Willow Springs Cemetary
Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Mary Labok (67.16.217.---)
Date: June 21, 2010 02:13AM

Nate, I am glad you spoke up about this. You are probably one of the youngest to remember life at Shady Tree. I however, recall a bit more, have a hands on memory to what might have transpired there.

First of all, It was NEVER a Brothel. My Great Uncle Joe, ran a tavern business. His family, Mother, Sister her husband and daughter lived there until the time of their passing. The upstairs was their living quarters. They did from time to time take in boarders. For the most part it was their home and nothing more. My mother would work summers there as a young girl.

There was a large pavilion on the property where many parties took place. Dances, reunions, etc were held there. Horse riders from nearby ranches would ride through the forest preserve trails to Shady Tree for a drink then back again. We had many of our own family gatherings there. Shady Tree's property butted up against The House of a Thousand Bargains. That was the boundary line we couldn't cross when Playing in the Forest behind Shady Tree.

Secondly, The tavern was open late at night, and welcomed the dancers after Willowbrook Dance Hall shut down for the night. They would come over for one last drink. The Tavern was in it's heyday with the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and many other famous BIG BAND entertainers showing up for a night cap after they performed across the street.

When Great Uncle Joe took ill. My mother stepped in, along w/my sister to run the travern and restaurant there. This went on for about three years. I often worked along side my mother/father/sister and brother, serving drinks and food to patrons. I slept in those bedrooms, I've cleaned that second floor. Watched TV in the living area upstairs. Cooked food in the kitchen behind the bar. Served food in the large hall/restaurant area. My Bridal Shower was held there. As were many other family parties.

When Great Uncle Joe passed away. The property was willed to his remaining relatives at the time. My grand fathers children. There were 4 of them. The family sold the property there after.

Mroch is my brother in law. He was a long time Willow Springs Resident with family still in the area. He even knows more of the family history of Shady Tree from an outsiders point of view.

It appalls me to see the BUNK, as Nate put it, about Great Uncle Joe, and Shady Tree. There was NO cemetery behind Shady Tree. There was a ski lift rope. The rope was long gone by the time I use to hike the hills. I Use to play there as a child growing up in the 50's n 60's.

People Need to STOP making stories up for their personal gain. You want to know the truth about something.. The Historical Society of that town is the best place to start, followed by the relatives who lived, and worked there. That paranormal cop thing was a joke. Anything for a buck! SAD they had to exploit our family's good name to do it.

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Mary Labok (67.16.217.---)
Date: June 21, 2010 02:34AM

I only just found this site and comments about my Great Uncle.

I'd like to know, from Richard, how your sister's husband is related to the Spaitis family.

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Richard Stachowski (---.dsl.chcgil.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 21, 2010 10:17AM

[b]My sister who is now 83 used to go there with here husband and took me along a few times. We both remember in the 50's what seemed like a family plot over or on top of the hill. It was a few graves with a black iron fence around it about 12' X 12' nothing paranormal or strnge just a small plot. My sister and I just talked about it and she still remembers it. It was nothing that stood out unless you went by it. I'm surprised nobody has seen it. I am 74 and saw it in the 50's. Thanks for all your information. Last time I talked to my sister about it she said they were not related to the owners but had friends that were related but graves were real.[/b]

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/21/2010 10:24AM by Richard Stachowski.

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Mary Labok (67.16.217.---)
Date: June 21, 2010 11:03AM

I'll ask my mom about it. She may know, she's 79. Will get back to you when I can.

Care to give the names of the friends? I tend to be the family historian at times. Picking up tidbits of information to pass down.

btw... to BRUCE, I know of Slim, he's one of my brother in laws (Mroch) best friends. Met him a few times over the years.

