Ever 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:
“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.
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.