18S1) achieved nearly money enough “to keep the wolf from the door.”
Inter Ocean, July 1, 1883
In no one feature is progressive Chicago better or more forcibly illustrated than in her hotels—in the changes from the early inns, which gave medals and lodging to a score of people, and where a whole colony may live together.
In the primitive days, before the setting up of professional and legalized taverns, it was the custom of the proprietor of the the old Kinzie House, it being the most commodious then in the settlement, to accommodate the occasional traveler with fireside, meals, and lodging. As the hamlet spread out to greater proportions and became better known, there was a demand for more accommodation than the Kinzie House could give; other settlers received these travelers into theit homes and shared with them their firesides and their table fare.
THE FIRST LICENSE FOR A TAVERN
was granted to Archibald Caldwell by the County Commissioners’ Court of Peoria County, Dec. and 8, 1829. The tax was $8. A bond of $100 had to be given, and the prices of meals, lodging, drinks, and horse feed were fixed by the court. This house was built by Mr. Caldwell and James Kinzie and was a double log-house on the west side of the north branch of the river a few rods from the main branch, or at what was called Wolf Point. No name was given to this first inn.
It is said of this hotel that it had a sign with a wolf painted on it, but there was no name.
Early settlers do not agree in their recollections of this and other old hotels, Elijah Wentworth had an inn on the West Side in 1830, which seems to have been this house on Wolf Point. Samuel Miller is said to have built a log house on the opposite side of the river for the same purpose.
Some of those giving recollections of early Chicago give the Wolf Point house the name of Geese Tavern, but others say this is a mistake. It is said that
GENERAL SCOTT TOOK HIS FIRST BOWL OF SOUP in Chicago at this house on Wolf Point. Mark Beaubien had an inn on the South Side in 1832, and he gave this the name of “The Sauganash,” in honor of Billy Caldwell, a chief of the Pottowatomies. A house supposed to be the same one is mentioned by others as “The Eagle.” The Miller House, Mr. Blanchard in his history says, was built by Alexander Robinson in 1820.
In 1833, the Green Tree Tavern was built and Professor Colbert in his Historical Notes of Chicago, says it was the first structure ever erected in the place for hotel purposes; its predecessors were simply private residences thrown open to the public for a consideration. This denied by others, but Professor Colbert is considered one of the most reliable of those who have written of early Chicago.
It was the purpose of The Inter Ocean to present here a picture of this first hotel, and give its history; but interviews with early settlers show how they differ in their recollections.
The Green Tree Inn
THE OLD HOUSE
is still standing on Milwaukee avenue, near Fulton street, and is now used as a saloon and cheap lodging-house. Before it was removed its original site at the northeast corner of Canal and Lake streets, two years ago, to give place to the new building of the American Iron Works, Mr. Baker, the engraver, sent an artist to sketch the building. His sketch was changed to conform to the ideas of the old house as recollected by W. H. Stowe, an old settler. Several other old settlers were called in, and pronounced the picture as changed a correct likeness of
THE GREEN TREE
as it was built in 1833. A cut of that picture was made for the The Inter Ocean, and it is here given. Several old settlers have examined it, and two of them agreed as to how the old house looked. One says the picture is a good likeness, another says there should be a door in the middle of the long side as well as in the end; another would put in sable attic windows, and others would change the door from the end to the side, add a low building on the east end, and make various other changes. As the people are dependent upon the recollections of old settlers for their impressions of these early hotels and other buildings, these differences of opinion will show how difficult it will be to ever write the history of Chicago completely.
In the “Chicago Antiquities” Mr. Hurlbut says the house was built by James Kinzie, and not John H. and that it received its name from a shrub, though Verdant, oak of the prairie, which stood in its immediate neighborhood.
THE FIRST LANDLORD,
says David M. Ford, was Chester Ingersoll, who kept the house from 1834 to 1837. With Ingersoll was associated Martin M. Ford, the father of David M. In 1837 it is said that David Cox succeeded to the place. For a time about 1836 it was called the Chicago Hotel.
A reporter called upon the Hon. John Wentworth for information concerning the house, but Long John was never a boarder there.
Were you too tall for the ceilings, Mr. Wentworth?
No, sir. Young man, when I came to Chicago I was a very small man. There was almost nothing of me. Why, I was not larger than yourself. I have grown with Chicago. When I came here I went to the house of John Murphy. Mother Murphy is living on the West Side now. Better go over there and interview her. She knows everything about what happened then. When the Murphys took charge of the United States Hotel, on the west side of the river, in 1837, I went with them there to board. I always have
SLEPT DOWN TOWN
Where was ‘down town’ then?