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Bruce (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: June 21, 2010 12:19PM


Thanks for clearing that stuff up first person. The WS Historical Society (Slim) was contacted before that horrible cable TV special ran with the ghost detectives, and he told them there was nothing there at Spaitis' Grove. Then I talked to the producer and re-enforced it. There is nothing in WS anymore that would be a good ghost story as anything that was even remotely interesting was long gone. Of course they filmed it anyway. I'm a Springer myself and have never heard of any ghost stories except for the abandoned house near the Grime's sisters murder site, and that has been removed for years. The only thing scary about WS is the Village Board at this point. The Ghost Detectives should have went to the murder site home of Diamond Tooth Eddie and invented paranormal activity in the driveway.



P.S. sorry for getting the Spaitis' family wrong. It wasn't until "after" I posted that message back when that I was told that Joe didn't have any children. All of the family were, as you stated, nieces and nephews etc. I never knew much about the family, but was intrigued with the building. Taking the crowd after O'Henry's closed for the night would explain all of those B&W publicity photos that were hanging in there of all of those old ballroom acts. I wonder if those photos are still there?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/21/2010 12:58PM by Bruce.

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Mary Labok (67.16.217.---)
Date: June 21, 2010 01:44PM

You know Ive wondered that myself. I would have loved to have held on to that piece of history. I did manage to get some old 78's my Uncle played in the Jutebox. I rememeber those being played in there. God now Im sounding old at 52..lol

We use to play pool on the table in the big room, and Uncle Joe always gave us a bottle of Pepsi and candy bar while we played. There were rooms on either side, opposite the bar area. One room was an old cloak room. They use to play cards in there at times. Then across the hall were bathrooms. Men and Women. each having a toilet and corner sink at the time. Before that the only bathroom on that main floor years ago use to be along the outside wall, between the bar area and the hall area.

Any other questions just ask.. and I'll ask my mom. She would have more answers than I.


Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Bruce (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: June 21, 2010 08:42PM


I've been in the building many times, but not in the past 10 years. In the basement was a storage room. About 1/3 of the basement was taken up with this room built with plank boards. remember that? When I stepped through the doorway looking to the back end of the room it was noticeably shorter then when looking at the room from the outside. Stump pulled a board out of the west end of this room and there was a secret room. In other words, the inside area was less then the outside. This room was about 3-4 feet wide and however deep the storage room was. Not much space, but surely enough to hide something in it. Slim thinks it was a coal room, but the store room is on the South end of the building, not the Archer side where the coal door should have been. Well in fact the coal door is still there I think. There is a steel cover (doors) over one of the window spaces on the Archer side with a handle type catch that secured the cover closed. I assume this was the coal door was it? When I was in the basement I also noticed the staircase that was cut off that led to the N/W corner of the building where the current washrooms were at. Obviously the washrooms were not in that space initially as you state. I am having problems conceptualizing your locations as described. I guess I should draw a map.

It's funny all of this ado about a tavern. I wonder if all of this beer runner stuff was really connected to the old Saint's and Sinner's building? I have no idea on the history of that place, but it was old, and it was located right at the corner of Archer and where Willow Springs road used to terminate before 1923. It was a roadhouse with well know brothel activity. Maybe the mobsters were there, which was only a few hundred feet down the road from Spaitis'

Anyhow, this plan is rough but is it close. It is from memory


Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Mary Labok (67.16.217.---)
Date: June 22, 2010 10:47PM


I am conferring with my mom about this. Few things are wrong with your rendering above. Once I get the information, I will forward it on to you. I can tell you right now, that there was NO cloak room behind the stairwell. The stairs butted up against the outside wall. You can in that rear door and turned right after a few paces, into the kitchen area. Immediately upon entering the kitchen you took another hard right into the doorway leading to the stairs heading down to the basement. The Stairs leading to the upper level in the same area, also had a doorway leading to the outside. A private entrance for family to go up stairs, rather than walk through the bar area when arriving or leaving. IN the rear, or side where the NEW toilets are, the stairs leading to the second story, from your rendering appear to be wrong also. There was a porch added to that side of the building and the stairwell was in that porch area. One side had the large room, the other two bathrooms, at the end of that hallway, was a door leading to the enclosed porch. That is where a secondary set of stairs were leading up to the second story.

