Western Springs’ Postcards from the Past

Picture postcards were first introduced at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. And, over the years, little Western Springs was featured on quite a few.

With the advent of modern photography and printing presses, the production and sale of picture postcards became a huge industry in the early 1900’s. Not only did the Post Office establish a special one cent rate for the cards, it also allowed short messages to be written on the address side of the cards. With those changes, postcards became, literally, the email or Facebook of that era. 

The Western Springs Historical Society archives contain a collection of such cards spanning most of the last century. As shown in the first photo, some promoted the town's “tourist attractions”, including churches, the village's light & water plant, train station, residential areas, and, of course, the Water Tower.  See first photo.

Some of the more interesting postcards are those that featured street scenes of our village when it had far fewer residents. See second photo.  On the postcard shown in the upper right, you can see the building that housed the post office, state bank, and doctors’ offices of that era. Today, it still stands at the corner of Lawn and Hillgrove Avenue. The card in the lower right shows a building, complete with Coca Cola sign, which today houses Oberweis. The card on the lower left shows a Model T Ford parked in front of Keil’s Drug Store, now occupied by The Competitive Foot. And, the card in the upper left features the original Burlington Zephyr train roaring through Western Springs, headed for downtown Chicago. With such “exciting” subject matter, no wonder people bought and sent postcards by the millions.

The advent of color photography was a boon to postcard sales. See third photo.  In the upper right postcard, you can see Vaughan’s colorful “trial gardens” located on the site of today’s village swimming pool. And, speaking of the pool, the lower right card featured the “new” Western Springs pool, circa 1955. The lower left card was from an earlier era (circa 1920) and shows Grand Avenue School, which was then the Village’s only elementary school. And, the upper left card captured the village’s long-time train station prior to its eventual demolition.   

Of course, no single structure has appeared on more village postcards than the historic water tower.  See fourth photo. Built in 1892, the tower appeared on the left-hand card in 1908. Some 40 or more years later, the Tower had acquired an “English Ivy” look (shown in the center card), which was subsequently removed to protect the structure. More recently, the Historical Society has sold a postcard featuring the tower taken from the Hinsdale Hospital looking east. And, yes, that really is the Sears (or, more correctly, Willis) Tower in the distance.   

Unfortunately, postcards are not available in most stores today. But, you can still purchase a “Willis Tower” card at the Historic Water Tower any Saturday, 9 a.m. to Noon. Or, better yet, stop by the Archives on the 2nd floor of the Grand Avenue Community Center (Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to Noon) and you can view our entire collection for free!

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Laura Sakas February 06, 2013 at 03:35 PM
Love your articles on Western Springs' history!
John Devona February 07, 2013 at 12:29 AM
Thanks, Laura. I appreciate getting comments (good or bad) since it means they're getting read. Many more to come.
Erik Bloecks February 08, 2013 at 02:20 AM
I am looking forward to reading more stories.


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