O, where it is now. I had an office down here and ever since. I have slept within two blocks of this building—the John Wentworth building on LaSalle street. I boarded at several hotels, but always slept at my office until the Tremont House was built, when I went there and remained until the fire. Since the fire I have been at the Sherman House. Yes, I have been a resident of the First Ward ever since there was a city divided into wards, and they tell me I am not a voter (and the cane came down on the table with an emphasis that threatened total destruction to that piece of furniture). But I never thought it would become the most corrupt place in the city. Why, this First Ward used to be inhabited by the aristocrats—the nicest people in the city, and it was ‘Good morning, Colonel,’ and ‘How are you, sir?’ with dignified and polite bows on every side. And when you met a nice old Danish farmer he was as polite as a basket of chips. Blank it, who’d ever thought the aristocratic neighborhood would become the home of the Arthur-McDonald-Mike Dixon gang? And that the blanked McNally should come from such a neighborhood. I tell you it’s too much. I’d never have believed it.
The old Stalwart was getting clear away from the subject at hand, but was so much in earnest in his musings that the reporter hesitated to interrupt him.
BUT ABOUT THE GREEN TREE, what do do you know about the house?
O, very little. It was considered one of the most respectable houses in Chicago, and it was kept by a man by the name of Cox when I came here.
Did you never go there?
Occasionally. When I ran for Congress I used to go over there to see my constituents. It was the headquarters for the Democrats on the West Side.
Was there a bar in the place?
Certainly there was a bar. Who ever heard of a tavern in the early days that did not have a bar? Why the bar was the hotel., or a good part of it. It wasn’t stuck away out of sight either. The men who patronized the bar were not ashamed of it. The bar-room was the office, and you paid for your meals and lodging at the same counter and at the same time you paid for your drinks.
It is unnecessary to ask if you ever patronized this bar then, if the custom was so custom?
Of course it is. I was running for Congress, I told you, and I had to be sociable with my constituents. Sometimes I invited them to drink, and sometimes they invited me; but whoever did the inviting, there were no refusals.
Is this all you remember about the Green Tree?
I know it was a good tavern, and was the leading one on the West Side for a time until the Murphys opened the United States Hotel. Mark Beaubien opened a hotel, too, and he used to say after he had filled the beds and floors he
HUNG HIS LODGERS UP IN NAILS.
A man might as well have asked to rent the house for the night as for a room. He modestly asked for lodging and went to bed just wherever he got a chance; if it was a bed all right, and if the floor he thought it fortunate he did not have to go to the stable.
Where was the bar-room in the Green Tree?
There in the west end, where the door is. it occupied the whole west end of the house if I remember correctly.
There were no club-rooms, I suppose?
Club-rooms! What are you talking about?
Rooms for public meetings.
You don’t suppose a hotel-keeper who had to pile his lodgers up in heaps over night would keep a separate room to be used once in a month for a public meeting? No, sir. It there was a meeting to be held it was in the bar-room. That was the place for it. I remember that the first aldermanic election in the Fifth Ward in 1837 was held in
THE GREEN TREE BAR-ROOM,
and Francis H. Taylor and Azael Pierce were elected to the Council. Both these men are still living. Mr. Pierce in Hyde Park and Mr. Taylor is in the city. If you will go to them they can tell you more about that election than I can. But there is old John Gray, who used to keep the tavern. He can tell you all about it.
Mr. F. H. Taylor was found at the Cutters’ and Tailors’ Academy on Monroe street. He is the man who first invented the system of cutting from survey of the figure. He is now over 80 years old, but is still an active business man.
He looked at the picture and said it was the old Green Tree Inn. It was a good picture, and was as he remembered the house.
Mr. Taylor said he came to Chicago in 1834, and for a time he lived in the one story addition on the left. His brother, Charles Taylor, was here before the town was laid out, and kept the old log house where Gen. Scott stopped when he visited the post.
What about the election held here in the bar-room in 1837, when you were elected Alderman?
Well, you see the Fifth Ward, that on the west side of the river, was a Whig ward, but the Whigs nominated two men for Aldermen whom the party—the respectable element—would not support. The Democrats had no show at all, but we held a meeting in the bar-room of the Green Tree and Mr. Azael Pierce and myself were nominated as the candidates of the party. I said I was willing to be defeated and thought but little about it. One of
THE WHIG CANDIDATES
was a man by the name of Logan, and a rather disreputable character, who kept a low saloon. When the election was held in the same place where the nominations were made, the respectable Whigs refused to vote for their candidates and voted for Pierce and myself instead.
