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A walk through Homewood: A history of the place through the places of history

Edited by Jim Wright
Editor’s note: As Homewood celebrates its 125th year as a municipality, the Homewood Historical Society is helping us recall how the village started. This written stroll around town portrays the key places that shaped the town’s early years.
Homewood is here because:
The Vincennes Trail, an early Indian trail connecting Vincennes, Indiana and the settlement at the mouth of the Chicago River, appears to have developed two branches starting at about what is now 10th Street in Chicago Heights. The west branch followed the route of Riegel /Chicago Road to Holbrook Road, then west to Dixie Highway (Vincennes Road) and north into Blue Island.
The first European settlers came to the Homewood area in the 1830s and ‘40s. In 1853 James Hart platted Hartford — the first name of Homewood’s downtown district.
The Illinois Central Railroad laid tracks through the Hart subdivision in 1853. The railroad management designated the stop as Thornton Station. A few miles east, the village of Thornton, located on the then navigable Thorn Creek was prospectively the more important town. A lowering of creek water levels in later years altered the development of Thornton. With the continued expansion of railroads, Thornton Station’s importance grew and its population increased.
The Thornton Flour Mill Co. established its mill here in 1856. The many German families recently arrived from Europe settled on the fertile prairie lands in the area and brought their grain to the mill. While the mill wheels turned the grain to flour, the farmer and his family patronized the business establishments of the expanding village – general stores, blacksmiths and, yes, saloons that offered home cooked meals for a small fee.
Homewood was incorporated as a village in 1893 and could then consider providing its residents with services such as a volunteer fire department in 1896 and a police department in 1902. No doubt creation of these departments and the installation of telephone and electric service in 1901-02 added to the appeal of living in the community. The change of the village name to Homewood had been made by the United States Post Office Department in 1869.
Steam-powered suburban train service terminated at Homewood in the 1890s. Early in the 1900s there were as many as 10 trains daily making the round trip to Chicago and bringing golfers to play at the country clubs in and near town. Some of the more affluent golfers built summer homes west of the railroad tracks adjacent to Ravisloe Country Club.
A rekindled interest in building was fired by the prosperity of the 1920s. Streets stretched to the village outskirts. Mains distributed water from the town wells and with new sewers under the newly paved roads, indoor plumbing was possible within the village limits.
The Depression, of course, slowed town expansion and spirits dropped somewhat, but residents pulled together. One of the banks even remained solvent throughout those dark years. The village’s population increased to 3,000 by 1940.
Post World War II growth was explosive. New businesses and subdivisions seemed to sprout overnight, and the population soared to near 18,000 by 1970. Today, Homewood’s population hovers near 20,000 and the village continues to have a fine reputation as the “jewel of the south suburbs,” with residents enjoying excellent schools, parks and public services.


18101 Martin Ave. The Henry Gottschalk House is a magnificent Queen Anne style house built in 1891 of “Homewood” – stamped bricks produced by Gottschalk’s own brickyard. It has a “few remnants of European influence: curved Romanesque turret, classical details in porch frieze boards, delicate ornament in dormers and porch pediments. The remainder shows overwhelming American influence: rugged stone foundations, cut limestone lintels and sills. “A frozen piece of American architecture.” Henry Gottschalk was a business entrepreneur, owner of the Homewood brickyard, three hay presses, president of the Homewood State Bank, and a village president. The house was divided into apartments in the 1950s, then a business was added in 1986. It was named an official village historic landmark in September 1982.


18120 Dixie Highway. Homewood’s second public school, with 2 rooms was built in 1880 and was located 25 feet to the south. The building was moved to this site in 1904 to make way for construction of Standard School, and was then remodeled for apartment and business use. Formerly occupied by Bannon Floor Coverings, it is now home to A2Z Nails and Comfort Massage.


18126 Dixie Highway. Formerly site of Standard School (1904), Homewood’s third schoolhouse. The building was razed in 1970 to allow for widening of Hickory road. Independence Park was developed on the south part of the lot as a U.S. Bicentennial tribute in 1976.


18110 Dixie Highway. Homewood Theater opened here in 1937. The theater building, a noted Art Deco structure, was remodeled using the shell of the defunct Homewood Service Garage, which was built in 1924. The site is now a parking lot, but a Richard Haas mural on the north side of the lot depicts the design of the theater’s front façade.


1961 Ridge Road. Dixie Ridge Building (1929). Originally the site of Buggert’s Blacksmith Shop, built in the late 1850s, and the Buggert home. The current building was completed in 1929 and the corner space had been occupied by restaurants for years, including Alexander’s, Homewood Sweet Shop, DeMar’s and Three Brothers. Most recently, the Copper Still Martini Bar is located here.


1956 Ridge Road. Homewood Building (1925). Once the site of George Mertens’ residence, the current building housed the Community Pharmacy for decades and is now home to Travel Brokers. 


