South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: sanity94 (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 27, 2012 04:16AM

Hello :). I stumbled upon this forum and I thought that this is a good place to ask about a building in my neighborhood. On the corner of S.Troy Ave. and 23rd St. I believe, (across from the parking lot of Kanoon Magnet School) there is this building called "The California Manufacturing Co."
Here's the building I'm talking about (had to screencap it from google)


Ever since I was young I have never seen anyone come in or out of the building,but I do however sometimes hear certain things happening there whenever I pass by. Does anyone know the history behind this building and what it used to be? It would be great to know. Thanks.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 27, 2012 02:22PM

Wow, I love this building as well! Here is a somewhat better picture of the front that I took a few years back.



Let's start with what I know about the building. In it's early days circa 1910, it was the saloon of Jan (John) Cermak. Here is a picture of a wine jug that came from there.





By the 1920s, several buildings have been purchased from 2243-2257 S. Troy Street, to house the California Manufacturing Company which made window frames. Unfortunately I am not sure how long the business lasted, however, I'm sure that some sort of manufacturing continued there since the buildings were rezoned as manufacturing structures.

Now, why the name [b]"California"[/b] Manufacturing Co.? Well, that part of South Lawndale/Little Village was the birth place of the Bohemian/Czech settlement that flourished there for several decades. Starting in about the 1890s, Bohemians were moving west from Pilsen to the area surrounding California Ave. from Cermak to 26th St. This area became known as Česká Kalifornie, or Czech California in English. It isn't definitive why Bohemians called the area Czech California, but some say it was because of the street. According to the 1915 Chicago Bohemian Adresář, or directory, the supposed original "boundaries" of Česká Kalifornie were Rockwell to Trumbull Avenues surrounding Twenty-sixth Street. Those "borders" increased in size as the Bohemian population grew until the neighborhood was referred to as Czech California all the way to the neighborhoods western border at Kilbourne Ave. (4500 W.)

I hope this answers your question!

In an attempt at a shameless plug for my book, learn more about your neighborhood in [url=http://www.amazon.com/Chicagos-Little-Village-Lawndale-Crawford-Publishing/dp/0738577375/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340815830&sr=8-1&keywords=magallon]Chicago's Little Village Lawndale-Crawford[/url]



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 06/27/2012 02:51PM by Berwyn Frank.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: PKDickman (---.dsl.chcgil.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 27, 2012 04:27PM

Berwyn Frank Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> By the 1920s, several buildings have been
> purchased from 2243-2257 S. Troy Street, to house
> the California Manufacturing Company which made
> window frames. Unfortunately I am not sure how
> long the business lasted, however, I'm sure that
> some sort of manufacturing continued there since
> the buildings were rezoned as manufacturing
> structures.
>


Ya, what he said.

The company was founded in 1889, but they used to be on 21st and Kedzie

They lasted until somewhere around 1980-82 when they made the replacement doors for the restoration of the Monadnock building.
They were planning to retire partway into the job, the developers doing the restoration had to buy them out to keep them working.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 27, 2012 07:24PM

I also wanted to add that Jan Cermak who had the saloon at 2257 S. Troy St. was the treasurer of the Karel Havlicek Building and Loan Association in 1914. I assume that it was located very close by because the president, Vaclav Tesar, lived a half block away at 2231 S. Troy St.

Pk, where did you get the info on California Mfg? I would like to find more if I could.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 27, 2012 07:54PM

While I am at it, here are the histories of a couple more neat buildings on Troy St.

Here is one about a building at 2144 S. Troy St. that I posted in [url=http://forgottenchicago.com/forum/1/3134/page=2/_subject_]this thread[/url] about Little Village.

Chicago Bohemian James P. Vrba (pronounced Verb-a) was the proprietor of the Verb Sign Works that painted many signs in Chicago and vicinity back in the day. Here is an ad I scanned from the 1915 Chicago Bohemian Adresář, or directory, of the Verb Sign Works.



Here is a 1923 ink blotter from the company from my collection.



Here is a ghost sign painted by The Verb Sign Works. in Cicero near Austin Blvd. & Roosevelt Rd. ca. late 1920s. the Kirchman State Bank became the Western State Bank in Cicero by the late 20s.





Here is the Verb building at 2144 S. Troy in Little Village.



How cool is this? The ghost sign of the "Signs" letters which can be seen in the 96 year old ad above (click the ad to enlarge).




Here is another one that I included in my book about a building at 2329 S. Troy St.