There were not so many votes but we could keep track of them, and the result, without the votes of the candidates, was a tie. Logan stepped up and very generously voted for me, expecting I would do the same for him. But my friends and I must not, for the sake of a little gallantry, lose them the election, so I voted for myself and was elected.
Do you remember much about the old inn?
I remember how it looked and that is a very correct picture. The fornt was on Canal street and this side was on Lake.
Mr. Wentworth says there would be an oak in front. Where would you locate it?
Oh, John was thinking of the little scrub oak for which the house was said to have been named. But it wasn’t in front. It was over to the left there, and there is not room for it in this picture.
Was there a ball-room?
Yes, I am pretty sure there was, although I never attended any dances there. I know they had dances there though, and that the boys used to have big times. Long John was
COCK OF THE WALK
in those days and ought to be able tell you all about what fun was going on.
But Mr. Wentworth says he was nit a frivolous youth, and is not authority on what was done among the young people.
My opinion is that John is a sly dog and don’t want to tell what he did himself, as he would have to if he told the story.
You are sure there was a ball-room?
Oh, yes. There was always a ball-room in the old inns. In the Green Tree it was over the bar-room on this side of the river. There was a good deal of argue on this side of then, and I was given the title of Doctor by curing a lot of the people. I had the argue at St. Louis and was cured by taking Thompsonian medicine. When it returned to me here, and so many others had it, I went to St. Louis and bought the whole stock of medicine the druggist had on hand and brought it to Chicago. It did the work, and I was Doctor for a long time afterward.
Mother Murphy as ‘Long John’ calls her, who kept the old United States Hotel, is still living on the West Side, and she is as smart as if she belonged to the present generation rather than the past.
Mrs. Murphy, Mr. Wentworth says you know all about the old Green Tree Inn.
John Wentworth knows better. He knows that I had enough to do at home with him and a dozen other young fellows then to get into mischief.
Is this a good picture of the house?
No, it isn’t. There should be a door in the middle of the Lake street side. I remember enough about the place to tell that. I am quite certain that there was a door there.
Did you ever go to balls there?
No; I never was in the house. We had no ball-room in our house, but danced in the dining-room. Long John can tell you about the balls. He sent you to me, did he? Well, he is always pretending to know nothing about old times. I wonder if he can make the people believe he is not as old as the rest of us. Don’t you believe a word he says when he pleads ignorance. I believe he is saving all the good things to put into his own history. You know he is, with some other gentlemen, getting up a history of Chicago. He pretends not to know that e may save it all.
“John Gray kept the old Green Tree for several years, and can tell you more about it than any one else in Chicago,” said “Long John Wentworth. And the reporter turned his steps toward the depot and in a few minutes was set down at Grayland, the little station on the Milwaukee Road named after the old ex-Sheriff, and a short walk brought him to the old family residence surrounded by a beautiful flower garden. If John Gray was as jolly and hospital forty years ago as he is to-day, he was an ideal land-lord, and no wonder the Green Tree thrived under his management. A portly figure, surmounted by a massive round head, with a kindly face, filled the doorway, not to keep out strangers, but to bid them welcome; and he did not wait to inquire who it was that claimed his hospitality, but gave his greeting and then was time for business.
Do you remember the old Green Tree Inn, Mr. Gray?
Do I remember it? Well, as I lived there some years I do somewhat.
THE DAYS OF THE OLD INN
were great times in Chicago. There were no palatial buildings, and no mammoth business blocks, but we had fine timer, and it was as much Chicago then as now.
Is this a correct picture of the old house as it was originally built?
I was not here when it was built, but came soon after. Let me see. Yes, that looks like the Green Tree. It is a very good picture. No. There is something wrong. What is it? The door is in the wrong place. There was no door at that end. That was the parlor. The bar-room was in the other end of the house, and the entrance was on the Lake street front about the middle of the long side, or about where the third window on the left is. A hall divided the house and a stairway in this hall led to the second floor. There should also be a low one-story addition to the right, the same as on the left. There should also be a small attic window in the gable end, for we used the attic, too.
Who kept the inn before you, Mr. Gray?