Now, I'm not saying you're wrong with what you believe to be there. It may have changed (by the new owners) when my family sold the building back in the 80's.

I will get with my sister and mom again to finalize the rendering as soon as I can.

My intent on clarifying any and all information about this, is to honor our Family Name. To honor the memory of my departed Uncle Joe and all who lived with him during the those years of ownership. The Spaitis family and their offspring are a lovely, family oriented group of people.

Any talk of mafia, and illegal activities by any member of the Spaitis family is a slanderous act and will be dealt with accordingly. It hurts to hear how they , the media, and later owners of Shady Tree Inn, Imply other wise. There is a lot of history created there. GOOD HISTORY! I would be happy to share stories as needed. Thank you for understanding the families position in this matter.

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Bruce (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: June 23, 2010 04:48PM


I guess there is not much need to really accurize the drawings I did. After all, there is really nothing to chase is there? I just drew what I remember. Most of the time that I was in there, I was later stumbling out :) I was curious about that hidden room in the basement however. The building was built late in the prohibition era, but still at the late end of it. What was served in the bar at that time? soda - ice cream? I mean, the place was obviously built as a tavern, but by 1928 or 29 the old taverns had "officially" switched to soda pop or ice cream parlors.

I'd like to ask you if the property once belonged to Verderbar, and if you have any photos of the area around there from the olden days especially when the street car still ran past. I am compiling my own photo album of WS photos as a keepsake. As I stated WS is my home town, and if it were not for the village board, I'd probably still be there.

Also, ask your relatives if your uncle had any relation to the Lithuanians over on Kean Avenue, specifically the owners of the old Leafy Grove and Justice Gardens. And in general I'd like to know what brought the Lithuanians to WS in the first place.


Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: rwmiller79@aol.com (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: June 23, 2011 07:17AM

Hi, Mary!

I just sent you a private message earlier, and although this is an old posting to you, I have only recently discovered it, much to my surprise.

As I mentioned before, I am a Chicago folklorist, and I put together a tour of the Haunted Archer Avenue Area. Far from being a ghost hunter myself, I like to collate the legends and lore of the region and entertain people with such paranormal interests, and I have spent a great deal of time at the place now known as Irish Legends.

Because just about everything written in the folklore refers to this location as a former speakeasy and brothel, I have spent the last six years telling my patrons of the gangster history and the resulting paranormal tales that grew from it.

But I'm really not a fan of gangster history, and while it makes for exciting entertainment, I'd much rather tell the truth about a given location if the truth is available. This is the first I've heard of this place NOT being owned by Al Capone, and I'd really like to set things right.

I have a couple of questions specifically. Was there anyone named Adam or Isabelle in the family during the 60 years of Spaitis family ownership?

I have already begun editing my tour to encompass this new information.


Robert Miller

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Bruce (---.dsl.emhril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 23, 2011 03:29PM


I’m glad this thread got bumped, and notified me via email. I had forgotten about it. I hope Mary sees this and responds to your post regarding the family names.

I’m a local historian, born and raised in Willow Springs. In recent years I have chased the Capone legends when time permits. I have to tell you that I found that nearly every suburb outside of Chicago has some kind of Capone story, but with a few exceptions (like Cicero) I have yet to get anything verifying that Capone owned any speakeasy or any building out here personally along Archer at least. There were plenty of little watering holes set up in restaurants and houses during prohibition. I found a number along the line from Summit to the Sag. I would assume that guys like Capone would not have had his name on a business for obvious reasons. In the cases I found, the underlying mob connection was through some minion that was perhaps connected to Capone through the line somewhere – the minion controlling a section of the suburbs. Obviously there were only a few gang bosses that controlled the organized distribution of molasses in Chicago and suburbs. This is similar to the Motorcycle clubs. What is not known about some of these small groups is that they are generally backed by, sanctioned, or approved by either the Angels or the Outlaws. If a guy is wearing his colors from some little group that is not approved by one of these two main outfits, that is fine, but if you get cornered by a member of one of these two outfits, you will most likely get some hassle.

