This morning's dramatic sunrise almost looked like a Bierstadt landscape. With no mountains anywhere near Joliet, we have to rely on clouds for our grandeur.
Fifth in a series of memorable curbside discards. This one is actually of our own driveway - Maddie decided to finally get rid of her Elmo lawn sprinkler, which never worked very well anyway. Given the longtime appeal of Elmo, I'd be surprised if somebody doesn't salvage this before the garbage man arrives tomorrow, but it was still there as of this morning.
Joliet has a modest maritime connection, thanks to its location on the Des Plaines River between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Illinois River. Any barges traveling from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi have to pass through Joliet. Above is an Egan Marine towboat docked on a river wharf, just south of the McDonough Street bridge.
Fourth in a series of memorable curbside discards. Or in this case, alleyside - behind an apartment building on Jefferson Street, on the east side of Joliet. The taped-on sign, of course, begs the question of why the TV's owner is just throwing it away. And I suspect it probably won't work quite as good after sitting in four inches of snow.
My friend Richard Grayson posted interesting side-by-side photos on his Facebook page, which are shown above. Both photos are of 311 Washington Avenue - the first in Brooklyn, the second in Miami Beach. I thought I'd do likewise for Chicago and Joliet. Here is 311 W. Washington Street in Chicago:
This building is half a block from my office, and primarily houses an AT&T switching station. (Interesting how those utilitarian AT&T buildings were designed so ornately back in the old days.) And here is 311 E. Washington Street in Joliet:
Not much to see here, other than the Rock Island railroad embankment and a sliver of the roofline of Joliet Central High School. But this address is somewhat historically significant, as the opposite side of the street is the former site of the Gerlach-Barklow Company, which was once one of the biggest manufacturers of art calendars in the United States.
(Note: There is no 311 E. Washington address in Chicago; that number would be located somewhere in the middle of Grant Park. And 311 W. Washington in Joliet would be in the middle of an intersection, so thus the street address doesn't technically exist either. So, the Chicago and Joliet addresses I used above were the closest matches to Richard's addresses.)
Beginning of the endHerald News Office to Close as Sun-Times Targets 'Inefficiencies'
When it's no longer efficient to report local news from its source - the Joliet area - it no longer makes sense to keep the newspaper going as a discrete publication. Start saying your goodbyes to the Herald-News.
I haven't posted any Joliet ephemera here in a long time, so here you go: a Polo Beer label from Pioneer Brewing, circa 1930s or 1940s. (Here's another Pioneer label that I posted earlier.) It would have been pretty incongruous, and even comical, drinking a bottle of Polo at some gritty neighborhood tavern, because back then Joliet was about as far from the polo-and-ponies set as you could get. Even more so than today.
Sunrise, Washington Street
The silhouetted figure at the lower left is a homeless man who was waiting to cross Eastern Avenue, likely headed, as are many at that time of morning, to the Morningstar Mission a few blocks away.
Ten Years of Metra, continued
Another photo from my daily Metra commute. The structure in the center is a guard tower at the old Joliet Penitentiary. I like how the train's motion, the low morning sun and the misty window make this look like a watercolor painting. Which was totally accidental on my part.
Third in a series of memorable curbside discards from around Joliet, this one on Eastern Avenue. If there's such thing as a prototypical castoff, this is it: the plaid couch.
Second in a series of memorable curbside discards from around Joliet. Here, on John Street: two couches, a recliner, an ottoman and - judging by the fullness of the dumpster - possibly everything else from the living room.
Joliet Police Blotter Story of the Year
I've only run a couple of Joliet police blotter stories in 2011 (here and here), both of which were pretty good, but this beauty from the Herald-News easily takes the title of Joliet Police Blotter Story of the Year.
Fowl play: Taxidermied duck blown up in Joliet
JOLIET — Stuffed duck may have graced several holiday tables, but only one was offered as entertainment with enough explosives to warrant a criminal investigation.
Police say the taxidermed waterfowl was destroyed and two houses were damaged at a Dec. 4 party in the Cumberland subdivision.
Police were called the following day when siding damage was discovered on residences in the 1800 block of Mandan Village Drive, Lt. Joe Egizio said.
"Investigators learned about the party and reports of the explosion," Egizio said. "They recovered the remnants of a taxidermied duck and a duck call from a large hole in the sod of the backyard."