18029 Dixie Highway (1925). Originally occupied by the Homewood Motor Company,Van Drunen Ford opened in this building in 1930. Currently, Van Drunen Ford is Homewood’s oldest continuously operating business. Vice District Brewing Company plans to open a taproom here this summer. 


18022 Dixie Highway (1904). Built just after the turn of the 20th century as the residence of Fred Gold, a former Homewood fire chief, village president and prominent businessman. The Women’s Club reading room in the home evolved into the Homewood Public Library. After 1945 , it became Cordt Funeral Home, later Cordt-Ryan and Ryan Funeral Homes. Today, the building houses the Homewood Science Center.


2000 Ridge Road. Civil War veteran Henry Guenther ran a tavern and hotel here for a number of years in the late 1800s. Jack Kurtz sold Sinclair brand gasoline from his service station built in 1933 on the corner for the next five decades. A gas station has been located here ever since.


2001 Ridge Road. Site of a tavern and hotel built in 1855, one of Homewood’s earliest buildings. A number of owners ran the businesses including Gus Beck and his Old Home Inn. Cook County Trust and Savings Bank of Homewood opened here in 1925 and survived the bank crisis of 1933, but relocated to Harvey as First National Bank of Harvey in 1937. George May’s Jewelry Store occupied the building for years afterwards. The building currently is home to McDermott Law Office.


2005-2007 Ridge Road. Cowing Building (1927). Built by James Cowing to house the realty office operated by his sons Frank and Shirley Cowing. The building was the site of the Homewood Post Office for a number of years prior to 1940 and has been the headquarters of the Homewood Credit Union for decades.


2011 Ridge Road. About 1910 the William Gottschalk house was moved from 2021-23 Ridge and remodeled to become the Homewood Hotel. It was razed in 1948. The present building was built in 1949 for a National Tea food store. Van Sipma’s Jewelers, in business since 1900 and in Homewood since 1968, now occupies the space.


2012 Ridge Road. Brick structure built in 1922 to house William Warning’s Hardware store, which moved from 2022 Ridge Road. Later Oliver Homer opened a tavern and restaurant here, which later became Keith’s restaurant. Today the Tin Ceiling, a long-time and popular Homewood tavern, is located here.


2019 Ridge Road. From the 1930s to 1950s this was Twietmeyer’s dairy store, a popular spot for young and old alike.


2022-2026 Ridge Road. Perhaps one of Homewood’s oldest buildings still in use, the structure was built in the 1850s as a general store. Operated at various times by the Witt family, it later was the site of William Warning’s Grocery and Hardware, William Clothier’s Grocery, Stelter’s Meat Market and Schreiber’s Hardware store. The Skate Shop has been in business on the corner of this building for over 46 years.


2023 Ridge Road. Location of Schwab’s Dry Goods store until 1930s and William Mahar, Sr.’s Homewood Laundromat in 1950s and 1960s.


2025 Ridge Road. From 1908 to 1925 the Homewood State Bank, Homewood’s first bank, was located here. An addition to the front added more space to the building in the 1950s. Civilitea Gardens, a tea café, is now located here. 


2033-2035 Ridge Road. Site of early Homewood businessman Henry Zimmer’s home. Due to overcrowding, some school classes were held in the home in the late teens and early 1920s. From 1925-45, Cordt Funeral Home was located here. The home was razed in 1955 for construction of the Ridge Mar shopping center. Vacant in recent years, the building was recently bought by the village and will be redeveloped.


2034-2036 Ridge Road. Original site of Alfred Robinson’s general store (1855) and Duwe Harness Shop (1874-1920). A new building was built here for the Homewood State Bank together with Homewood Savings and Loan in 1925. The bank failed in 1933 and later the Bank of Homewood opened here in 1946. Now LaBanque, a boutique hotel, and LaVoute, the hotel’s restaurant occupy the site.


2038 Ridge Road. William Duwe’s building was moved here to become Alpert then Anselmo Shoe Repair shop. Hurribac Donut Shop was located here from 1945-1968.


2040 Ridge Road. 1930s to 1960s site of Hoyer then Gansbergen Wall Paper & Paint store.


2042 Ridge Road. On April 1, 1855, Henry Zimmer opened his general store here, which later housed the post office too. Clara Nieburger’s ice cream parlor was here from 1908 through the 1920s.


2043-2045 Ridge Road. About 1900, a small frame building housed the post office and telegraph office. The larger building that replaced it in the 1920s accommodated an A & P store then Schreiber’s Hardware store in 1952.


2048-2050 Ridge Road. Built in 1908, the telephone exchange and post office were located here (2048) until 1920. F. J. Egan operated his barbershop (2050) here for a number of years. A second story was added to the building in 1917.


