Pilsen Morticians


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Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Lazer (198.147.38.---)
Date: August 20, 2009 03:54PM

I'm looking for information on the "Morticians" buildling in Pilsen at 1125 W. 18th. Was it ever really a mortuary? Why is the word Morticians written in a pseudo-Chinese style?

See photo link below.



2009 goal: visit and document (blog and photos) all 77 Chicago community areas. http://77neighborhoods.blogspot.com

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: b.a.hoarder (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: August 20, 2009 06:37PM

The Bohemian Morticians Association shows a firm by the name of Urban & Filip at that address. No info provided about start up or when they went under. No pun intended.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Lazer (198.147.38.---)
Date: August 20, 2009 08:30PM

Thanks, b.a.!

With the information you provided, I was able to find this site: http://www.csagsi.org/082998.htm

Urban & Filip was one of the founding firms of the Bohemian Funeral Directors Association in 1933, so they've been around since then. It looks like Mr. Victor H. Filip was the first president of the association.

With its Bohemian roots, this seems like a remnant of the Czech origins of the Pilsen neighborhood.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: December 23, 2009 11:09PM

In my collection I have a 1908-1910 era real photo post card of a Bohemian funeral taking place in front of this building. Unfortunately the vantage point was on that side of the street so you cannot see this particular building, but the view captures across the street.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Artista (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: March 07, 2010 10:35AM

Just spotted this topic.. very interesting read and great pic Lazer. to Berwyn Frank,,can you possibly scan and post your postcard for viewing here? Also,,i drove thru Berwyn yesterday on 22nd from Austin to Cicero. I always LOVED the classic architecture through out the town. Especially the fantastic bungalows. Berwyn has some of the best examples of brick bungalows i have ever seen.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: March 07, 2010 03:58PM

No problem Artista. Here is a scan of the postcard. The scene is taken form the corner of 18th & May Streets. From the left where the first carriage sits is the J. Novak saloon at 1132 W. 18th St (The building still stands). The building to the right of Novak's Saloon with the arched windows and doors is the C.S.P.S. , or Česko Slovanských Podporujicick Spolků (Czech Benevolent Society), building which was built in 1884 at 1126 W. 18th St. Unfortunately that building has since been razed and is a vacant lot.



Yes, as far as Cermak Rd., it is definitely a jewel. Unfortunately, many of the landmark buildings have been razed, especially the corner ones. The latest buildings that are at risk is the old Marik Funeral Home building located at 6507 W. Cermak, and most recently there are rumors that the architectural treasure which is the old First National Bank of Cicero located at 6000 W. Cermak (Cermak and Austin), is at risk of being demolished. Fifth Third Bank currently occupies the location and they have just built a new tiny little bank building on the the big banks parking lot. Rumor has it that the bank will be demolished due to upkeep and heating costs. I urge all of you to take a ride there and check out the inside before it is long gone.





Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/06/2015 12:24AM by Berwyn Frank.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: 222psm (---.br.br.cox.net)
Date: March 07, 2010 08:52PM

Here's that view today;


Note the buffet sign hanger is still there, I love comparing photos from the past to current ones. Also the post on the corner building the little boy is leaning on, if it could only talk, what stories it could tell!

My aunt and uncle used to live on w 19th St. near s Loomis the building they lived in and most of the buildings on that block have vaulted sidewalks.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/07/2010 09:13PM by 222psm.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Artista (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: March 07, 2010 10:01PM

My gosh 222, i share the same enjoyments as you do in photo comparisons. Thanks so much for the great Google shot. I did go to Google maps to view the same intersection but you went a step further. How do you save the image from Google? By the way, i will be visiting the bank at Austin and Madison as BerwynFrank suggested. I cant get that new digital camera soon enough,,lol.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/07/2010 10:02PM by Artista.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: March 07, 2010 11:05PM

Artista, actually it is Austin & Cermak in Cicero.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Artista (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: March 07, 2010 11:15PM

@BerwynFrank oops ,,thanks for the correction Frank. I guess i have Austin and Madison of-the-brain..lol. I love the corner "Austin~Madison" building. Im guessing that was built prior to 1920.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: 222psm (---.br.br.cox.net)
Date: March 07, 2010 11:36PM

Artista Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My gosh 222, i share the same enjoyments as you do
> in photo comparisons. Thanks so much for the great
> Google shot. I did go to Google maps to view the
> same intersection but you went a step further. How
> do you save the image from Google? By the way, i
> will be visiting the bank at Austin and Madison as
> BerwynFrank suggested. I cant get that new digital
> camera soon enough,,lol.