As for making and selling molasses, sure there were farmers, citizens in general and tavern owners out there making stuff. Some of these guys were producing for the common stock for the Boss, but these little producers rarely if ever dealt directly with the head. When I hear a story “Grandpa made liquor for Capone”, I say, “He may have, but that doesn’t mean Al came over to pick the stuff up”. In fact Capone probably didn’t even know who grandpa was. It all came through the vine. That is how you protect the boss, with buffers, or smaller gangs working for the greater cause.

One issue with the Capone stories, the speakeasies and the like is that most of these stories have come down to us through double hearsay from people who may not have known the area well that they are describing. One building may get a speakeasy label when in fact the real speakeasy was next door, or half a mile away. When trying to pinpoint speakeasies out here in the woods down Archer, another problem comes into effect – that most of these buildings were torn down years ago. There are a lot of myths about buildings in Willow Springs, some true, some partially true. There are stories of tunnels and the like. Most of this was created by people years ago who didn’t know what they were talking about. For instance there is a myth about a tunnel from the old Dietrich house in Willow down to Spring Forest Deli – not true.

Capone did travel down Archer to visit a few of his favorite places or further to meet with his confidants. He liked the horses so he went out to Santé fe Park often, traveling down Lawndale into Summit (where he would sometimes get his hair cut at Mike the Barber’s in Argo) and continue on down the road. Mike stated Capone had a “hangout somewhere nearby”, but he never stated where this was, if he even knew. He may have been speaking of a house in Tiedtville.

Prohibition started in 1920 and ended in 1933. However, prior to that some of the Townships in this area had dry Sunday laws, which created some comical stories growing out of the local suburbs. A man must be able to drink any day of the week! The mayor of Lyons used to post policemen outside the taverns to keep the Cook County police out. He threatened once that he would place a cannon at the entrance to his town to keep the county out. The villages of Stickney and Justice for instance were incorporated so as to control their own liquor licenses, and to keep the county out – and those irksome temperance women who threatened the politicians.

Many of the picnic groves and taverns got raided by the County Police on Sundays. The excuse being generally that the alcohol was for church purposes etc… I have read every issue of the Desplaines Valley News from 1914 to 1929. I can state that for stills, brothels and speakeasies from Summit to Sag, I have found mention of these off the top of my head (there were a few more but I don’t remember the locations. They were not large anyway):

A large still built north of Archer at about Hunt - this being on West Archer just before the turn to South Archer Road (still existent).

The old Michigan Central railroad yard at 59th and Archer (partially existent) was a location where barrels of booze were brought through with the help of Summit Mayor Elias Wilson and sent off to Chicago via the stockyards under control of Polack Joe – that is confirmed.

There was a hotel in Argo that was raided numerous times east of Archer at about 61st (I forgot the street – burned down in the 80’s).

In Justice there was the Rainbow Inn – speakeasy and brothel – across from Resurrection Cemetery – long gone. The Klondike brothel on the land between Bethania and Resurrection was still occupied by a family during this time.

Leafy Grove aka Justice Park Gardens – long gone, but a big picnic grove. The owner was a Lithuanian named Blinstrup who died in 1918 or so. His widow married Diamond Tooth Eddie and Eddie was gunned down in his driveway in Willow Springs. Leafy Grove was at Archer and Kean Avenue and headed the entrance to Kean Avenue where later a row of taverns owned by mob sanctioned entities once flourished. These places along Kean were owned by Lithuanians and were erected in the late 20’s. There are plenty of illegal activity stories out of Kean Avenue but those are post prohibition.