2049-2051 Ridge Road. A blacksmith/livery barn first occupied this site. In 1911, Henry Funk built a two-story brick building here. A large open space upstairs, known as Funk’s Hall, was rented by community groups for social activities. Downstairs silent pictures were shown in the Homewood Theater (2049) and Jacob Sach opened his drug store in the west storefront (2051).


2057-2059 Ridge Road. Site of Homewood’s earliest businesses, a hotel and tavern located on the corner, built in 1853 by Charles Robinson from Blue Island. George Mertens later owned the building and built a hardware and dry goods store next to it. Both burned down in early 1896 and were rebuilt. Since then a tavern has occupied the corner, including the Ridgewood Tap, which has been here since the late 1940s.


2060 Ridge Road. Louis Mueller’s Saloon built in 1891 made this a popular gathering place. Mueller and his son, Louis Jr., operated the tavern until 1965. Many years later (1940 –1960) Carl Eke ran a cab stand from the basement. In 1965 the building was “modernized,” removing the second floor and turret, and expanded to house multiple offices.


Ridge Road at Harwood Avenue. Here, east of the tracks and just south of Ridge Road, the first Illinois Central Railroad depot was built in 1853. It was a wooden building, with an apartment upstairs for the stationmaster and his family. In 1924 this building was moved to 17900 Dixie Highway to become Homewood’s first public library building.


18049 Harwood Avenue. Site of the John C. Riegel home after the Civil War. Riegel was blinded in the war and returned to Homewood and supported his family making brooms.


18121 Harwood Avenue. The Hibbing Building. Built as a feed store with two second-floor apartments in 1927.


18216 Harwood Avenue. The Thornton Steam Flour Mill flourished here. Built by popular subscription in 1856, the business was run by George Morris and was later purchased by August Steiner in 1880. The original stone mill foundation walls still exist under the north, west and south stucco facades of the current building. 


183rd Street west of railroad tracks, south side of street. Site of Homewood Brick and Drain Tile Works from the 1880s to early 1910s. Clay was dug and fired here to make brick and tile. The company was owned by the Gottschalk family and later sold to John P. Rabe. “HOMEWOOD” was stamped on each brick. The Homewood Coal, Ice and Material Company, a lumber and coal company, followed after the brick works ceased operating. The Flosswood Condominiums are now located here.


18350 Harwood Avenue. Homewood- Flossmoor Park District Skate Park was once the site of Gottschalk’s Pavilion (1890s–1930s), a grove and hall where picnics and dances were held. The Prohibition era brought a change and the pavilion became the Homewood Roller Rink, which was eventually demolished in 1940. Afterwards the site was developed as Merchants Park.


2135, 2141, 2155, and 2207 W. 183rd St. Four identical multi-family buildings, were constructed of “HOMEWOOD” bricks by Henry Gottschalk in the 1890s to house his employees. Only two of the four remain, now occupied by Blueberry Hill Restaurant and Nix Nax, both much altered.


2035 W. 183rd Street. Christian Dorband-Charles Albee Howe House. Building is Homewood’s first official historic landmark, designated in August 1982. Built in 1891 by Henry Gottschalk, of “HOMEWOOD” bricks, for his employee Christian Dorband. According to experts, this working man’s cottage is a “significant expression of American architecture and America itself … pure simplicity of style…” It retains its original summer kitchen. Charles and Hertha Howe purchased the property in 1941 and transformed the yard into flower-filled garden rooms. The house is now the Homewood Historical Society’s museum and headquarters.


18200 Dixie Highway. St. Paul Community Church. Organized in 1865 as St. Paul Evangelical Church. First worship services on this site were held in a school built in 1862 by the “German School-Association of Thornton Station.” First church built in 1873, current church was dedicated in 1956. Old bell still in use, was tolled for worship, deaths and fires.


18217 Martin Avenue. Home is former parsonage of St. Paul’s Evangelical Church. As the parsonage from 1897 to 1955, it stood at the northwest corner of Olive Road and Dixie Highway. It was then moved to allow for expansion of the church.


18213 Martin Avenue. House was the home and office of Dr. Fred Doepp and was built in 1895 on the southwest corner of Dixie Highway and Olive Road. Moved in 1957 to make way for the Illinois Bell (now AT&T) building.


18136 Martin Avenue. Stolzenbach Market, established in 1881 was located here where cattle and pigs were butchered on premises. In later years a coffee house, realty office and other businesses occupied the structure until it was torn down in 1997 for a condominium project.


18116 Martin Ave. Site of August Steiner’s home and, in rear, two-story “HOMEWOOD” brick structure used as a workshop, electric generating plant and water tower that provided pressure for the home, which was the first to have running water in town. The tower survived the razing of the house, but was torn down after a fire in 1981.


18000 Martin Ave. Here John Conrad Riegel, blinded in Civil War, made and sold corn brooms.

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