In the following weeks, detectives interviewed several party guests to learn what happened, a difficult task since many were drinking the night the duck was destroyed.
Detectives questioned Joseph T. Bundy, 35, of Aurora, on Monday. Bundy told police he had found the duck in the street when he arrived for the festivites.
"He admitted he’d also brought a large firework and decided to blow up the duck for entertainment," Egizio said. "But he underestimated the power of the firework."
Bundy was charged with illegal possession of fireworks and released on bond.
As long as Bundy makes restitution to the people whose houses were damaged, the city will not prosecute the case as a criminal violation.
That poor duck has been desecrated three times - when it was killed, when it was stuffed and mounted, and when it was obliterated by drunken yahoos.
Edwin Porter Brewery
Here's an interesting historical piece in the Joliet Herald-News about the old Porter Brewery, including a column by the late John Whiteside on the Feds' attempted crackdown during Prohibition. Edwin Porter's son Harry built our house, in 1927, but passed away before it was completed - his wife re-married shortly afterward and lived in the house for a while. When we first looked at the house I was pleasantly surprised to see that the knocker on the front door is engraved with the name "Porter." I wonder what Mrs. Porter's second husband thought about having that around as a constant reminder of whom came first.
AftermathDriving to work this morning, I saw some debris up ahead in the middle of Black Road, right on the center line. As I got closer, I saw it was a coat, pants, shirt...and a red Solo party cup. Somebody had a good time last night. Hope they got home safely.
Joliet Police Blotter
A strong candidate for Meathead of the Year...
Police: Drive-through fight leads to high-speed chase in Shorewood
SHOREWOOD — A fight over a spot in the drive-through lane reportedly led to a high-speed police chase through the village Saturday night.
A man called 911 around 11:23 p.m. as he left the McDonald’s on Route 52 near Interstate 55 in Joliet, Shorewood police Cmdr. Eric Allen said.
"He had been in the drive-through getting food and honked at the car ahead of him to move along," Allen said.
Apparently angry at being honked at, Andrew J. Myers, 33, reportedly got out of his blue Saab 97x and walked up to the vehicle behind him.
"Some words were exchanged before the confrontation turned physical with Myers reaching into the vehicle," Allen said.
Police say Myers fled as the other man followed and called 911.
I encourage you to read the entire article. To whet your appetite for meatheadedness, I'll just mention that it escalated into a 100-mph chase and a police roadblock - and all of this with the moron's 7-year-old daughter in the backseat, not even wearing a seatbelt. This, combined with the two other incidents the article mentions, certainly doesn't reflect well on Tim McGraw fans.
Headline of the Day
Mocking the steadily declining Joliet Herald-News is akin to shooting fish in a barrel. But I still can't let this headline pass by unnoticed:
I wonder how long it will take them to correct this. If ever.
Joliet police blotter
I haven't passed along a police blotter item in a while, but this one is pretty wonderful. File Under: Least Competent Criminals.
Fleeing suspect runs into cops training session in Joliet
JOLIET — A man who was reportedly trying to escape from a few cops ended up running past a virtual convention of them Wednesday.
About 30 Joliet cops and a large number of officers from other departments were at Bicentennial Park for a training session on "being prepared for any situation" — which would likely describe the arrest of Domonique J. Loggins, 21.
Loggins was a passenger in a car driving over the Jackson Street Bridge around 1:05 p.m., Joliet Deputy Chief Mike Trafton.
"He and his 20-year-old girlfriend began arguing over cigarettes, and near Cass and Joliet streets, he punched her in the mouth," Trafton said.
The young woman detoured to Washington Street and parked in front of the police department, where she ran in to tell police.
"Officers went outside and saw Loggins walking toward the Jefferson Street Bridge," Trafton said. "He began running as they approached him and turned north once he crossed the bridge, into Bicentennial Park where about 60 squad cars were parked."
Several of the cops attending the training came outside as Loggins was grabbed by the officers who had been pursuing him.
Then another unexpected situation occurred.
"Once he was placed in handcuffs, Loggins took off again and ran up the cement steps that lead up to Broadway from the park," Trafton said.
With more and more officers flooding the area, Joliet Cmdr. Brian Benton recaptured Loggins a short time later in the 300 block of Oneida Street. Benton was reportedly returning from lunch when he heard the call.
Speed the time, Father, when the bow of peace
Spanning the gulf, shall bid the tempest cease.
