Pearl Morris and Vivian Krentz

Like the Indians before them, the first white settlers made their homes near rivers and groves of native timber that gave them the fuel and water needed for survival. The first pioneers in what is now Addison Township were Hezekiah Dunklee (also spelled Duncklee) from Hillsborough, New Hampshire, and Mason Smith from Potsdam, New York. They arrived in Chicago September 3, 1833, having traveled by land from Detroit. They left Chicago five days later, and following a northwest trail made the year before by General Winfield Scott’s army through twenty miles of flat, grassy marshland and prairie, they came to a large grove of trees located on the eastern bank of a river, which later became known as Salt Creek. After surveying the land to the west of the river, they returned to the north end of the grove.

On May 25, 1834, Bernhard Joachim Koehler and his family settled east of Dunklee’s Grove on the present site of the River Forest Country Club. On that same day the Friedrich Graues settled south of the grove. These two families were the first of a large German influx during the next few years. Others to follow were the Stuenkels, the Krages, the Roter­munds, the Kruses, the Fienes, and the Buchholzes.

Most of the necessities of life were produced on the farms, but often the pioneers had to travel to Chicago to buy other provisions. With no roads through the prairie, travel was difficult. Many walked the eighteen miles to Chicago.The Des Plaines River flooded after heavy rains, and at those times such travel was impossible. Wells were dug by hand, often to a depth of thirty or forty feet, and a windmill was built to pump the water. If there was not enough wind, pumping was done by hand.

In 1839 Dunklee’s Grove became part of Washington Precinct. When township organization was adopted in 1849, Washington Precinct became known as Addison Township.

From the 1874 Atlas & History of DuPage County, Illinois.

After the first pioneers settled, other friends and relatives came to claim lands. In 1837 there were thirty families living in the Dunklee’s Grove area. By 1844 there were 200 people living in the vicinity. Gradually businesses were established, such as a steam grist mill, a general store, a cobbler’s shop and a blacksmith shop. In 1867 the Heidemann Mill was constructed in Addison to serve the residents who had been taking their grain to surrounding communities to be ground.

By 1853 state laws enabled school districts to be formed, and District 4 came into being with the building of its first public school in 1858. Peter Nikel was the teacher. The building was located on the southwest corner of Addison and Army Trail roads. Today it is part of the Edward Green home. The German population of Addison Township formed a church in 1838 which was called the German United Reformed Lutheran Congregation of Dunklee’s Grove. In 1849 the first church school building was erected in Addison, near the corner of Army Trail Road and May Street.

In 1864 the Evangelical Lutheran Teachers’ Seminary was built in Addison to train teachers for the Lutheran school system. Their lecture hall, which opened in 1885, included a chapel, and it was here that the residents of Addison worshipped from 1893-1906. In 1906 the Lutheran congregation built the St. Paul Church along Army Trail Road near Lake Street.

In 1874 the Evangelical Lutheran Orphan Home was built to “raise, train, and educate orphans, half orphans and other children entrusted to its care.” All children from the Orphan Home who were of school age went to St. Paul’s Christian Day School. After graduation from the eighth grade, the girls would remain in the Home for work and future training. The boys were placed on farms, truck farms or in greenhouses to work.

In 1884 the village of Addison became incorporated. The population at the time was 400. The first president was Henry Buchholz, who served in that position from 1884 to 1891. In 1890 five Addison men formed the Addison Railroad Company, Inc. These were William Leeseberg, Louis Stuenkel, Edward Rotermund, Professor Johann Backhaus, and H. Z. Zuttermeister. Stock capital amounted to $5,000. A charter was issued on July 16, 1890, for the right to a stretch of land from today’s North Avenue into Addison to build a railroad track. In agreement was made with the Illinois Central Railroad officials to provide the railroad bed and equipment and to maintain and operate the railroad for fifty years from that date. The cost of the whole right-of-way was $16,488.90. The first train came to Addison for the Orphan Home Picnic on September 12, 1890.

Illinois Central Train in Addison on “Orphan Home Festival Day.” Courtesy Historical Museum of Addison.

Telephone service became available in 1895. Addison’s first bank, the Addison State Bank, opened in 1902. In 1912 the Public Service Company of Northern Illinois brought in light and power lines. Electric street lights burned in Addison for the first time on February 1 That same year the Western United Gas and Electric Company brought gas lines into the area.

In 1913 the Lutheran Teachers’ Seminary moved out of Addison to River Forest, where it is now known as Concordia College. The Seminary had been a vital part of Addison’s history for almost fifty years. The Seminary buildings were purchased by the Chicago City Mission Society as a home for dependent children who had had little opportunity for moral, mental or physical development. The children, who were referred by the juvenile courts, were moved from Chicago to Addison in 1916. This became known as the Addison Manual Training School for Boys and the Industrial School for Girls, known generally as the Kinderheim.

Illustrations by Vivian Krentz. Graphics by Ron Carringi.

Street improvements began in the late 19th century. During the 1920s roadways were improved and the automobile made its appearance. The former muddy roads and dusty trails gave way to gravel and concrete roads, and the population patterns began changing. With better routes and the railroad, people were building their homes along the roads.