The house was built by James Kinzie and opened in the spring of 1834. It was first kept by a Mr. Cox. Cox sold out to Edward Parsons, who was a brother-in-law to old James C, Haines. Parsons did not succeed very well, and sold out to Snow and Spear, two young men who had been boarding with me over at the corner of Monroe and Clark streets. They left my place and went
TO BOARD WITH PARSONS
at the Green Tree, and soon after they bought him out and came to me and my wife to get us to go over and take charge of the house. My wife was to look after the house and I was to board there. We moved into the Green Tree in April, 1838, and the arrangement with the young men held good until May, when they gave up on the house. Jim Kinzie was stopping there, and he wanted that I should take the house. I did not have much of an idea of taking chances then, but Kinzie said I could make money out of it and my wife could take charge and I could do anything else I wished. I asked Mrs. Gray about the matter, and she said we could not lose much by the venture— we hadn’t much to lose—and if there were any chances they were in our favor. We concluded to take the house, and I kept it for three years. After I sold out the house was changed considerably.
Yes, we had grand old times then. At the time of the land sales not only the house but the stable, and even the yard were full of people. We did not pretend to furnish people with rooms—there were not rooms for one-tenth of those who stopped there if we gave each person a room. And then travelers in this country knew better than to ask for rooms. They called for lodging, and found no fault as to where that was. If they were in time they got a bed in one of the upper rooms, if not they had to
PUT UP WITH A BUNK
on the floor of the parlor, dining-room, or bar-room. Often I have seen the floors of all three of these rooms full of sleeping travelers. People came from Rockford, and Galena, and all over the West, and this was one of the largest hotels in the place. Since the miserable assassin of President Garfield has made his name familiar to all the people it occurred to me that I was acquainted with the family in these early days. The elder Guiteau and the Howes, father and brother of his wife, came from Oswego and located at Freeport. Capt. Howe, the younger of the men, looked after the outside business, and used to come to Chicago and often stopped with me at the Green Tree. Guiteau used to come, too. He was a quiet, old gentleman and would harm no one. I don’t believe his dastardly son inherited his meanness from his father. Then there was the first Governor of Iowa. I have forgotten his name. He used to stop with me. I cannot tell you of any very great men who
STOPPED AT THE GREEN TREE,
But there were hosts of men who were common enough then who have made fortunes and become very aristocratic since. No, we had no aristocratic class in Chicago in the early days. We were all on a level, and rather a low level at that. But it was this being on a level that enabled us to get along nicely, and have a good time in spite of our trials. We were all alike, and the bar-rooms of the hotels and the corner groceries were the common resorts for all. When I came here there was a population of 4,000 in Chicago, and in that number there was no elevated class. There were a few families on the North Side, including the Hunters, the Browns, and the Newberrys, who were better off than any one else, and they lived a little better, and the people said they were proud. But I tell you, no better men ever lived than they were.
But you are getting away from the Green Tree Inn, Mr. Gray?
So I am. Well, now I’ll ypu a little story that will show you how things were at the old Green Tree when I was there. You see the house stood on the east side of Canal street. In the stable yard there was a lot of little pigs, and I kept missing them, one going every night. I suspected the the thief was a wolf—was almost certain of it. My brother-in-law, George C. Allen, was living with us, and one night he took the gun to watch for the thief. He stationed himself on the other side of the stable, so that the wolf came between him and the house. It was not very late when she came for her supper and
GEORGE SHOT HER
just as she was going to pick up a pig. The ball passed clear through the wolf, struck the ground, and glancing upward went through the weather-boardoing, and plastering and stuck the head-board of the bed in the corner room there upstairs. The man, a Mr. Seymour, who was sleeping there, heard it, and came downstairs with the bullet, which fell down on the floor. We had plenty of wolves then, and you could sit in the tavern door and shoot them almost any night.
One night I was coming home from Elgin, and if my hair ever stood up it was that night. A horse had died by the side of the road and the wolves were feeding off the carcass when I came along. Such a howling I never heard. I won’t undertake to say how many there were, for I did not stop to count them, and would not risk my reputation for veracity upon aq guess made under the circumstances. I think I would have put the number at about 1,000,000 had I been asked when I got home.
You think the bar-room was in the other end of the house, Mr. Gray?
I am quite sure of it. Didn’t I keep the bar, as well as the whole house, and ought I not to know? We didn’t have no great rotunda in the Green Tree, nor was there a marble counter in the office. The bar-room and the office were together, and
THE LANDLORD WAS CLERK
and barkeeper, too. The bar answered for the clerk’s desk. When the traveler settled his bill in the morning he took a drink and paid for that at the same time. There was no hiding the bar in some out-of-the-way part of the house.
Where was the ball-room?
