They paved the stables and put up a parking lot

Lincoln_VillageEver since Me & My Shadow contributor John Erickson recalled the “horse-drawn milk delivery wagons sharing the alleys with  horse-drawn garbage wagons, rag and iron collectors, and knife/scissor sharpeners on foot” from his childhood in Hollywood Park, I have been obsessed fascinated with the idea of horses in Hollywood Park. Another contributor, Andy Romanoff, added fuel to this burning interest when he told me he remembers seeing horses in the Hollywood Park neighborhood into the late 40s.

I have no problem imagining horses in other parts of the city, but on my own block on North Central Park Avenue? Less than 20 years before we moved into our house? Really?

I’m not just curious about the horses, though I’d love to see a photograph of a horse-drawn cart on Bryn Mawr and Kimball. Who cleaned up after the horses? Were there stables in the neighborhood or did the horses come from other neighborhoods to make deliveries in Hollywood Park? What was it like when horses and cars shared the alleys and streets? Did the transition from horse-drawn wagons to delivery trucks seem gradual or overnight? When were the horses gone for good?

So, with this backstory, you can imagine how thrilled I was to read a recent comment left on one of my earlier blogposts. In sharing memories of growing up in that sliver of Peterson Park east of Kimball Avenue, Brenda Wolin Terry mentions riding stables had been located on the site that later became Lincoln Village Shopping Center:


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“I moved with my parents & older sister to Christiana & Glenlake in Peterson Park on Sept. 27, 1948. Our street ended on the north at Lincoln Avenue, and we were the third house on the block. There were pheasant hunters who would come through our backyard with their bows & arrows, and the property that [in 1951] became Lincoln Village Shopping Center was Christianson’s Riding Stable, where my sister would rent a horse & ride up the bridle path along McCormick Blvd.

Each time a new house was built on our block, we would get mice in the basement! My girlfriends and I loved to go exploring in houses that were in the process of being built. We would climb up the makeshift ramps and slide down on pieces of wood. We rode our bikes to Labaugh Woods and built fires to cook our lunches.

When they built Lincoln Village, the big restaurant there that faced Lincoln Ave. was called The Village Grill. It became What’s Cooking? many years later. My sister worked at Mandel Brothers in high school, and she had to wear a black skirt, white blouse, and nylon stockings with black flats.

I transferred to Peterson School in 4th grade, and that day I met many of the girls and boys who are still a big part of my life…although we are not riding bikes to River Park to swim any more. I have recently moved to the California desert, where I have reunited with some of my classmates from Peterson & Von who preceded me to southern CA. It’s nice to know that wherever you go in this country there’s a former Von Steuben gal or guy waiting to rekindle memories.”

I realize these stables weren’t the home of the horses making the milk and coal deliveries on Central Park and Drake and the rest of Hollywood Park, but this bit of information brings me closer to being able to picture horses in Hollywood Park.

There aren’t any other references to the Peterson Park stables online, but in the Forgotten Chicago forum a contributor remembered a Christensen Riding Academy at 1508 N. Clark Street, near the corner of Clark and North, serving Gold Coast patrons who rode on the Lincoln Park bridle path. In the Tribune archives I learned the riding master of Christensen Riding Academy was a Danish immigrant, Chris Christensen. It’s tempting to imagine a connection between the two stables, especially considering the North Park area’s Scandinavian population prior to World War II, but there is no mention in the Tribune articles of a second Christensen’s location on the Far North Side.

On the topic of horses in this area, but unrelated to Christensen’s Stables, at one time pony rides were offered at Hollywood Kiddieland, adjacent to Lincoln Village Shopping Center.

Hollywood_Kiddieland

Photo courtesy of Merle Citrin Monroe.

One more thing caught my attention in Brenda’s comment: there must have a been a lot of pheasant in the area, because even in the sixties when we lived on Central Park, I remember people talked about seeing pheasant on the grounds of the TB Sanitarium.

Update (12/4/12): Thanks to Jerry Pritikin for recalling the Idle Hour Stables (see comments below) and for Linda Oppman-Spreckman Jacobson for clarifying there were two stables on this stretch of Lincoln Avenue. Idle Hour was farther east, at the intersection of Lincoln and Peterson, while Christenson’s Stables was located on the site that became Lincoln Village.

Acknowledgements:  Joni Mitchell’s song, “Big Yellow Taxi” provided the inspiration for the title of this post.