- Frederick Bartleson
Bartleson was Joliet's first Civil War volunteer, and perhaps its first poet as well. He died at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, in 1864.
As I've mentioned here before, one of the things I love about living in Joliet is its throwback quality - old-fashioned barber shops, vintage neon signs, 1960s muscle cars driven as everyday vehicles. Here's another example: the photo above is one of only 14 Rax restaurants still in existence. During its 1980s heyday the chain had over 500 locations and was even a staunch competitor of Arby's. The Joliet store on Jefferson Street soldiers on, though I must admit I've never eaten there.
Crews begin demolition of White Store
JOLIET — A crane armed with a clam bucket sank its teeth into the White Store at 8:11 a.m. Monday and began chipping away at the century-old building’s bricks.
The building was a charming old relic, though admittedly run-down after decades of neglect. Somebody with some vision easily could have renovated and revived the building, but nobody in the city seems to have that much imagination. Instead it's being demolished to expand Joliet Junior College's downtown campus - trouble is, JJC has only half the money needed for the gleaming new building they want to build on the site. And where do they expect the rest of the money to come from? The teetering-on-bankruptcy State of Illinois. Good luck with that. I guarantee the site will be a vacant lot for at least five years, and probably much longer.
Today, for one day only, Joliet is the preteen hotspot of the entire worldJonas Brothers likely to snarl traffic
As of 7 o'clock this morning - six hours before the gates open - there were already a hundred youngsters congregating in front of Silver Cross Field, traffic was being diverted and police patrols were prominent. There are very few days that I'm glad to work an hour away from home, and this is one of those days.
J. Elsinger & Co.
Interesting piece of Joliet ephemera here, from the bygone era when retailers still printed up advertising cards - though, admittedly, this is a stock image to which the store's name was imprinted. But I'm a bit perplexed by the store's street address. First, that it lacks the east/west designation that's standard today, but more importantly that during that era neither 34 West Jefferson (the Will County Courthouse) or 34 East Jefferson (the Woodruff Hotel) would have been a likely storefront location - unless Elsinger was located inside the Woodruff. Or it could be instead that, sometime after this card was printed, the city changed its street address system. Back then there were plenty of storefronts along the entire north side of Jefferson (on the opposite side from the Courthouse and the Woodruff) that could have housed this store. A mild mystery.
Now, here's a real rarity on eBay - a TOG soda bottle label, circa 1950s, from Sunnyside Beverage in Joliet. A Google search for "Sunnyside Beverage" and "Joliet" returns just one result, from some bottle collector's wish list. I'll have to check the old Joliet city directories next time I'm at the library and see if there's any information there on this company. How pleasantly simple that ingredients list is: just water, sugar, lemon and lime flavors, and vitamins B and D. No sodium benzoate, no high fructose corn syrup, just natural ingredients. And vitamin-fortified too!
Nice piece here on Joliet local favorite Chicken-N-Spice.
It was hard not to panic back in the 1980s when many businesses were pulling out of downtown, Pat Reimer said.
"To look across the street and see everything boarded up was just scary," she said.
In 1979, Reimer and her husband, Ken, had taken a chance on opening a restaurant, Chicken-N-Spice, in a building at 251 N. Chicago St. that had originally housed a Jack in the Box and then a Popeyes. Then they watched as most of the retail stores and car dealerships left downtown.
"All of these things provided customers," she said of the fleeing businesses. "You can't help but have that sense of fear."
Great food, obviously good people. Downtown Joliet could use a lot more committed entrepreneurs like the Reimers. They have kept it simple (Chicken-N-Spice is totally a no-frills kind of place; the seating appears to be unchanged from its Popeye's/Jack In The Box days) and stuck with what they do best. Though Will County's growth has boosted the number of workers downtown (Joliet is the county seat) businesses continue to struggle there and vacant retail space remains a problem.
(Photo by John Patsch, Joliet Herald-News.)
Happy Paczki Day!
I really wish I had realized before I was already on my morning train that today is Paczki Day, or otherwise I would have taken a few extra minutes to stop by Joliet Bakery and pick up a couple paczkis (pronounced, best as I can tell, as "poonch-kees") for the ride to work. Them's good eatin'.