Patriotism ran very high in the Lawndale-Crawford neighborhood during the first world war. Here Emma Sima salutes the camera in front of her father's tailor shop at 2329 Troy Street. John Sima, originally from Bohemia, lived in Czech California with his family until his passing. By 1930 his widow moved to Berwyn where she would live out the rest of her years. (Courtesy of the Frank S. Magallon Collection.)


Here's one more bonus story. I went to a local estate sale and bought ALL of the original paperwork dating to the 1890s of a house at 2316 S. Troy St. Among the many amazing documents was this notice that I included in my book.





The old Czech California section of the neighborhood would soon be receiving improvements. Frank Klecka who owned his home at 2316 Troy Street received this special assessment on his property taxes in 1910 for the "curbing, grading, and paving with asphalt, of South Troy Street from Twenty-second Street to Twenty-sixth Street." His share of the cost for the improvement would be $116.40. (Courtesy of the Frank S. Magallon Collection.)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/23/2015 12:34AM by Berwyn Frank.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: PKDickman (---.dsl.chcgil.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 27, 2012 08:14PM

Berwyn Frank Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I also wanted to add that Jan Cermak who had the
> saloon at 2257 S. Troy St. was the treasurer of
> the Karel Havlicek Building and Loan Association
> in 1914. I assume that it was located very close
> by because the president, Vaclav Tesar, lived a
> half block away at 2231 S. Troy St.
>
> Pk, where did you get the info on California Mfg?
> I would like to find more if I could.


My google-fu is strong.


Most of that was gleaned from trib historic archives.

They had their warehouse by the tracks at 21st and Kedzie blow down in a freak windstorm in the 19-oughts, they had some labor problems, they got fined in an antitrust case in the twenties, had a fire in their sawdust vault in '55, etc

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: sanity94 (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 28, 2012 03:01AM

OMG! This is so surprising to find out! Thank you so very much for the information and for the bonus stories.

I have actually bought your book a couple of months back and I literally fell in love with it. I even showed it to my classmates in my high school because it showed a picture of the school we go to. Because of that book I am now more aware of the history behind my neighborhood and I feel HONORED that you were able to answer this question. Once again, thank you :).

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: sanity94 (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 28, 2012 03:21AM

Berwyn Frank Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> Here is another one that I included in my book
> about a building at 2329 S. Troy St.
>
>
>
>
>
> Patriotism ran very high in the Lawndale-Crawford
> neighborhood during the first world war. Here
> Emma Sima salutes the camera in front of her
> father's tailor shop at 2329 Troy Street. John
> Sima, originally from Bohemia, lived in Czech
> California with his family until his passing. By
> 1930 his widow moved to Berwyn where she would
> live out the rest of her years. (Courtesy of the
> Frank S. Magallon Collection.)


I actually used to live right across this building when I was younger and it was most of the time abandoned. I think now its becoming a community center of some sort for kids.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 28, 2012 04:51AM

sanity94 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> OMG! This is so surprising to find out! Thank you
> so very much for the information and for the bonus
> stories.
>
> I have actually bought your book a couple of
> months back and I literally fell in love with it.
> I even showed it to my classmates in my high
> school because it showed a picture of the school
> we go to. Because of that book I am now more aware
> of the history behind my neighborhood and I feel
> HONORED that you were able to answer this
> question. Once again, thank you :).

Wow, you are very well written for a high school student, you should be proud. I hope information like this has inspired you to become interested in local history. [i]I[/i] am the one that's honored that you found the info interesting. I hope you share this info with your friends and neighbors in the area. Also, thanks for the info on the former Sima tailor shop, I didn't know it was going to become a community center, I'm glad it's not going to be torn down.

Troy St., along with other east end Little Village streets like Sawyer, Spaulding, and Christiana, Ave's. are so fascinating because of their lack of any sort of urban planning. There were residential, commercial, and manufacturing structures all built on the same block. This lends to the "gritty" atmosphere of those areas then as well as today. It also made the properties more affordable to immigrants then and now.

Here is one more bonus story about a building on Troy St. This circa 1908 image belongs to a friend of mine. This small store stood at 2428 S. Troy St. before it was torn down some time in the past. (Former address 1091 S. Troy St., the address numbering system was changed in Chicago in 1909.) It was a grocery store owned by Vaclav J. Suchy, a Bohemian immigrant. The small brick store was wedged between two tall frame buildings at 2426 and 2430 S. Troy St. By 1929 ownership had changed and it became Stanley Polkowski Grocery. The spot is now a parking area between the two large buildings.

2430 S. Troy St.



Vaclav J. Suchy Grocery, 2428 S. Troy St.





Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 04/23/2015 12:32AM by Berwyn Frank.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: sanity94 (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 28, 2012 04:46PM

WOW! and All my life I thought that the parking lot was always a vacant space and turns out it used to be a beautiful store. And your're very welcome for the info on the tailor shop. Any updated info you need on the buildings here in Little Village you can ask me. :) I am glad as well that they didn't tore the place up as well. I just wish they never tear up the California Manu. building or ANY historical building in my neighborhood.

And technically I am no longer a high school student, I actually graduated 3 weeks ago. But I still would be if I went to a 4 year high school. The High school I attended, Community Links is a 3 year high school and we share the building with the elementary students in John Spry and General E. Wood Boys & Girls Club. And coincidentally, one of my teachers there found very interesting information about the school since he is just as fascinated about Chicago history as I am and he shared with me and some of my classmates the info.

One of the facts he found out was that the building that is shown in your book was the original set up of the school, but around the 1920-30's if I'm not mistaking, they added an extension to it in order to make a floor auditorium since the original auditorium was on the 3rd floor of the school. He also told us that the school was the first school in all of Chicago in that time to be fireproof.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: Jayg (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: July 10, 2012 07:08PM

Directly east of the California manufacturing building,on the Northwest corner of Troy was a small rendering plant. The smell was horrible.

I lived on the east side of Troy in 1961-1962. The building address was in the 2220s and was one of the ones torn down for the school.
Many of the two flats on east side of Troy only had a back entrance for the second story apartments.The city started enforcing zoning laws in the early sixties. Our landlord was compelled to install a front door and stairway to our apartment. You'll notice many buildings with stairways and entrances that don't match the architecture.

Across the Street from the Verb sign building is a ComEd substation,
At the time there was a huge Commonwealth Edison Neon sign on the roof. it faced north to attract attention from the el and Burlington passengers. The sign also had an illuminated <a HREF="http://www.flickr.com/photos/popkulture/5714530900/">Little Bill</a>.
I wish I had a photo.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: July 11, 2012 01:47PM

I took this picture a few years ago of the Troy Substation plaque.



Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: Jayg (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: July 11, 2012 07:13PM

Thanks Frank. I should have been clearer, I wish I had a photo of the neon sign.
I wonder if Comed has an archive. Also I wonder who put up the various Neon signs throughout the city. They must have taken pictures. That would be a treasure trove. Another memory is the Hannah and Hogg neon sign high on their distillery on
Kedzie.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: July 11, 2012 07:50PM

I knew what you meant jay. I just posted a pic of the substation sign because I had it. Interestingly, I didn't even take a picture of the whole building, just a pic of the plaque.

And yea, it WOULD be awesome for an album by one of the large neon sign companies to surface. A friend of mine just bought an album full of professionally taken 8"X10 photos of apartment buildings in Chicago and Milwaukee from the 1920s and 1930s that was kept by a Chicago firm that installed the heating systems. So cool that they kept the record and even cooler that they took pictures of the building exteriors instead of something to do with the heating.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: WayOutWardell (63.226.79.---)
Date: July 11, 2012 08:59PM

Berwyn Frank Wrote:
>
> And yea, it WOULD be awesome for an album by one
> of the large neon sign companies to surface. A
> friend of mine just bought an album full of
> professionally taken 8"X10 photos of apartment
> buildings in Chicago and Milwaukee from the 1920s
> and 1930s that was kept by a Chicago firm that
> installed the heating systems. So cool that they
> kept the record and even cooler that they took
> pictures of the building exteriors instead of
> something to do with the heating.

An acquaintance once mentioned to me that White Way Sign had an enormous archive of their work. They've moved from Clybourn Ave. to the suburbs but it might be worth a call to see if any of it is available for viewing.

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: sanity94 (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: October 12, 2012 01:56AM

Just trying to keep myself updated on this post. Well on my way home one day from my class, I walked by the building, and miraculously , the inside of the building was light up in certain places. So being the curious person I am, I decided to take pictures of the inside from the window. I managed to take 2 since these were the spots that were clearly visible.

Side view from the window:


Front view from the door window:


I don't know what they were doing in there, and I didn't see any people, but it seems very interesting and intriguing :)

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: October 12, 2012 03:24AM

Wow, Cool! Thanks!

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: 222psm (---.no.no.cox.net)
Date: October 13, 2012 09:49AM

Very cool!

Re: South Lawndale California Manufacturing Co. Building
Posted by: Tom B (---.pools.spcsdns.net)
Date: August 04, 2013 01:37PM

Want to buy the book ...what is the name or for that matter ANY books about Chicago that any of you would recommend

Home | Columns | Articles | Features | Links | Forum | Mission Statement | Staff | Media & Press | Maps | FAQ | Contact