The most notorious speakeasy in Willow Springs, fronted as a restaurant (with great corned beef sandwiches) was Dinty Moore’s which was located where Old Willow shopping center is at now – the Royalty West etc…

Across the street was Zenk’s Hotel. I think he may have been raided once or twice, but that was rumored to be a whore house with the rooms upstairs. Zenk was a fine German Lutheran, but this was Willow Springs in the 20’s, and anything goes. Old Hotels are good places for brothels for obvious reasons.

Then I hear of no more speakeasies until you hit what is now Rt. 83 and Archer – or back in those days 107th and Archer, down the hill where Jerry’s valley junk yard was – was located the infamous Hanrahan’s. This place was a safe haven for the beer runners coming up and to Joliet. It was so heavily infested with mobsters that the County Police were afraid to go in there. Hanrahan’s is long gone.

I scoured the Chicago Tribune for gang activities in these suburbs along Archer. I found the Green Corner speakeasy and brothel in McCook (now) – long gone - at Joliet Rd. and Lawndale.

I have never ever read of any illegal activities at Spaitis’ Grove. Then again, it was not built until 1928-29, so I may not have gotten to any articles in the Desplaines Valley News yet. The Willow Springs historians know nothing about any brothel there, or speakeasy. But then again, what is a speakeasy? A guy running a picnic grove or a tavern turned ice cream parlor serving out some beer to patrons? That was so common, how can anyone stick a Capone label on it? I have heard stories that Frank McErlane was shot and buried behind Spaitis’ Grove in a shallow grave – This is not true. Who is McErlane? I took this from Wikipedia:

Shortly after the start of Prohibition, McErlane began running a gang with partner Joseph "Polack Joe" Saltis, operating in the "Back of the Yards" section of the South Side. In 1922 McErlane and Saltis allied with the Johnny "The Fox" Torrio-Al Capone Chicago Outfit against the Southside O'Donnell Brothers. McErlane was known as an especially ferocious assassin. Standing 5'8" and weighing 190 pounds, he was described as looking like a "butter and egg man".[4] McErlane carried a rosary in his pockets along with a pistol. Frank was known to drink too much of what he sold and frequently slip into alcoholic psychosis. McErlane's face would grow redder with each drink, sending apprehension throughout his toughest criminal associates... Frank thus retired to a lavishly furnished houseboat located on the Illinois River in Beardstown, Illinois. In the fall of 1932, Frank fell ill with pneumonia. In his delirium, he was convinced that rival gangsters were coming to his hospital room to kill him; it took four attendants to hold him down in his rage. Frank McErlane died at the age of 38 on October 8, 1932.

The Spaitis building was built relatively late in the prohibition era. McErlane and Polack Joe had already separated in 1929. The building was constructed with rooms above to house Joe’s family, not to use as a hotel. When Dean Stump bought the building in the elate 80’s or early 90’s, he created the gangster myth at the place to bring in business. I even asked back then right after he opened the place, and he told me it was all a publicity hoax. Stump had these little menu cards on the tables and the bar with made up gangster stores involving the building. All of it was myth. Yes, there was a hidden room in the basement, but who knows what it was for. I did not see a door into it. It was only revealed after removing one of the wooden planks which enclose it. Maybe Joe was hiding beer in there as everyone did back then, or some other private articles, but that does not make it a speakeasy or a Capone hangout.

There is a myth that a tunnel existed between Spaitis’ and O’Henry’s – coming out in the old ballroom kitchen. This is false. Dick William’s showed me the old kitchen and there was no evidence of a tunnel – nor was there a need for one.

The County Police came out and made raids when it was politically beneficial for the sheriff, or if the owner wasn’t paying his fees. Out here in the woods, the local constables would come out and warn the taverns before the county showed up if they could. Heck the police chief of Lyons would run down the street with his siren going if he saw the raiders coming to warn the taverns to hide the booze. The county had to send in undercover agents to bust the places.