Strangely enough, though I grew up in the Chicago area (which is heavily Polish - Chicago has the second most Poles of any city, after Warsaw) I didn't first hear of paczkis until my early twenties, while on a business trip to Detroit that happened to include Shrove Tuesday. And even then I didn't eat my first one until just a year or two ago, when Joliet Bakery (a combination Polish bakery/grocery/restaurant/bar, affectionately known locally as Drunken Donuts for its unusual nightcap potential) first opened.
More fun with Google Maps
Below are aerial photographs which show the remnants of three demolished/abandoned structures. See if you can guess what each was.
First, from Joliet:
Second, also from Joliet:
Lastly, from Blue Island, Illinois:
For answers and links, please scroll down. No cheating!
1. Bowling alley: Washington Lanes (demolished).
2. Drive-in movie theater: Hilltop Drive-In (still standing, but closed long ago).
3. Railroad roundhouse: Blue Island roundhouse of the Rock Island Railroad (apparently the turntable is still used to rotate trains, though the structure is gone).
Schmitz and Gretencort
Nice 1912 postcard here, which advertises the Schmitz and Gretencort department store (click on either image for the full-sized version). Interesting to note that the "holiday sale of questionable relevance" concept ("4th of July Home Coming Sale") is by no means a modern-day development. I've seen ephemera from this store before and had assumed it was a Joliet company, but based on the ordering of the locations listed on the back, it appears to have been an Aurora company with a Joliet branch. This building is still standing, but the interior has been fully modernized and this view is now long gone.
Silverfross Drive In
Sharp matchbook here from the old Silverfross Drive In, on Lincoln Highway on the east side of Joliet. The restaurant is obviously long gone, but I'll have to drive past that intersection and since if the building is still there. I don't know about you, but even though it's only ten o'clock in the morning a pork tenderloin, fries and root beer sounds pretty damned good right now.
Joliet Police BlotterThis is certainly a strong candidate for Joliet Police Blotter Story Of The Year. How discreet of the newspaper to not disclose the woman's name, thus protecting her from well-deserved public ridicule.
No surprise when gas and lighter mix
JOLIET -- A woman's method of checking her fuel level Tuesday night was like pouring gasoline on a fire.
The 27-year-old Joliet woman suffered second-degree burns and destroyed a car after reportedly using a cigarette lighter to help her see how much gas was in the can she'd been filling.
Police reports say it was around 10:30 p.m. when the woman drove to 7-11, 1609 E. Cass St., in a yellow 1970 Chevrolet 400.
The woman "was filling up a gas can, which was sitting on the passenger seat of the car. (She) then used a lighter to use as a light to observe how full the can was," police said.
The can ignited from the lighter's flame and the resulting explosion also set the vehicle's interior ablaze.
Apparently fearful the fire could spread to the fuel pump she'd been using, the victim began to push the burning car.
Firefighters from Station Four reported the Chevrolet was "approximately five feet from the pumps and fully involved" when they arrived.
The woman was treated for "nonlife threatening, but serious" second-degree burns to her right wrist and right thigh by ambulance personnel and taken to Silver Cross Hospital.
Joliet, er, Lockport Police Blotter
My spirits lifted when I saw this headline, hoping for so much more than this story turned out to be.
LOCKPORT -- An armed robber made off with $300 from Fantasy Comics, 1128 S. State St.
Police said the holdup man entered the business at 3 p.m. Wednesday. By the time police had arrived, he had fled the scene.
The robber was described as a white male, 18 to 22 years old, 5-foot-9, with a thin build. The man was wearing a black bandana.
Police said the robber showed customers and employees a small, black, semi-automatic handgun, telling them to get on the floor.
If you have any information regarding this incident, contact the Lockport Police Department's Investigations Unit at 815-838-2132.
One would think that a comic book shop robber would at least have enough imagination to wear a mask when committing his crime, or cackle fiendishly as he departed. And apparently Superman was asleep on the job, because not only did the police have to be called in, but they're even seeking help from the public. Superheroing just ain't wait it used to be.
I love this 1925 ad for the L.F. Beach department store in Joliet. Note the striking similarity and impossible proportions of the models from way back then. Apparently the unrealistic body perception that is instilled by popular culture these days didn't start with Barbie dolls.
Joliet Police Blotter
It seems to me that one of the responsibilities of gun ownership is not only knowing exactly how many guns you have in your home, but also checking on them more often than every 26 years.