We didn’t have any. When we wanted to dance we cleared out the dining-room. All the room was used for eating and sleeping purposes.
Wasn’t the house the headquarters of one of the political parties?
O, yes. the Democrats on the West Side made made it their headquarters, and they used to sit around the bar-room and talk politics. The Whigs were at one of the hotels on the other side of the river.
Do you remember anything about the duel that is said to have never been fought by Colonel Hunter and Long John?
That was very funny, and neither of the parties heard the last of it for a long time. John was editing the Chicago Democrat then. He said something about Hunter and the Whigs which was not very complimentary. Hunter had been a military man, and the next morning went down to John’s office with
TWO GREAT PISTOLS,
demanding retraction or fight. John was too much of a Yankee to get into a fight, and promised to take back anything he had said. That satisfied Hunter, and there was no fight.
I remember another time when John was threatened with a whipping. There was a cripple here by the name of Meeker. He was a Whig, and John said something in his Democrat. He fumed and tore round, and when he met John he was going to whip him. John was as tall then as now, but he was not so large, and was very powerful. He took Meeker with one hand and sat him down in a chair, laughingly telling him to keep quiet. It was just as hard to get ahead of him then as now. I don’t believe I ever saw John outwitted.
The next morning after the trouble between Hunter and Wentworth the American, the Whig paper here, came out with a large caricature of the two about to fight. There were a number of caricatures printed, and lots of fur was poked at the duelists.
Wentworth could tell you a good deal about where the dances were held then. He or Cobb either. They used to all the dances, and a one
HIGH OLD TIMES THEY HAD.
Just ask John or Cobb, either, if they remember the night we all went out to the Widow Burr’s to a dance where Mark Beaubien took a shine to the widow’s daughter and was whipped by her husband, who was not half as big as he. I think the boys will remember that.
Who kept the Green Tree after you left it?
George W. Rogers followed me, and then in a few years the house was changed. It was the City Hotel and then theLake Street House, and then a tenement house. There were other hotels built, and the Green Tree ceased to be the prominent one of the town.
David M. Ford says there should be a door in the middle of the Lake street side of the house and two small windows in the gable to light the attic.n Other old settlers are as certain that the picture is correct and others that it is all wrong, so that it would be impossible to say just how the old Green Tree Inn, the first regular hotel in Chicago, looked.
Green Tree Tavern
Lake and Canal Streets
Surveyed and Published by Henry Hart
Edwin Gale, Reminiscences of Early Chicago and Vicinity. Chicago, 1902.
THE GREEN TREE AND WOLF POINT TAVERNS
Ahead of us, also on the right, or north side of the street, was another frame, two-storied building. On the corner, sustained by a shorter post than the one by which the wolf was hung, was a sign bearing a nondescript species of vegetation, while underneath we read
We did not stop to question the veracity of the artist, but concluded it was a green tree and that the tavern was the identical one which we had traveled by land and water, between one and two thousand miles to reach.
The Green Tree having no book for that purpose, we were spared the ceremony of registering. Nor was it certain that we could find accomodation until our host had returned from the kitchen, wither he had gone to consult with his efficient wife, who performed the never-ending duties of housekeeper, landlady, meat and pastry cook, scullion, chambermaid, waitress, advisor and personal attendant upon all the ladies and children who took shelter under the Green Tree; while her liege lord filled the many positions of boniface, clerk, bar tender, butler, steward, walking encyclopedia and general roustabout.
The momentous council was at length ended, and we were assigned a room adjoining the one we had first entered, which was the bar, reading, smoking, and reception room, ladies’ parlor and general utility place in one. Our room was about 12×12, with two windows 6×8, two doors, two beds, two red pictures, two chairs, a carpet worn in two and was altogether too dirty for the comfort of persons unaccustomed to such surroundings. Placing our hand luggage and two trunks inside, we returned to the family room and public rendezvous and took observations.
On the east and west side of the room were the inevitable puncheon benches. The walls, ceilings, and board partitions had evidently received a coat of whitewash when the house was built, but it would require more than ocular evidence to establish the fact. Scattered around was an assortment of wooden chairs. Near the north end was a bar counter, useful not only for the receiving of drinks, but also umbrellas, overcoats, whips and parcels. The west end of the bar was adorned with a large inkstand placed in a cigar box filled with No. 8 shot, in which were sticking two quill pens—steel being unknown here, although invented in 1830. This end of the counter afforded the only opportunity in the establishment for a young man to write to the girl he left behind, standing up to his work like a prize fighter with a host of backers and seconds around him to see that he had fair play. Near the inkstand were several tattered newspapers, the latest giving an account of a great snow storm in Boston. At the other end of the counter were a dozen or more short pieces of tallow candles, each placed in a hole bored in a 2×4 block and fortified by sixpenny nails, standing like mourners around the circular graves in which they had seen so many flickering lights pass away into utter darkness.
