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The Village of Hillside

Before the end of the 19th Century three Irish gravediggers from Calvary Cemetery north of Chicago, hoping to achieve easy wealth, opened three taverns and restaurants near the entrances to Mount Carmel and Oak Ridge Cemeteries.  As the cemeteries grew, business increased but was not as rewarding as expected.  Competition moved in from all over Chicago, and still others, wanting to cash in on the profits, resorted to racketeering.  (By 1907 there were 3,000 burials a year.)  Business owners decided they had better incorporate or go out of business for without ordinances or boundaries, they had little protection. 

The community, previously called Proviso, presented a petition signed by residents to the Cook County Court, which issued an order for an election to incorporate as a village.

Sometime prior to the incorporation, the Chicago, Madison and Nashville Railroad passed through the Proviso area out of Chicago. In 1887, the Illinois Central purchased the line, and built a passenger and freight depot which they tagged "Hillside" because the trains had to come uphill into the station, about the highest point in Cook County.

The fifty-five voters met in the "Hillside" depot when they organized in 1905 and from that point on that area was called the Village of Hillside.

Before 1905, Hillside's 1200 acres were laced with roads trampled by horse and buggy. And what roads! Butterfield, Wolf, Harrison, 12th Street and 22nd Street, all muddy, bumpy, and impassable in winter when snow and ice covered the countryside.  Dr. William F. Scott, a country doctor since 1892, used a bicycle before acquiring a horse and buggy. When the horseless carriage appeared in the early 1900's, he was the first to own a car west of Chicago (an Oldsmobile). However, instead of greater speed with much less effort, he found the horse still had something the automobile didn't a horse didn't have to be pushed uphill or out of the many mud holes found in the roads in those days.

And the village grew.

An unofficial census between 1910 and 1920 estimated the population of 300. The official census shows a population of 1,004 in 1930; 1,080 in 1940; 2,131 in 1950; 7,794 in 1960; 9,404 special census in 1964; 8,888 in 1970; 9,466 special census in 1971; and in 1980, the preliminary figure of approximately 8,500.

Moving to town after the farm was sold brought many changes in family living. Young people attended high school in Maywood or business college in Chicago since they were no longer needed to work on the farm. Some went to work at sixteen and the American Can Company in Maywood employed many, offering jobs to nearly 1500 people by 1940.

Hillside flourished as transportation to Chicago grew easier due to the Garfield Park "L" and the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railroad made.  Shopping at Chicago's State Street department stores became a fun trip instead of a long tiring event.  Area residents went to Bellwood's Ray Mueller's Centrella Store and Louis Boldt's Meat Market. Witterscheim's Bakery offered Saturday morning treats with their pretzel-shaped coffee cakes. Weissenborn's Dry Goods, the Home Department Store or Rubin's Army Store in Melrose Park solved some of the shopping problems and banking was available in Bellwood or Melrose Park. Sears, Roebuck on Homan Avenue or Wieboldt's near Marshfield Avenue were other shopping favorites . . . and the Montgomery Ward or Sears catalogs were available for mail orders.

Gas stations were needed and Herb Power's Service Station, along with Road King, Oklahoma and Texaco, served the early Hillside community.  Theaters were available in Forest Park or the Lido in Maywood and Hillside had its golf courses and skating on Shroggy's Pond.

At one time there were only seven homes in Hillside. In the mid 1920's, Samuel Insull, the renowned public utilities executive, decided to make a residential community out of the farmland in Westchester and the Village of Westchester was formed.   William Zelosky and George F. Nixon were real estate developers when Samuel Insull bought farmland and for a time it was debatable where the Westchester and Hillside boundary would be along Wolf Road south of Roosevelt Road.  It was finally decided -- 150 feet east from the center of Wolf Road became the established boundary line.  After the land in the area was sold, most of the farm homes were destroyed.

Most of these farmers relocated in the Oak Ridge section of Hillside and their move included chickens and a cow or two. The outhouses were also moved because they made good tool sheds.

Christian Thiele applied for a dram shop license (tavern) in 1906 and the address given was 22nd Street and Chris Road. (The Fresh Meadows Clubhouse, still standing, is the original Thiele building.)  His son, Henry, was born in a frame home nearby.  Henry Thiele married Elizabeth Schilling of South Bellwood and ran a grocery store in Forest Park.  Their four children who eventually attended their Golden Wedding Anniversary were Henry Jr., Edmund J., Nellie (Boeger) and Lillian (Vegter).  About 1899, Henry Thiele Jr., built the Venetian Gardens Restaurant on 12th Street in Hillside, (later renamed to the Round-Up on Roosevelt Road  -- picture on the right).  The large hall became a Community Center for graduations, parties, meetings, weddings and anniversaries.

Henry Thiele Jr. served on the Public School Board District #93.  His brother, Edmund J. Thiele ran the Fairlawn Golf Course (now Fresh Meadows) and became a Village Trustee.  In 1924, Edmund J. Thiele succeeded Village President John Wolf, holding the position for the next 25 years, retiring in 1949.

In 1918 the world fell victim to the influenza epidemic.  The impact locally was the greatest number of burials in any year in the area's cemeteries, totaling 4,619 with 84 registered in a single day.

In the 1920's, trucks instead of wagons hauled produce to Chicago's Randolph Street markets and truckers enroute to Chicago's Stockyards stopped at the Hillside Cafe on 12th Street for breakfast or a cup of coffee.  Restless cattle mooed or bellowed while Road King serviced the cattle trucks with gas and oil.  To get to work in Chicago's Loop meant an hour's ride on the Garfield Park elevated line. Tickets for the "L" were 20 cents a round trip.  Other Hillside residents walked or had someone drive them to the Westchester or Bellwood "L" stations.

In 1928, Butterfield Road was paved by Cook County and the State of Illinois.  Roosevelt Road (12th Street) has the distinction of being the first road in Illinois to be paved with concrete.  During Village of Hillside President Romiti's administration, a bond issue made possible the completion of paving Hillside's streets, including curbs and gutters.

During the 75th Anniversary Year of the Village, a few of Hillside's residents reached their 90th birthdays and are remembered here: Arthur Nissen, Carrie Neuman, Ephrosine Lohse (Lechelt) and Emma Westphal (Boese).

Recommended background reading:

Related Hillside Information

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Last Modified:  12/04/2002