Gone but not forgotten
JOLIET TOWNSHIP -- Where were you on the night of May 15? How about May 15, 1983?
On May 15, a homeowner on Sugar Creek Drive reported a burglary to Will County Sheriff's police. After completing an inventory, the woman called police again May 20 to tell them several firearms had been stolen.
The victim told police she'd inherited four handguns and two rifles in 1981 and had them appraised two years later.
"At that point the firearms were stored in a closet attached to the master bedroom (and) during the past 26 years she hadn't thought of the firearms," police said.
Reports indicate it is not known if the weapons were stolen during the May 15 burglary, another burglary that occurred in 2003 or "during a number of parties at the residence during the last 26 years."
Carl Erickson, the local boy unexpectedly done goodI regularly follow the illustration blog Today's Inspiration but was particularly struck by this quote that appeared there this week:
"There is no reason, of course, why the suave delineator of chic femininity, whose drawings for twenty years have given poignance to America's smartest fashion magazine, should not have been born in Joliet, Illinois."The quote is about Carl Erickson, who was born in Joliet in 1891 and went on to a celebrated career as illustrator, under the oh-so-chic singular name "Eric", in the fashion industry. I had never heard of him before but now am quite impressed by his work. The blog has been running a series on Eric this week, which I encourage you to check out:
Carl (Eric) Erickson (1891-1958)
Eric: "the suave delineator of chic femininity"
The Extent of Eric's Influence
Carl Erickson: The "Deceptively Simple Line" of the "Lifestyle Illustrator"
The Art of Carl Erickson: "Easy or Impossible"
From everything I've read about Joliet in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - rough and tumble, blue collar, pervaded by heavy industry - I'd say it's indeed remarkable that the "suave delineator of chic femininity" hailed from here. Yesterday I found this bio on his father, Per Erickson, who, quite true to the city's rough image, was the "keeper" (warden? jailer?) at the Joliet Penitentiary.
...Joliet ain't literary? This photo was taken on the east side of Joliet, at the corner of Little Dorrit St. and Dickens St. (Also nearby are Pickwick Rd. and Pickwick Ct.) And this isn't some chic new neighborhood that's striving for distinction by invoking the literary masters, but instead a rather humble cluster of 1920s frame houses that are adjacent to railroad tracks, a cemetery and a bridge overpass.
Peet's Service Station
Another matchbook (my eBay searches are turning up a lot of them lately), this one from Peet's Service Station. My best guess is that the station was located at what is now the intersection of Illinois Route 53 (the former Route 66) and Zarley Boulevard. While the "groceries" and "notions" are still part of modern-day gas station convenience stores, I love the mention of "heated cabins", which indicates the station featured a motor court motel for weary travelers. There's still a gas station on that corner (a Speedway) but from the satellite photo it looks the cabins are no more. I'm sure I'll be driving past this intersection soon to check it out.
Time stands still in JolietOne of the things I love most about Joliet is its timeless quality. In many ways, time here has stood still - 1970s muscle cars sit parked on driveways, not as showpieces but as everyday vehicles; corner grocery stores and restaurants are marked by neon signs which are every bit as vibrant as they were brand-new, sixty years ago; hulking brick factories still operate though they no longer produce the horseshoes or barbed wire or wallpaper of old; old-school barber and cobbler shops still hang on. I've been called a throwback more than once, and I guess it's my fondness for the past which makes me appreciate my adopted hometown as much as I do.
Another case in point: Joliet has a local pharmacy, J.D. Brown and Company, which has been locally-owned and -operated for over 150 years, and is almost as old as the city itself. Although we frequent the store regularly (primarily Julie, who drops off shipments from her online businesses at the store's post office substation), until yesterday I wasn't aware of the following bit of historical interest about the store.
As it turns out, the store's founder James Douglas Brown was the nephew of Senator Stephen A. Douglas, the renowned 19th Century politician who was best known for squaring off against Abe Lincoln in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Douglas was a regular visitor to Joliet and to his nephew's store, where he liked to sit on a bench in the store and chew the fat with the locals. Remarkably, the bench not only still exists but even remains in regular use in the store. The Herald-News article linked to above (which I insist you read) also indicates that the bench has lived a rather charmed life, having survived both a fire and a tornado that destroyed the store in recent decades.