Well you know what they say Artista, "great minds think alike" LOL
But in all seriousness I just love history, I find it fascinating to walk an old neighborhood, look at an old picture and wonder what was it like?

On the screen shot, I have a Mac you hit the "apple, shift, 4 and it saves a screen shot.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/08/2010 12:13AM by 222psm.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: StrayKitten (66.28.242.---)
Date: March 08, 2010 12:45PM

222psm Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Here's that view today;
> http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4045/4414731377_4e9
> 3ab9367.jpg
>
> Note the buffet sign hanger is still there, I love
> comparing photos from the past to current ones.
> Also the post on the corner building the little
> boy is leaning on, if it could only talk, what
> stories it could tell!
>
> My aunt and uncle used to live on w 19th St. near
> s Loomis the building they lived in and most of
> the buildings on that block have vaulted
> sidewalks.


I can't tell you how many times I've wished "walls could talk"! Perhaps this is a dumb question, but what are vaulted sidewalks?

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Artista (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: March 08, 2010 01:42PM

Hi StrayKitten here you go~

"sidewalk vault"

A space below a sidewalk directly adjacent to a building, often covered with a hatch that can be lifted to allow access to the basement of the building via steps down; often used for storage.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: 222psm (---.br.br.cox.net)
Date: March 08, 2010 01:56PM

StrayKitten more info on why Chicago has vaulted sidewalks:
http://gapersblock.com/airbags/archives/city_streets_how_chicago_raised_itself_out_of_the_mud_and_astonished_the_world/

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: 222psm (---.br.br.cox.net)
Date: March 08, 2010 02:11PM

This is the block my uncle and aunt lived on, see the stairs lead to the 3rd floor? the street level was below the lower windows. If you go down to the lower level there is/was a door that lead to under the sidewalk!
<iframe width="425" height="350" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&amp;source=embed&amp;hl=en&amp;geocode=&amp;q=19th+st,chicago,+il&amp;sll=37.0625,-95.677068&amp;sspn=39.099308,56.513672&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;hq=&amp;hnear=W+19th+St,+Chicago,+Cook,+Illinois&amp;ll=41.86432,-87.676649&amp;spn=0.004499,0.006899&amp;z=14&amp;layer=c&amp;cbll=41.856079,-87.660488&amp;panoid=LvKdscdgmhUCWA9FrvxXNQ&amp;cbp=12,165.58,,0,5.14&amp;output=svembed"></iframe><br /><small><a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&amp;source=embed&amp;hl=en&amp;geocode=&amp;q=19th+st,chicago,+il&amp;sll=37.0625,-95.677068&amp;sspn=39.099308,56.513672&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;hq=&amp;hnear=W+19th+St,+Chicago,+Cook,+Illinois&amp;ll=41.86432,-87.676649&amp;spn=0.004499,0.006899&amp;z=14&amp;layer=c&amp;cbll=41.856079,-87.660488&amp;panoid=LvKdscdgmhUCWA9FrvxXNQ&amp;cbp=12,165.58,,0,5.14" style="color:#0000FF;text-align:left">View Larger Map</a></small>

The building they lived in is a few door east but it's more difficult to see what I'm trying to explain. The building to the left is really a 3 flat! The building to the right was built in the 1930's after the street had been raised.

I've always wondered what this building was it looks like a old church or a funeral home!



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/08/2010 02:33PM by 222psm.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: March 08, 2010 03:20PM

The vaulted sidewalks of Pilsen are legendary to older residents. I have a surrogate grandmother in my neighborhood who's Bohemian family comes from Pilsen. Her daughter (who is now 62 years old), used to be taunted by her grand parents parents when she misbehaved. They told her if she kept up her shenanigans she would be put "nad sidewalce," or under the sidewalk in English. She subsequently had nightmares for years about Bohemian monsters under the vaulted sidewalks of Pilsen!

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: captain54 (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: March 08, 2010 06:39PM

happened to be in the area today, so here's an updated view of the 18th and May corner from Berwyn Frank's postcard....that postcard view was from the 2nd floor window of the building at the SW corner...I was standing directly below that window.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/4417457965/" title="18th and May, Pilsen, Chicago ...2010 by captain54_01, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4016/4417457965_55e55c9778_b.jpg" width="1024" height="768" alt="18th and May, Pilsen, Chicago ...2010" /></a>

the property @ 1134 W 18th (which in the old photo has a white awning) is now Ciao Amore restaurant. The property @ 1132 W 18th, or where the first carriage from the left sits in the postcard is now Imperial Spa...both of these building are from roughly 1889.

the buildings to the east (1130-26) that were the Czech Benevolent Society are gone, but a building @ 1130 W 18th was constructed in 1989. It was a clothing store and now seems unoccupied.