Hanging in a row against the wall were large cloth and leather slippers, which the guests were expected to put on at night, that mud might not be tracked into every part of the house. Under the counter was a large wooden boot jack and a box containing two old-fashioned boot brushes and several pieces of hard, raw tallow, black from application to stogas. There was also a collection of old-fashioned, perforated tin lanterns. Though not equal to their glass descendants, they were a great improvement on the lanthorns of ye olden times, and certainly very useful in enabling one to distinguish the difference between the necessary stepping-blocks in the streets and the altogether unnecessary mud puddles.
There was also to be seen the indispensable tinder box, used fifty times a day, at least, for lighting pipes, when the old, rusty, bar stove was taking its summer vacation. Above the tinder box was one of the old-fashioned, square, cherry, veneered Connecticut clocks. On the glass door beneath the dial plate was a purple horse drawing a blue plow, which a man with a green coat and yellow trousers was guiding. The men of the Nutmeg State were giants in those days, judging by this specimen, who was taller than the apple tree in the corner, which, in turn, was loaded with fruit larger than the man’s head. Beneath the tree was a monstrous bull-frog, considerably larger than the crimson calf beside it. The ablutionary arrangements were exceedingly primitive, consisting of tin wash basins, soiled towels, small mirrors and toothless combs. Several dishes of soft soap were arranged along the back of the water trough. Though pretty strong for washing the hands of a “Tenderfoot,” it was in great demand after greasing boots or applying tar to wagon axles.
In the middle of the room, standing in a low box filled with lake sand, was a large stove used in winter to good advantage not only for the warmth imparted to the room, but for furnishing hot water for toddies, shaving and washing as well. On the right side of the door going into our room was a Cook County License, costing $5, which permitted the recipient to keep an inn and bar. It contained printed regulations as to
By the time we had read our fate in the license figures we were called to supper by a large bell, which was rung by our host in a manner which required no explanation as to its meaning. In the dining room were two tables, the length of the room, covered with green checked oil cloth, loaded with roasted wild ducks, fricassee of prairie chickens, wild pigeon potpie, tea and coffee, creamless, but sweetened with granulated maple sugar procured from our red brethren. These furnished a banquet that rendered us oblivious to chipped dishes, flies buzzing or tangled in the butter, creeping beetles and the music of the Mosquito Band. We paid no attention to pewter
spoons and pewter castors containing such condiments as mustard in an uncovered pot and black pepper coarsely crushed by the good housewife, or to cruets with broken stoppers filled with vinegar and pepper sauce. Our appetites put to flight fastidiousness and, even though the case knives and forks had never been scoured, we took it for granted that they were washed after every meal and we paid strict attention to our own business, and soon after tea retired.
The Green Tree Tavern in 1835.
On the Northeast corner of Lake and West Water (Now Canal) streets.
Illustrated by W. E. S Trowbridge, 1902
The present generation of housekeepers, using brass, iron or any modern bedstead, cannot imagine how much trouble and work it was to take down, clean and put up those couches of antiquity, the old fashioned bedsteads. Then the most careful matron had to use eternal vigilance, with considerable quicksilver, to keep even a private house free from vermin. The sack bottom was bad enough, but when you had holes through the side pieces of a common bedstead every six inches of their entire length, and rope through the holes, tightened with the wooden key and pegs of the period, and had to crowd the ends of side pieces into mortised head and foot boards, where they were secured by large six-inch screws turned in place by the massive iron key, you found something to keep you employed if you took down and put up these complicated machines as often as safety required. I think it would puzzle the genius of an Edison to invent anything better adapted for raising a big crop of cimex lectularii than those incubators of olden time.
We could not sleep, but as there was nothing between us and the adjoining public room but a board partition, we could hear the conversation going on between the landlord and one of the boarders; and we soon found ourselves learning reliable history in a manner more rapid than in any other way.
Should any desire to see the Green Tree Tavern (afterward the Chicago Hotel) they will find it at 31, 33, 35 and 37 Milwaukee Ave., in a pretty good state of preservation. It belongs to the estate of O-sar Periolat, whose father, F. A. Periolat was in the grocery business at 126 Lake St. Seven and one-half feet is rather low for a hotel ceiling, but it enabled me to obtain a piece of cherry bark from a joist as a keepsake of the days when the Green Tree and the writer were two generations younger than they are today.