I passed this story along to Julie yesterday, and while at the store that afternoon Julie told Maddie about the bench. When I arrived home last night Maddie couldn't wait to tell me that she had sat on the bench I had read about. However, with Julie not being quite as passionate about arcane history as I am, she mistakenly told Maddie not that Stephen Douglas once sat there, but instead Ulysses S. Grant.
Which was an understandable mistake, since one of my ancestors personally knew Grant...but that's arcana for another day.
Joliet Police BlotterWow. This is certainly an inauspicious start to the kid's driving career.
JOLIET TOWNSHIP -- Maybe driver's ed will help.
On Jan. 17, a 15-year-old Crest Hill boy was pulled over by a Will County deputy. According to reports, the underage motorist "seemed to have stopped his vehicle when he suddenly reversed it and struck the passenger side of the deputy's squad car."
Police say the driver then drove away, crashing into the street sign at Fifth and Davison. He reportedly left the vehicle and took off on foot, but the officer was able to track the fresh footprints in the snow and apprehend him.
The juvenile was arrested and booked into the River Valley Juvenile Detention Center on charges of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, attempting to elude police, hit and run, resisting a police officer, driving without a valid license, driving without insurance, no front license plate and disobeying a stop sign.
Another interesting bit of Joliet ephemera - a matchbook from Otto's, which once served the unbeatable combination of root beer (undoubtedly homemade) and barbeque. This address is just a few blocks from where we live now but the place is sadly long gone (the building currently houses a Polish bakery/grocery/deli/restaurant/bar) as apparently also are the Lankenaus, for whom I could find no listing in the phone book.
Presumably the "Always Cold" referred to the root beer, and not the barbeque.
(Bolingbrook) Police BlotterAh, irony...sweet, delectable, scrumptious irony.
Exit sign sparks fire in BolingbrookYes, I had to stray outside of Joliet for this police blotter item, but at least it still appeared in the Herald-News. So it counts.
BOLINGBROOK -- An electrical failure in an exit sign and exterior light caused a fire in an apartment building Wednesday afternoon.
Battalion Chief Trinedad Garza said the fire started around 3:03 p.m. in the apartment building at 501 Preston off of Boughton Road.
Firefighters had to evacuate the west side of the complex, but had residents back in their apartments in about an hour.
Firefighters had to pull down some ceilings and clear out smoke. There were no injuries and no one was displaced, Garza said.
Overheard: Home Cut Donuts(Young African-American man, waiting in line and apparently eyeing the teenaged girls who are tending the counter, is asked by an acquaintance how he's doing.)
Man: "Fine lookin' young ladies...a cheap breakfast...I'm doin' good!"
Joliet Citizens Brewing
Another sharp keg label, this one from Joliet Citizens Brewing Company, which operated here from 1904 through 1948. (Its latter incarnation, Bohemian Brewery, brought Joliet's long brewing history to an end when it closed in 1958.) Not exactly sure what Joliet Citizens produced during Prohibition to keep the doors open - I'm sure on an official basis it was "near beer", but Joliet was a pretty wide-open town back then, so my guess is that they never stopped brewing the genuine article while the authorities looked the other way.
UPDATE: The comment below from "Mr. X" prompted me to take a closer look at that label - despite the "Keg Beer" moniker, the label isn't from a keg at all, but instead a 64-oz. bottle. But I didn't mean to imply that this label was from the Prohibition era - instead it's probably from the 40s or 50s. The fact that it doesn't say "near beer" or "tonic" or any of the old euphemisms from the dry days indicates this is the full-strength variety and is most certainly "legit." Now, whatever the brewery happened to ship out through the back door during Prohibition under the cover of darkness, that's another story...
Lovely bit of ephemera from here in Joliet - a beer keg label from Pioneer Brewing, which operated here briefly in the 1930s and 40s. That street address is for a Chicago distributor, presumably the one the keg was to be returned to. But just above that, in oddly inconspicuous type, it says "Brewery - Joliet, Ill." The brewery operated in the previous location of the Fred Sehring Brewery, which had been a pretty big operation prior to Prohibition. Pioneer closed in 1948. The building is, rather remarkably, still standing, now housing an auto body company.
(Some guy's asking $8.50 for this label on eBay but was kind enough to put up a full-size, high-res image without one of those disfiguring watermark things, so I just downloaded it instead. If I thought I'd ever get around to renovating the basement into the billiards room I've always pined for, I might have bought the original for framing, but that's unlikely so I won't.)
