After World War II Chicago’s Hollywood Park neighborhood underwent rapid development, attracting many Jewish families from the West Side. You’d think they would have been thrilled that a family-owned business from the old neighborhood wanted to follow them to the North Side, but, no, Hollywood Park didn’t exactly welcome Sol Lazar with open arms.
Lazar wanted to relocate his business, Lazar’s Kosher Sausage Factory–a business he started in 1913 on the 3600 block of Roosevelt Road–to a large plot of land he owned on the east side of Kedzie, south of Bryn Mawr Avenue. In the chambers of Master of Chancery Nathan M. Cohen, the neighbors literally raised a stink about Lazar’s proposed move. I don’t know where the Chancery was located, didn’t even know one existed outside Bleak House. I’m guessing it was at City Hall and that’s where, on March 12, 1957, some 100 Hollywood Park residents showed up with three jars.
The Chicago Tribune covered the story:
“Cries of ‘Phew!’ ‘Put that lid back on!’ and ‘Lemme outta here’ sounded thru the packed room as many persons rushed for the door.”
What happened is the protesters opened jars of so-called pickle juice to demonstrate how badly Hollywood Park would smell if Lazar built his sausage factory on Kedzie. They claimed they had obtained samples of the liquid from a refuse container in back of Lazar’s Roosevelt Road plant.
Lazar denied the samples were by-products of his processing plant. He said he had put a trash bin in the alley for the convenience of the neighbors.
The attorney for the Hollywood Park group, Zeamore A. Adler, argued that in any case smoking and packaging meat would pollute the area. Lazar said his factory would be a neighborhood improvement.
Pickle barrel tactics ultimately failed to convince the Master of the Chancery. On December 22, 1957, the Hollywood North Park Civic Association held an emergency meeting to fight “the movement of the stock yards to the north side.”
They weren’t successful. In 1958 Lazar’s opened his modern and, as I recall, attractive facility at 5511 N. Kedzie. (Today, Northside College Prep High School is located on the site.) In hindsight, Lazar may have been right about the impact of his plant on the area. Although the city originally zoned the east side of Kedzie south of Bryn Mawr for residential development, the small businesses and light manufacturing shops that eventually lined the street contributed to the economic stability of the neighborhood and lowered the population density of an already crowded area.
And the smell? My mother shopped at Lazar’s and I always looked forward to the moment of impact, when we opened the glass doors and walked into a smell of salami so strong I felt it might push us right back outside. It was always busy and noisy and I would wait patiently until our number was called and one of the butchers would hand me a thin slice of salami before taking my mother’s order.
Some of you from the old neighborhood may have known that Sol Lazar and his family lived on the 6100 block of North Springfield, about a mile away from the shop on Kedzie. What you might not have known is Sol’s nephew Leo Stein was a composer and conductor. Leo Stein left his papers as well as a marvelous history of his life, including Lazar family history, to the DePaul University library and it’s available online.
Update! Lazar’s Goes On … in Jerusalem! Thanks to a comment posted below, I learned that Sol Lazar’s daughter owns a butcher shop in Jerusalem.
Sources: ‘PHEW!’ PICKLE PLANT PROTEST PANICS PEOPLE :A Jar of Evidence Jars Zoning. (1957, March 13). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),p. 12. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1987). (Document ID: 518119132). RESIDENTS SET RALLY TO FIGHT SAUSAGE PLANT. (1957, December 22). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),p. nw7. Retrieved November 28, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1987). (Document ID: 566072642). DePaul University Special Collections: Autobiography of Leo Stein.