107th Street and Archer were rough places back then – especially near Sag Bridge. They called 107th St. Beer Alley. There was bootlegging going on, and bodies of mobsters dumped out along 95th street and in the woods - that is a fact, but as for Joe Spaitis, he seems to have gotten caught up in the south suburban myth pool. There is nothing there. The myths probably came about because of Hanrahan’s and since time has passed, and stories retold through the generations, Spaitis, with the only existing building, got the label. Of course, little is known about the Hall of 1000 Bargains building. We cannot seem to find out when it was built, or any early history on it. Perhaps something was going on there, but I cannot confirm it. Again, everyone was hiding booze back then. Farmers were brewing their own beer, makeshift stills were in garages, and who knows what.

By the way, I have a real Resurrection Mary story told to me by my old deputy chief that happened in the early 1970’s. This man, who I will not name, is born and raised in this area. His father was from the old town of Sag Bridge, and you know what he told me? That the woman they call Resurrection Mary is not buried in Resurrection Cemetery, but Fairmont.


p.s. when it is all said and done, there isn't much to give a tour on along Archer because there are few existing structures, and no ghost stories - except Mary, which I think is also a hoax borrowed from an old ghost story from the UK. It's not even an original ghost story. When comparing the different elements of the many myths of Mary, there is always something that is historically incorrect in them that shoots down the story. If anything did happen back then - whenever that was, the real story surely is much different than the myths. My sister-in-law believes in the Mary myth, and thinks she saw the ghost - Ba Humbug. widely different then the,myths we are reading about now.

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Bruce (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 24, 2011 01:14AM

I've put together some nice little snippets from the local newspaper regarding prohibition in the Summit area. So as to not hijack this thread, I will start a new one.


Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: liz (---.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net)
Date: August 08, 2012 05:29AM

was the cemetery archer woods cemetery in willow springs

From December 1970 through December 1979, Archer Woods Cemetery (now known as Mt. Glenwood West) on Kean Avenue in Willow Springs served as the County Potter's Field.

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Richard Stachowski (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: August 08, 2012 10:40AM

[b]No: This was a family plot on top of the hill and not a part on any cemetary. It had several graves and an iron fence around it. Was about 20 X 20 in size. Above the bargan place and resturant on Archer west of willow springs road.[/b]

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Mary Labok (38.69.8.---)
Date: August 08, 2012 11:10AM

To Whom This Reply is Intended ... (some how can not see the original post to this query on an Adam or Isabelle I believe)

There was only a Joseph Spaitis, My Great Uncle, a Great Aunt Nellie, who was married to Pete Zdanowich, There daughter, my cousin Stella and her husband Dan Aldonis and my Great Grandmother.

The building was built and owned by my Great Uncle Joe until his passing in the 80's. While he was ill and Stella was still alive, my parents were running the tavern and restaurant business along w/my sister and brother, the later who lived upstairs.

The building never was owned by Capone or any mobster/gangster, nor was it ever a brothel!

Hopefully this clears this up!

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Nudog (---.dsl.emhril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: December 25, 2012 05:36PM

[color=#FF0000][/color][i]No: This was a family plot on top of the hill and not a part on any cemetary. It had several graves and an iron fence around it. Was about 20 X 20 in size. Above the bargan place and resturant on Archer west of willow springs road.[/i]

Grew up in Willow Springs and used to hunt mushrooms all over that area, never found or saw a family plot as described above. Did find a few markers or crosses in the woods with indications it was someones pet buried there. Also found out a rusted car or truck frame with the steering column and gear shift across the street from the CCC camp.

Doubt there would have been any family plots there, especially with St James of the Sag being so close.

The closest thing to a family a plot in the area would have been the Native American burials they unearthed when they built the Old Willow Shopping Center.

Re: Willow Springs Cemetary
Posted by: Richard Stachowski (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: December 26, 2012 11:08PM

[b]I'm surprised nobody can identify it. I and my relatives did see it in the 50's as described.[/b]

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