Joliet: No to Meijer
The developer of the long-awaited upscale lifestyle center at the northwest corner of Route 59 and Theodore Street has completely shifted gears. Blaming difficult economic conditions, the developer now wants a Meijer store there instead.
The developer of what once was supposed to be a one-of-a-kind, upscale shopping center now plans to put a big-box Meijer supercenter store at the corner of Illinois 59 and Theodore Street.
The 24-hour, 156,000-square-foot store would go into Tower Marketplace of Joliet.
The shopping center, originally called Bronk's Corners, was announced three years ago with much fanfare. Developer Ardmin Properties said then that it planned to create a signature development that would serve as a gathering place for people who would shop at unique stores and dine at upscale restaurants.
That plan, however, has run up against a downturn in the economy and increased competition from other retail projects planned for the area.
Adding a Meijer store is such a change in course for Tower Marketplace that the store will have to get city council approval before it can be built.
What an incredibly bad idea. There's already a Wal-Mart right across the street, and a Target a quarter of a mile away. The area is already ridiculously congested as it is, and adding another big box retailer will make it even worse. Better to leave the land parcel vacant for a few years until economic conditions improve and a better use for it can be found, than to add another big box that the area really doesn't need.
If you live in Joliet and agree with me on this, I urge you to contact your Councilman immediately and voice your concerns.
The Rialto's Opening Night
The Rialto Square Theatre is the jewel of Joliet, a magnificent Vaudeville-era movie palace which has been fully restored to its original glory. Julie and I were lucky enough to have our wedding reception there, in 1999, and the setting couldn't have been more perfect.
The image above (click on it for full size) is an ad that appeared in the Joliet Herald-News on the day the Rialto opened, May 24, 1926. I can't even begin to imagine what "The Evolution of Joliet" - a stage musical, apparently commissioned specifically for the opening festivities - could possibly have been like. Prison! Air-clogging steel mills! A nascent mafia!
I kid. I truly love living here. And the history is nothing short of fascinating.
Joliet Police Blotter
Although this news item is unattributed, it's clearly the work of Joe Hosey, the longtime Herald-News police beat reporter whose work I've admiringly noted here in the past. This story simply oozes with fictional potential.
A watermelon becomes a weapon
JOLIET -- A watermelon was fatally injured after attacking a door frame.
At 12:45 a.m. July 14, a resident of the 300 block of Westridge Road heard a loud bang before the alarm system went off.
According to reports, a watermelon had been thrown at the door of the residence, damaging the frame.
The resident told police he believes the vandalism may be related to an incident last month involving eggs.
Boy's gotta have it.
Historic Joliet in postcards. Small gallery here - surprisingly, four of the five buildings depicted there are still standing. Spend any time on eBay with the search term "Joliet" and you will have already seen most of these images, but it will be nice to have them all in one place. Hint hint.
IDOT or IDIOT?
Once again, it seems that the Illinois Department of Transportation, or IDOT, needs one more "I" in its name. Because this is utterly ridiculous.
The Illinois Department of Transportation is requiring that Bronk's Corners not only widen the portion of Illinois 59 that runs past the shopping center, but also widen lanes on the other side of the intersection up to the entrance to the Wal-Mart development to the south.
"IDOT did not require Wal-Mart to make a lot of the improvements on Route 59 that we're now required to carry the burden on," said Gary Davidson, an attorney representing the development group, which is headed by Ardmin Properties out of Woodridge.
Davidson added that it would be "incredibly difficult" for the developer to move forward with Bronk's Corners while taking on all the costs of road widening and infrastructure improvements.
A quick recap: Illinois Route 59 is an older highway that runs through the far west side of Joliet, an area which has had explosive growth in residential development during the past ten years. Route 59 is rapidly becoming a major commercial strip, with all the usual big box retailers - Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Staples, etc. For the most part the road is still only two lanes, as the state has dragged its heels on widening it. As a result, traffic congestion in the area is quite bad (a factor which, incidentally, contributed to our moving away from the area three years ago).
This new retail development, Bronk's Corners, is to be built at the northwest corner of Route 59 and Theodore Street. Wal-Mart built a new store a few years ago on the southwest corner but, despite the huge upsurge in traffic that Wal-Mart drew, the company wasn't required to pay for critically needed infrastructure improvements for the intersection. Now, the Bronk's Corners "lifestyle center" development, which was supposed to open this fall but hasn't even broken ground, is being required by IDOT to pay for the widening of the intersection entirely on its own.