Read related posts about Lincoln Village Shopping Center and Hollywood Kiddieland.

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26 Responses to They paved the stables and put up a parking lot

  1. Bonnie McGrath December 3, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    those ponies at kiddieland sure bring back memories. i used to love riding them!!

  2. Frances Archer December 3, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Bonnie, you spent a lot of time visiting our neighborhood, from Decoma day camp to bounceland to kiddieland. Any other memories?

  3. Jerry Pritikin December 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    I recall the stable where Lincoln Village was called Idolhour something like that. They charged 10 cents and hour and my sister use to go there. I remember there were hayrides, but I do not know where those horses came from.

  4. Frances Archer December 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    Jerry, thanks for these clues…everything helps.

  5. Frances Archer December 3, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    Jerry, paydirt! And I mean dirt. The Idol Hour was opened by Silas Jayne and here is the story: http://chasblogs.blogspot.com/2011/04/silas-jayne.html I’m guessing he sold it as some point to the Christensen’s.

  6. renee' chernoff December 3, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    Another great article, Frances. I wasn’t around in 1948 and by the time I was born and we moved to Peterson Park (and I would have been old enough to remember), I’m sure the riding stables were gone. I vaguely remember horseback riding in Lincoln Park in the 60’s, I definitely remember the bridle paths that ran through the park but by the late 1960’s we were renting horses up near Wauconda. By then, the Lincoln Park bridle paths were long gone.

  7. Frances Archer December 3, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    Renee, there were stables near Lincoln Park into the seventies. I remember seeing riders on the path while I was in high school, so before 1974. However, I think the public stables were gone, and so only those who owned their own horses would ride there.

  8. Christine Hancock December 4, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    Wow! That really is some Idol Hour “pay” dirt. Always interesting reading!

  9. John Erickson December 4, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    I don’t know where the dairy, garbage truck, or other draft horses were stabled, Frances. However, I do know the “droppings” were cleaned up by the huge flocks of sparrows extant at the time. There were very few automobiles in the neighborhood until after WWII which left the alleys for horses, “bums” and playgrounds. Until all the Catalpa trees grew too large the streets were playgrounds, too. Christiana just north of Bryn Mawr was the transfer point where single horse-drawn garbage wagons would be formed into trains pulled by a Mack Truck while the horses were hitched to an empty wagon. I wonder if Brenda Wolin was a sister to Jerry Wolin who ended up in Sterling where he had a trouser factory? Jerry married Norma Masters, a Von alum of ’44.

  10. Frances Archer December 4, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    John, I will check with Brenda whether she had a brother. Thanks for the information about the horses–I’m truly fascinated with how they were managed.

  11. Paul Warshawsky December 5, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    I drove the train at Kiddieland while i was a junior at Roosevelt in 1958/59

  12. Frances Archer December 6, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Paul, I sent you a photograph of the train which I found on the facebook group page, “I hung out at Hollywood Kiddieland.”

  13. Howard S. Ex December 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Frances thought I’d check in and get up to date. As to John Erickson’s report on the horse driven wagons. I do remember seeing horse draw carts and trucks that traveled through the alley behind our apartment. There were fruit and vegetable wagons, “rags or iron” salvage, and I think coal delivery ones as well. Although I must say that the “bums” in the back were mostly us children. That was were we kicked the can, played “hop Scotch,” not to mention hide and seek. As to your question about the transition to auto’s, it seemed to me it was gradual, although we most always had a car as my dad was a pharmaceutical salesman.

    On another matter, Richard Cohen was correct, it was Mr. Marsh who was the principal in my time @ Peterson. Some of the teachers names were; Mrs. Sullivan, Miss Mizock Miss Weiss, Mrs. Mathews and Mrs. Eck. Lest you think I have such a great memory, I must admit I found my autograph book from my graduation year (Jan 1946.)

    I have agonized over who the teacher that made us learn by heart the poem, Tree by Kilmer. I think it was Mrs. Eck. That’s just a guess. Well now back to work.

  14. Frances Archer December 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    Howard, Thanks for checking in. I have somewhere a list of the teachers from about your year. I’ll look for it and post the names.

  15. John Erickson December 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    Mr. Marsh was pricipal after Louise Schroll who opened a gift-book store on Ridge south of Howard when she retired. Other teachers were Mrs. Modglin, Mrs. Miller,, Mrs. Gold, Mrs. Lapham, Mrs. Schenk. Mrs. Tangney. I do recall Miss Sullivans “prematurely red hair” though.