the building @ 1124 W 18th was also razed, so the next available searchable address is 1122 W 18th, or the red building that has the "injured" billboard on its side...the first building mentioned in this thread is directly across the street from this building

so basically, the three white buildings in the center of the postcard view have been razed.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: March 08, 2010 09:01PM

Wow! This thread is a lot of fun, let's keep it up! Capitan54 thank's for the great modern image! Here is another postcard from my collection. This is basically the same location but taken just a little bit farther to the east looking at the same side of the street. You can see the large C.S.P.S. building with the tower. In the first postcard I posted here you can see what looks like a vacant lot next to the C.S.P.S. building, but what it is is the other half of the building set back from the portion that is visible. The postcard is printed in Czech which Pozdrav Z Chicaga translates to Greetings from Chicago. The bottom message printed in Czech basically says that the building houses the Chicago Czech Freethinkers School and Society.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/06/2015 01:12PM by Berwyn Frank.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: March 08, 2010 09:12PM

222psm Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This is the block my uncle and aunt lived on, see
> the stairs lead to the 3rd floor? the street level
> was below the lower windows. If you go down to the
> lower level there is/was a door that lead to under
> the sidewalk!
> View Larger Map
>
> The building they lived in is a few door east but
> it's more difficult to see what I'm trying to
> explain. The building to the left is really a 3
> flat! The building to the right was built in the
> 1930's after the street had been raised.
>
> I've always wondered what this building was it
> looks like a old church or a funeral home!

222psm, just so you know, the building you are inquiring about as to if it was a church or funeral home, well it was the latter. The Bohemian Linhart Funeral Home was established in the storefront across the street from the larger building (which was built when the business expanded) in 1885. In 1960 the Linhart's built a brand new state of the art funeral home at 6820 W. Cermak Rd. in Berwyn. I believe that they closed the 19th St. Pilsen location in the 1970s. They are currently still operating today as one of Berwyn's busiest funeral homes.

Hey Forgotten Chicago administrators, I would LOVE to do a write up for the main page on Pilsen, Little Village, or Czech Chicago if you are interested!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/08/2010 09:18PM by Berwyn Frank.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: captain54 (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: March 08, 2010 09:49PM

Berwyn Frank Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> This is basically the same location but taken just
> a little bit farther to the east looking at the
> same side of the street. You can see the large
> C.S.P.S. building with the tower. In the first
> postcard I posted here you can see what looks like
> a vacant lot next to the C.S.P.S. building, but
> what it is is the other half of the building set
> back from the portion that is visible.

thanks for clearing that up...it is a bit of an optical illusion looking from the west...the view from east makes it very clear....the first postcard shows three two flats just east of the CSPS building, but the modern view only shows two. Can't figure out which of the three flats was razed, but judging by the architectural ornamentation, I'm now guessing it was the furthest to the east of the three

also, an aerial view shows the CSPS type stucture in a 1952 view, but a vacant lot in a 1962 view.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/09/2010 02:19PM by captain54.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: March 08, 2010 11:24PM

By the way. The first postcard view probably dates to circa 1910. The second view is post marked in 1907, but the view was made in 1900. The very same view by the same publisher appears in the Chicago Bohemian Adresář, or directory, from the year 1900.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Artista (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: March 09, 2010 03:04AM

Gosh ALL of you guys had better be at the next walking tour! Captain54 ,what great detail thanks. Hey Berwyn' another great postcard image.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: 222psm (---.br.br.cox.net)
Date: March 09, 2010 10:59AM

Captain, thanks for the up to date picture!

Berwyn Frank, thank you for sharing your wonderful postcards! And for letting me know what that building was in its hay day, I was always fascinated with it. You seem to know a lot about the Czech. culture.


I have fond memories of Pilsen, I used to ride my cousin's big wheel up and down this block of 19th St. Also not to far away was Maxwell St. My dad used to take us there. Maxwell Street Polish and the Chicago blues, even though some people said it was ghetto. Maxwell St. will always have a special place in my heart.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/09/2010 02:03PM by 222psm.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: 222psm (---.br.br.cox.net)
Date: March 09, 2010 11:16AM

BTW that C.S.P.S. building is beautiful to bad it's gone. Looking at those post cards, its fascinating to think that was almost right at 100 years ago.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/09/2010 01:59PM by 222psm.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: StrayKitten (66.28.242.---)
Date: March 09, 2010 12:26PM

Thanks everyone for the explanation of vaulted sidewalks! I've seen them, but never knew what they were called.

The different images of the same place over the years are fascinating! Don't you wonder about who lived/worked in those buildings 50 or even 100 years ago? I never knew that the area had once been Czech. Very, very cool!