Wal-Mart, which undoubtedly draws more traffic than the lifestyle center will, stands to benefit from the improved traffic flow without having to pay a dime for it. Meanwhile, the local developer of Bronk's Corners is expected to foot the bill, effectively subsidizing both Wal-Mart and the retail center on the opposite corner. (The fourth corner is currently vacant, but is undoubtedly being eyed for some sort of new development, as raw land on this attractive strech of Route 59 is now all but non-existent.) Never mind that the road should have been widened five years ago, before Bronk's Corners was even on the drawing board. Now, when the state finally gets around to widening the road, they're giving Wal-Mart a free pass and instead leaning on the Bronk's Corners developers as a condition for getting the project completed. And it sounds like the City of Joliet is just meekly going along with IDOT's questionable decision.
I know that state and local governments bend over backwards for new Wal-Marts, regardless of whether those stores are good for the community or not, but this is going much too far. Why isn't Wal-Mart being required to pay its fair share of these infrastructure costs? Am I completely missing something here? Does this seem at all fair?
D'Arcy Mansion Saved!
Need more parking for your banquet hall, but there's a 100+ year old, 7,700 square foot, 240-ton mansion sitting on the lot you own next door? No problem - just move that hulking structure to another lot across the street. Kudos to owner Jeff Bussean (whose company catered our wedding reception, by the way) for dropping some very serious cash to save this classic house, when demolition would have been so much cheaper.
Joliet, "one of the greatest centers of the Illinois motordom"
Like many small industrial cities of the early 20th Century, Joliet was home to a handful of automobile manufacturers, very small outfits which were destined to last only a few years. But while those golden years lasted, Joliet and other cities reveled in unabashed civic pride over their place within the fledgling industry. Below is an article from the March 13, 1909 edition of the Joliet Evening Herald (via the Joliet Public Library's wonderful "Joliet Remembers" site). I'm amused by the manner in which the article quickly shifts from boosting the car dealerships and one local manufacturer to a shameless cataloging of the relative horsepowers of the city's elite.
Golden Era Dawns For Auto Trade
Prospects for Present Season Brighter Than Ever - General Opinion Points to Magnificent Business
The golden wreath has twined itself around the wheels of Joliet auto industry and the season of 1909 is certain to mark an epoch which will rank the city as one of the greatest centers of the Illinois motordom. Throughout the union the auto trade is advancing and Joliet is not behind in the race for before the snow flies the experts claim that one hundred machines of all makes and sizes will be added to the city's roster.
Two new garages have opened, in anticipation of the summer season, making four now in operation. They are the Steinhart & Jensen, 100 Cass street; L.J. Kinnel, 104 Jefferson st., Campbell & Keeling, 106-108 Joliet street and Peterson garage, 206 Clinton street. The Cadillac is handled by Steinhart & Jensen, the Mitchell by Kinnel, The "E.M.F. 30" by Campbell & Keeling, the Ford by Arthur Howard and the Buick by Peterson. The Oakland, the car introduced a few days ago, will probably by handled by R.C. Bruce, with headquarters at 1600 Collins st.
Perhaps the greatest step toward making Joliet an automobile center was made by Dr. J.C. Flowers in the establishment of the Economy Motor Buggy company's works. A three story brick structure was erected at Cass and Maple street and the manufacture of vehicle automobiles was started on January 13. The cost of the plant and equipment was about $50,000. The output of machines has been continuous since the first wheel was turned and the demand has at all times exceeded the capabilities of the plant.
Many large vehicles
Colonel John Lambert is the owner of the largest and best equipped car in Joliet, a Mercedes of 65 H.P.; Geo. Woodruff is the owner of a Stearn machine, 55 H.P., and W.F. Pilcher drives a Chalmers of Detroit of 40 H.P. P.D.R. Mathias, superintendent of the Steel mills is the possessor of a 30 H.P. White Steamer, while many other owners have expensive cars.
National automobile interests are represented by C.F. Jensen, a member of the firm of Steinhart & Jensen. Mr. Jensen was chosen president of the National Retail Automobile Dealer's association at an election last year and has since been called upon to act as mediator in some of the large and most important conflicts that have assailed auto interests.