Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Some things never change: Treasurer of Chicago owes $500,000 back to the City in 1869

Just after the Civil War, David Gage, the treasurer of the City of Chicago purchased 1,600 acres of land on what now would be both sides of Harlem Avenue between Cermak Road and 26th Street. Later, he would sell a portion of the land "to the Riverside Improvement Co. for the development in 1869 of Riverside, IL. designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  On the remaining portion, he built a horse racetrack that extended for half a mile, and he enjoyed the life of a country gentleman."  Upon leaving his post as treasurer, the City discovered that they were more than $500,000 in the red.  Mr. Gage surrendered his estate as settlement.  The land "through the years was used as a nursery for the city of Chicago, home to the Cook County Home for Boys, a tuberculosis sanitarium and then sold in 1964 to Concordia College.  The land is now the site of the North Riverside Park Mall.

North Riverside was incorporated in 1923 and consisted of 50 homes and 200 residents.  In the 1920s and '30s the area was used for making illegal whiskey, that is, until raided by the Feds.  In May, 1928, two carloads of gangsters ambushed the Chief of Police and two others as they drove down Des Plaines Avenue, north of the present Village Hall.  It is also reported that Al Capone is believed to have built Melody Mill on Des Plaines Avenue.  Melody Mill was a very famous dance hall with a skating rink in the basement.  The Village complex now occupies the site.

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