Two lanes of Lake Street were paved in 1922. A narrow gauge railroad was built along Lake Street to the quarry in Elmhurst to bring gravel and cement to the site. When the roadwork was completed, these tracks were removed. Because of the desire to thoroughly modernize the town, a water system was installed in 1924.

Also, by 1924 the Kinderheim had outgrown the structures which had housed the Seminary, and the building was torn down to make room for a new two-story brick building to house the young people of Kinderheim. This was completed in 1925. Today that structure serves as the municipal building and houses the police department.

Plass Garage. Arthur Krage, George Rathje, George Plass, Warren Web stand before the Ford Agency in 1925. Courtesy Historical Museum of Addison.

Increased traffic along Lake Street prompted the widening of the road in 1930 to forty feet all the way from Cook County line to Ontario­ville, a distance of 12’h miles, and the constructing of a three-span bridge over Salt Creek at Lake Street. Addison was served by the Marigold Bus Line, which came from Chicago every hour on the hour. It followed the same route that had been used in 1837 by the Frink and Walker Line on its way toward Galena, these stage coaches having stopped for a change of horses in Addison.

During the 1930s Addison, as well as the rest of the country, was plunged into the Great Depression. In Addison the bank was forced to close, although in 1933 enough money was raised (between $8,000 and $9,000) to meet legal requirements, and the bank was again able to open for business. The residents of Addison were able to weather the lean years by raising food for their tables, and by taking any job, no matter how small the pay.

The years of World War II brought prosperity once again to the community. Again the men of Addison served proudly in all the services. There were 86 of them in the war. Miraculously, all of them returned safely. Among the Addison residents who had been taken prisoner were Lester Rotermund in Germany, and William Stuenkel in Italy. There were two casualties among those who came from the area outside of Addison: Wilbur Backhaus, who was killed in the Battle of the Bulge; and Ernst Ellerbruch who was killed in Sicily.

When World War II ended and the servicemen began returning from overseas, a housing shortage developed. The “G. I. Bill” gave young families the opportunity to purchase homes, and the “baby boom” of the post-war years brought many new residents to Chicago’s suburbs. The population in 1950 was 823. By 1963 it had reached 13,272. Generating a marked increase in village revenue, this growth affected the construction industry and also created additional demands for village services. Schools were soon unable to accommodate the large number of young children, and population projections indicated a need for future expansion of the school system.

School District 4 constructed a building in a second location in 1957, and in that same year St. Joseph Catholic Parish also opened a grade school. From that date, when Fullerton School was built, until 1972 the number increased to nine public grade schools and one junior high school.

In 1965 a second Catholic grade school, St. Philip the Apostle, was built. In 1966 there were two secondary schools built, Addison Trail High School and Driscoll Catholic High School.

Additional religious facilities were added to serve the increased population. Originally most of the residents had been German Lutherans, and the few Catholic families attended church in Elmhurst. As the number of families increased, so did the diversity of faiths. Between 1954 and 1965 there were seven churches of different denominations built.

The “G. I. Bill” was also used by many of the returning servicemen after World War II. Addison established an industrial park with a railroad line that ran into the area. Highways were being improved, and the short distance from O’Hare Airport was an attraction to many manufacturers who built in the park. These additional plants, in turn, brought more people to Addison to live. Many of the farmers surrounding Addison began to sell their farms as property values rose and their taxes increased accordingly.

Prior to 1950 there were few parks and playgrounds in Addison; however, as developers subdivided the land, they were encouraged by village officials to set aside areas in each subdivision to be used as parks. In 1958 the Central Park Committee was formed. This was a volunteer group of homeowners who helped establish and maintain parks. The Addison Recreation Club, another volunteer group, began working with Addison’s youth in the early 1950s. In 1965 Addison voters approved a referendum to establish a park district, which now owns over 200 acres of land at eighteen sites and offers activities for residents of all ages, from tots to senior citizens.

In 1962 a public library was established in the municipal building. In 1968 a new building was constructed along Lake Street at Kennedy Drive to house the Addison Public Library.

The banking industry also grew along with the population. Before 1950 the Addison State Bank was the only bank in Addison. As population and businesses increased, the need for additional financial services brought the opening of six other banks or saving and loan associations to the village.

The building industry that began flourishing after World War II concentrated on single-family homes in Addison. More recently developers have obtained permits to build multiple family homes, apartments, townhouses and condominiums. Decreasing availability of land and rising construction costs have contributed to this trend. Today shopping centers have replaced the earlier “general stores.” Shops and restaurants have opened specializing in ethnic goods for an increasingly diverse population.

Also, the schools, with an increased enrollment of children from families new to this country, have had to include bilingual courses in their curriculum. High technology advances have caused many services and business establishments to turn to computers and new training programs for their personnel. Addison’s special education organization, the Ray Graham Association, its Lutherbrook (successor to the Evangelical Lutheran Orphan Home), its assistance programs through the Community Switchboard, its support for cultural growth through the arts programs are all a part of Addison’s response to varying needs.

To summarize, during the past 150 years Addison has grown from a few hardy settlers planting their crops to a town of 30,000 citizens engaged in a multitude of occupations. The quiet hamlet where everyone knew everyone else has given place to a suburb bustling with activity. Today, as it has been throughout its history, Addison is a caring community.

The Authors

Pearl Morris and Vivian Krentz are co-authors of Addison Village of Friendship, the community’s centennial book.

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