  16. John Erickson December 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    In the 30s there were hundreds of young, unemployed, homeless, transient men called ‘Bums” in our neighborhood, “Hobos” in others. The term wasn’t demeening as far as us kids were concerned. They were invisible during the day but appeared about sundown. They had a way of marking the homes where food would be available. My mother always had a plate of food for the first one to appear. They were always polite, always ate the food offered, always said “thank you”, always left the plate and glass on the back porch where they ate. We kids were proud of our parents, but also impressed by the manners of the hungry. It was another time. It has always made me thankful for what I have and for what my parents taught me and for the neighborhood where I was raised. We kids didn’t really understand “The Depression” but have learned to respect
    how our country coped.

  17. Jim Huffman March 2, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    When I was 5-years old, I lived in the area of Winthrop & Ardmore in 1944 and I was often taken to the pony rides on Petersen just west of the CNW tracks alongside of (NW corner) Ravenswood. It was an oval dirt track apox 100′ x 50′ on a vacant lot. There were aprox a dozen ponies of various sizes & colors. They were saddled & a guide would walk each pony & rider around the track for a dime. I remember as late as the 70s, the lot was still there in aprox the same condition sans the ponies, of course. The street started to drop off to the east & the lot, which was level dirt, had a low concrete retaining wall on the south side which became higher (about 4′) as the street dropped. There now is a very large building on that site.

  18. Jim Huffman March 2, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    Lincoln Park had a bridle path that ran nearly the length of the park, from North Av to Foster Av, not sure if it was ever extended to Bryn Mawr Av. There were many riders that used this path, quite frequent at times, at least a hundred an hour, if not more. Most of the stables were on Clark St & in older masonry buildings that did not look like what we think stables should like. The path was used as late as the late 60s aprox. I and my wife went to the last stable still extant in about 1965 for horse ridding lessons. There was a small arena inside for riding. We never went on the path, wish we had. The path has been paved for bikes. I misspelled Peterson last comment

  19. Frances Archer March 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Thanks, Jim. Great story. I’m going to check it out.

  20. Frances Archer March 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    Jim, sorry it took me so long to post your note. I’ve been out of town, so catching up on everything. I remember seeing horses in Lincoln Park as late as 1971.

  21. Frances Archer March 20, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Jim, I’m way behind in responding to comments on my blog, and I apologize for the delay. Your comment is really helpful. In my mind, I was thinking that there must have been traditional-looking stables, but now it makes sense that they were brick buildings and probably some are still standing, serving another purpose. I read of a stable on Clark Street in Rogers Park, and it was also a brick building.

  22. Jeffrey Horwitz March 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    1930’s- a stable was located at what is now Mather H.S.. My parents would rent horses there and ride along McCormak.

    1940’s-The building that became Bell and Howell’s Corporate Hdqtrs. On McCormak, was a military hospital during WWII and across McCormak was an Army Air Corp landing strip .

  23. Frances Archer March 28, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    Jeffrey, thanks for stopping by and adding to the list of memories, especially the stables. So we know there was a stable at what is now Lincoln Village, another one just east of there where Lincoln crosses Peterson and then this third one where Mather is located. Well, it was the outskirts of the city. And that is a fabulous contribution about the WWII era buildings.

  24. Jeffrey Horwitz July 23, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    My Mom and Dad used to tell us stories of them in the 30’s going to a stabke where Mather High School is today and riding up along McCormik Blvd.

    A side note: the greenery along McCormik Bvd and the North Shore Channel, north of Pratt and south of Touhy was an airstrip used during WWII because what became the headquarters for Bell and Howell, across the street was a Military Hospital.

  25. Howard Glantz December 16, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    The air strip along the Chicago River was Eagle Field. East of the field was part of what was called Devil’s Hill, a bike path along the river. The bridle path that Jeffrey talked about was on the east side of the river as it entered and terminated in River Park.

    In the 1950’s when they built Lincoln Village my Dad’s air conditioned about a third of the stores. I worked in four of them while in High School and college.

  26. Frances Archer December 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Hi, Howard. Thanks for the details about this area. I have just recently been reading about the history of the North Shore channel and the Chicago River, so this is particularly interesting and useful for future posts.

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