Borchert Palmer circa 1977
Dr. Harlan Tarbell
A: According to the 1930 federal census records, Fred Lorenzen’s paternal grandparents (his father’s parents), were born in Denmark. The museum presented a major exhibit on Elmhurst resident Lorenzen and his impressive acing career in 2012. Lorenzen (pictured left) was a winner of the Daytona 500 and was one of the first northerners to become a professional NASCAR driver. "Fearless Freddie" achieved a lifelong dream in 2015 when he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. To learn more about Lorenzen, check out the biographical feature in our "By All Accounts: The Story of Elmhurst" exhibit in the museum's second floor gallery.
Q: For whom is Fellows Court Named?
A: Following World War II, there was a severe housing shortage for soldiers returning from the War. Most of the housing stock in Elmhurst was single-family homes. William Fellows was an Elmhurst alderman 1934-1945 and Elmhurst Mayor 1945-1948. He was instrumental in getting the St. Charles West Apartments and co-ops built. Under William Fellows' leadership, the City of Elmhurst re-zoned a 21-acre site at St. Charles Road and West Avenue and worked with the FHA and a private developer to build the multi-family complex. A municipal committee reviewed applications, giving preference to veterans and teachers. Mayor Fellows died while in office in January 1948. When the road through the housing development opened in August 1948 there was a brief ceremony to dedicate the street as Fellows Court in memory of Mayor William Fellows.
Q: What can you tell me about Elmhurst resident and magic teacher Harlan Tarbell?
A: Harlan Tarbell was born on February 23, 1890 in Delavan, Illinois and grew up in nearby Groveland. In World War I, Tarbell served as a medic with the 24th Air Company in France. He married Martha Beck in 1920, and they lived at 401 Cottage Hill Avenue in Elmhurst with their children (Harlan Tarbell, Jr. and Marion) until Tarbell’s death in 1960. Tarbell became interested in magic at a young age, and often performed magic shows for family members and friends. He eventually became an internationally acclaimed magician who performed for audiences around the world. Tarbell originated over 200 mysteries, including one of the Hindu rope mysteries. Tarbell’s specialty was Eyeless Vision, also known as Radar Vision, which established him as a successful mentalist. Using Eyeless Vision, he once drove an automobile through the Loop during Chicago rush hour completely blindfolded. Tarbell is known for his multi-lesson correspondence course for magicians, which is still used today by many professional magicians. He was featured prominently in the EHM's 2009 exhibit, "The Magical History Tour."
Q: Who is Robert Palmer and why is the underpass named after him?
A: Robert T. Palmer (1915-1989) was Elmhurst’s first city manager from 1953 until 1983. He worked under five mayors and was the driving force behind the success of the Du Page Water Commission and the construction of Elmhurst’s underpass. He received the Jaycees Distinguished Service Award in 1978. Palmer's career was honored when the Kenilworth Avenue underpass, one of the largest civic improvement projects in Elmhurst history, was renamed Robert T. Palmer Drive. He was a veteran who served in World War II. Mr. Palmer is pictured in the slide show above with former city manager Tom Borchert.
Q: Did an Elmhurst resident used to announce Cubs games on the radio?
A: Yes. Ralph Bertram Puckett, professionally known as Bert Wilson, lived in Elmhurst with his family c. 1951 - 1955. Wilson, a long-time Cubs broadcaster for WIND radio, was known as "The Voice of the Cubs." Wilson, who popularized the phrase, "I don't care who wins as long as it's the Cubs," died in 1955.
Q: Do you know anything about former Elmhurst resident, Carl Geyer, who made French horns?
A: Long-time Elmhurst resident Carl C. Geyer emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1904 when he was a young man. He made musical instruments, horns in particular, by hand. According to the Chicago Tribune, when he first arrived in the United States, Mr. Geyer was the only French horn maker in the country. On Mr. Geyer’s 82nd birthday, the horn section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took their instruments to Mr. Geyer’s shop at 228 S Wabash and serenaded him. Carl Geyer and his wife, Sophie, had three children. Mr. Geyer passed away in 1973 at the age of 92.
Q: I read that Joseph Medill and his wife, Katharine, had a summer home in Elmhurst. Can you verify and/or provide any information about this?
A: Katharine Medill and her husband Joseph Medill, Chicago Tribune editor, leased a summer home in Elmhurst in 1894. The couple lived in the former Lathrop Estate, Huntington (pictured at right), on St. Charles Road between York Street and Spring Road. Mrs. Medill suffered from ill-health, and the family hoped that the clean air away from Chicago would improve her health. Mrs. Medill passed away in Elmhurst on October 1, 1894. According to newspaper coverage following Mrs. Medill’s passing, she was one of the founders of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home after the Civil War; was instrumental in relief work following the 1871 Chicago Fire, and was active on behalf of the Hospital for Women and Children.
Q: Is it true that a famous painter named Healy lived in Elmhurst?
A: Yes, well-known and prolific portrait painter G.P.A. Healy (1813-1894) lived in Elmhurst, then called Cottage Hill, 1857-1863. His subjects included Daniel Webster; Ulysses S Grant; Abraham Lincoln; Andrew Jackson; John Quincy Adams; Louisa May Alcott; Franz Liszt; Elisabeth, Queen of Rumania; Prince Otto von Bismarck of Prussia; French King Louis-Philippe and many more. Healy’s paintings may be found in museums and art galleries throughout the United States and Europe, including Chicago History Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Corcoran Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery.
Q: I am trying to find out more about a female drummer of the late 1920s/early 1930s who was from Elmhurst. Her name was Mitzi Bush, and she played drums with the Parisian Redheads and the Bricktops. Do you know anything about her?
A: Frank and Jean Quackenbush moved to Elmhurst with their family circa 1923. Their daughter, Miriam, was a drummer with several all-girl bands, and took Mitzi Bush as her professional name. Miriam Quackenbush Canosa passed away in Elmhurst in 1968 at the age of 64.
Q. I have an etching by Lee Sturges. What can you tell me about him?
A: Lee Sturges (1865 -1954) received his art training in the 1880s while attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He then left the art field temporarily to join the family business, married and started a family. Mr. Sturges, president of Solar-Sturges Manufacturing Company in Melrose Park, balanced his business and artistic careers. Sturges was a member of the Society of American Etchers, a member of the Brooklyn Etchers Society and a founder and chairman of the Chicago Society of Etchers. He won many prestigious awards and honors for his work. Lee and Mary Sturges and their three children lived at 280 Cottage Hill Avenue in Elmhurst 1892-1953, calling their home Shadeland (shown at left). More information about Lee Sturges’ etchings.
Q: For whom is Marjorie Davis Park named?
A: Marjorie Davis Park, located at the intersection of Grantley and Myrtle in Elmhurst, is named in honor of a fifth grade teacher who taught at Roosevelt School for 33 years. The park was dedicated in 1981 and is on the former site of Roosevelt School (pictured at right). Ms. Davis' name lives on in the place where she once influenced many young lives.
Q: Mayor Edward Blatter was elected Mayor of Elmhurst in 1931, and he only served two years. Did he resign while he was on office?
A: The mayoral term of office was only two years in the 1930s. Mayor Blatter ran for re-election in 1933, but he lost the mayoral race to Claude Van Auken.