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: 222psm (---.br.br.cox.net)
Date: March 09, 2010 01:56PM

StrayKitten Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Thanks everyone for the explanation of vaulted
> sidewalks! I've seen them, but never knew what
> they were called.
>
> The different images of the same place over the
> years are fascinating! Don't you wonder about who
> lived/worked in those buildings 50 or even 100
> years ago? I never knew that the area had once
> been Czech. Very, very cool!

I always wonder that, who lived, what were their lives like, where are they now or have they passed on?

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: March 09, 2010 11:05PM

Straykitten, Yes! The Pilsen neighborhood was the Czech epicenter of Chicago from about 1871 through the 1920s until many of them had moved westward to what is now Little Village, and also Cicero and Berwyn. The name Pilsen itself is the English translation of the City of Plzen in the Czech Republic where many of the areas residents immigrated from. The Czech's still had a large presence in the old neighborhood, along with the Polish, until the 1950s when Mexicans began moving into the area, many of which were displaced from the expansion of the University of Illinois Circle Campus.

The Czech's left a permanant mark on the Pilsen neighborhood through the areas architecture and the general European "feel" of the neighborhood. Most of the significant structures erected in Pilsen were of great importance to the Czech people such as Thalia Hall, the large C.S.A.S building which still stands on the 1400 block of W. 18th St, Plzensky Sokol on 18th & Ashland, Dvorak Park, named after a famous Czech composer on Cullerton & May St., Jirka & Komensky schools, St. Porcopious Church, the old St. Vitus Church building, several bank buildings, restaurants, photographers, and many many other countless buildings still standing in Pilsen. If you have any questions about a particular building just let me know. There is a chance I might know what significance it has to the Czech community.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Artista (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: March 10, 2010 03:08AM

Berwyn , you have a wealth of information. I never knew the origin of the Pilsen name.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: captain54 (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: March 10, 2010 03:13AM

Berwyn Frank Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
If you have
any questions about a particular building just let
me know. There is a chance I might know what
significance it has to the Czech community.

I don't mean to hijack the thread, but I do have a couple of questions about the Pilsen area, past and present.

1) is there a Pilsen equivalent to the "polish broadway"?? (meaning Division Street, in Wicker Park, where the main entertainment area was centered) was it 18th street? Halsted? That is where I find some of the most interesting history of an area.
2) despite all the fascinating pre-1900 architecture and rich ethnic history, is there really a future for Pilsen? frankly, it doesn't seem like a very safe and clean area. I had the windows in my car smashed near 22nd and Racine a couple of years back. I know the artists pioneered a comeback, but now I've heard they are relocated to the cheaper, more spacious industrial spaces in Bridgeport. The only hope that I can see is an influx of new residents from the rebuilt Maxwell Street/Circle Campus area.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/10/2010 03:17AM by captain54.

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Re: Pilsen Morticians
Posted by: Berwyn Frank (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: March 10, 2010 04:44AM

Captian54, There was not a designated area like a "Polish Broadway" so to speak, but if there was an area like that it was 18th St. Thalia Hall and Plzensky Sokol, both of which were on or right off of 18th St., played an integral role in entertaining the Czech people with theatrical productions and music. You have got to understand something though. Majority of the Czech's that lived in Pilsen were newer arrivals from the old country and were poor. Life was very tough in Pilsen. There were few buildings with running water, and heating the structures was difficult relative to other areas of the city. Many of Pilsen's residents were fighting just to stay alive and keep food on the table. Most of Pilsen's men AND women worked hard labor jobs. The people were VERY frugal and I would imagine that "entertainment" was not high on the list of priorities. Due to hard work, many of Pilsen's residents became upwardly mobile and moved to what is now Little Village, formerly known as Lawndale-Crawford, and called Česká Kalifornie (Czech California) by the Bohemian people. It was there that you saw more organized leisure time entertainment. You can read all about that when my book on Chicago's Little Village Lawndale-Crawford is released on April 19th, 2010. (another shameless plug)

Your question as to if there is a future for Pilsen. I would say absolutely. There is a lot brighter future for Pilsen than many other area's on the west side of Chicago. A couple of reasons I say that is because you could not have gone through there like you can now in the 1970s and 1980s. Pilsen was a VERY dangerous gang and drug ridden place back then. The area came into its current renaissance period back in the late 1990s and really has cleaned up in he new millennium. Many of the historic buildings have been restored and there is still new stuff being built there today as far as condo's and other new developments. The transportation and location to downtown is fantastic and will continue to draw the modern "bohemians," artists, and urban warriors to the area.

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