Chicago Tribune, October 27, 1901.
Though doomed to destruction long ago, the old Green Tree Tavern, now standing at the numbers 35 and 37 Milwaukee avenue, seems to have a lease of life still before it. For some reason the hand of the vandal wrecker has been staid and only recently a group of men and women, some of them residents of Chicago since its infancy, were photographed in front of this dilapidated ruin of that which was the “best place of entertainment for man and beast” in all this section of the country. In this group were Mrs. Sarah P. Forrest, her brother, William A. Calhoun; Alexander Beaubien, William H. Gale, and Frank W. Smith.
Some of these recall, as if it were yesterday, the old tavern as it stood on the northeast corner of Lake and Canal streets, almost in the heart of the village and new from the hands of James Kinzie’s builders in 1833. It was the first hotel building in Chicago, the three other taverns then existing having been makeshifts, enlarged, and remodeled by their proprietors from the rude cabins of the time.
The Sauganash Hotel was the chief competitor of the Green Tree in that first year of 1833. Mark Beaubien had built it in 1832. This house was on the south side of Lake street, at the corner of Market street, and was a famous social resort. On March 4, 1851, this building was burned. Wolf Tavern was another competitor and the Forks Tavern the other. A ferry connected them at the forks of the river and in the late ’20s and in the early ’30s the life of Chicago centered there.
None of these hotels, however, had the checkered career that came to the Green Tree, and not one of them approached the long life vouchsafed to it. It became a tenement house, housing a saloon on the ground floor. In 1880 the building was moved from Lake and Canal streets to 35 and 37 Milwaukee avenue. It stands there today, the oldest remaining building in Chicago, while around it the sparse settlement of 1833 has become the second city in the United States, with a population of nearly 2,000,000.
Some of the figures recently photographed in front of this old landmark are quite as interesting as is the tavern. One who remembers best the old house when it was new is Alexander Beaubien, who has lived in Chicago since his birth here on Jan. 28, 1822. His father was John Battise Beaubien, who in early days was an Indian trader, and who later appears in the archives of Illinois to have been among the first honored by a commission as a Brigadier General. Alexander is one of a family of children whose early playmates were mostly Pottawatomies, Winnebagos, and Sacs. For nearly forty years Mr. Beaubien has been in the service of the Chicago Police department, and his stalwart frame, robust health,and habitual activity give promise of many years’ continuous in his present line of duty.
Mrs. Harriet Sayre, who, with her father, Joseph Lovett, and the other members of his family, came here in 1835, was reared here. She acquired a part of her education through private tuition with children of Archibald Clybourn, at the residence of that family, west of the North Branch of the river, where it is now crossed by Clybourn place bridge. Mrs. Sayre recently was photographed in a group with her daughter, Mrs. Mary Allen, with Mrs. Allen’s son and with his offspring, and among them all not one appears more vivacious than the genial great grandmother, now 86 years old.
Sixty-four years ago last May the Green Tree House received under its roof the brothers Edwin O. and William H. Gale. They are the only survivors of the family of their parents. Abram and Sarah Gale, natives of New England, who came to Chicago in 1835. Abram Gale died in 1889 aged 94, surviving his wife by eight years. This old pioneer’s mental faculties showed vigor and clearness to the hour of his death. The later years of his life were enlivened by talks with old acquaintances reminiscent of scenes and events in Chicago’s infancy. Much of this matter has been secured by his family for preservation, and is highly treasured by them.
From Left to Right Group Represent: William H. Gale, Mr. Baumgarten, Mrs. Sarah P. Forrest, William A. Calhoun, Frank W. Smith, Mr. Thorpe, Alexander Beaubien.
William A. Calhoun and his sister, Mrs. Sarah Forrest, are children of Alvin Calhoun, a pioneer builder and contractor, who once was at the head of the Chicago Fire department. At the outbreak of the civil war both “Will” Calhoun and William H. Gale entered the union army as privates, coming out of it as Captains. Captain Calhoun has been in the Chicago postoffice for many years.
Frank W. Smith, youngest of the group recently photographed, and a descendant of pioneer stock, was a youth forty-odd years ago. His position as cashier of the Corn Exchange National Bank indicates that he arrived at maturity some time ago, yet his youthful memories cling to early associations. He has a prized collection of views of Chicago’s old and obliterated landmarks. He has worked with pertinacity at a sketch from memory of Chicago’s first public school building, known as Dearborn School, and he has brought it to such a degree of perfection that competent judges say its details are faultless.
Mrs. Sarah Forrest, is the widow of the late Joseph K. C. Forrest, known to Chicago historians as “An Old Timer.” Miss Sarah Calhoun she attended school in Fort Dearborn, where, among other pupils, were the “Gale” boys and their elder sister; also sisters of some of the “big boys,” who are now Fernando Jones, General Francis T. Sherman, and Judge Murray F. Tuley. Among other pupils were the daughters of Thomas Church, who built and occupied the first store on Lake street in 1834.
Today Mrs. Forrest remains much of the animation that was characteristic of Sarah Calhoun, when she romped with other girls of her age under the historic honey locust which marked old Fort Dearborn. A minor historian has recalled how Sarah Calhoun, playing “Foller Yer Leader,” always was at the head of the half dozen hoidens so often scrambling up the thorny branches of the old tree, with parts of their skirts hanging to the lower limbs of the locusts.
Most of these children of the time are dead. The few living are grandmothers and great-grandmothers. The old locust has gone the way of rust and corruption. Only the old Green Tree Tavern stands as a reminder of the early settlement of the metropolis, and it, too, is doomed to pass.
Chicago Tribune, June 13, 1902
Green Tree Tavern Leased.
Bernard A. Eckhart has leased for fifteen years the ground at the southeast corner of Milwaukee avenue and Fulton street, west front, 63×44 feet, to the Independent Brewing company for an annual rent of $650. The property is of interest by reason of the fact that upon it is the famous old “Green Tree Tavern.”
The Inter Ocean, June 22, 1902
The Green Tree tavern, one of the oldest buildings in Chicago, is to be torn down. The building now stands at Milwaukee avenue and Fulton street. The owner of the property intends erecting a modern structure on the land, and, as one seems inclined to preserve the tavern as a historical relic, it has been consigned to the wreckers. James Kinzie built the Green Tree tavern in 1833, and it was opened for business by David Cook. Afterward it changed hands several times, being known as the Chicago hotel, the Noyes hotel, the Railroad house, and the Atlantic hotel. In the early days of Chicago the Green Tree was considered one of the best establishments in town. Here it was “Long John” Wentworth and other prominent citizens would gather for dinner parties. At present the old structure presents a pitiful sight. There is no mark about the building that would give any indication as to its former prominence.
Chicago Tribune, Auguste 6, 1902
By the collapse of the old Green Tree tavern, Milwaukee avenue and Fulton street, on Monday night the greater part of the historic structure was reduced to kindling wood. The room said to have been occupied frequently by Abraham Lincoln when he was a little known lawyer was annihilated save for one glaring wall, which was the most conspicuous part of the landmark still standing yeaterday. The tavern was erected in 1833. It is to give way to a modern structure.
Chicago Tribune, April 26,1902.
Another notable landmark, the old Green Tree Tavern, at the southeast corner of Fulton street and Milwaukee avenue, is to be torn down to make way for a modern structure. This comes from the sale of the property yesterday by the W. D. Kerfoot & Co. for the estate of Frederick Bronson of New York to Leo Ernst of the independent Brewing company for $20,000.The original location of the tavern was on the north bank of the river on Lake street. It was built by James Kinzie in 1833, and was opened by David Clock, who conducted it for a short time, and was succeeded by Edward Parsons. Two young men by the name of Snow and Spear succeeded Mr. Parsons, and conducted the tavern until 1838, which John Gray, subsequently Sheriff of the county, took charge. He ran it until 1841, when he sold out to George Rogers, who was its proprietor until 1845. In his time it was known as the Chicago Hotel. He was succeeded by F. A. Macintyre, who conducted it until 1848, when J. W. Noyes assumed control and changed the name of the house to the Noyes Hotel. Of late years the second story has been conducted as the old Lake Street House, the lower floor being used as storerooms. In its day it was considered the finest hotel in Chicago, and was a money maker. At one end of the house at the second story is a bullet mark and an interesting story attaches to it. One night Proprietor John Gray heard a great commotion among some young pigs he had in a pen just outside, and picking up a rifle, he went out to investigate. He discovered a large roof just in the act of carrying off one of the pigs, and taking a quick aim he fired shooting the wolf through both hid legs. A half dozen fierce dogs turned loose on the wolf, but not until he killed two of them was he dispatched.
Green Tree Tavern
Northeast Corner of Lake and Canal Streets, moved to Southeast Corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Fulton Street in 1880.