THIStory - The History of Our Community

The Eisenhower Library collaborates with Harwood Heights & Norridge to preserve the history of the area.
Here are some of the ways you can explore our local history resources:

  • Browse photos & documents from the library's collection on Flickr, Facebook, & the Illinois Digital Archives
  • Find family history through our Genealogy databases; see the list under Research
  • Check out our timeline of library history on
  • Ask a librarian at the Answers Desk about any local history-related questions

George Gavaria and other Local Veterans Collections

Formal photo of SP5 George L. Gavaria, born December 14, 1944, died December 1, 1966Right on the heels of Memorial Day seems like a good time to share information about our veterans collections.

If you have ever been in the Local History Room, you have seen the central display case, which contains a portion of the George Gavaria Collection.  Lillian and Bob Gavaria, residents of Harwood Heights, donated a number of documents and physical items - including medals - related to the military service of their son, George. 

George Gavaria was the first resident of Harwood Heights to die in Vietnam, on December 1st, 1966.  He was just two weeks short of his 22nd birthday.

The Gavaria Collection consists of a lot more than what you can see on display right now.  Browse some more documents and images from this collection on our Flickr page.

The Local History Room is also home to a binder full of submissions 2009 arrangement of photos and stories of local veterans with the phrase Thank You Veterans across the topfrom locals to our Veterans Wall, compiled annually every November - you can browse our images from this collection on Facebook, too.

School Days Of Yours

Can't remember the name of someone you took classes with in highschool? Lost your yearbook? The Library might have a copy for you to reference.

Ridgewood High School, District #234 opened in 1959. In less than a decade, it was recognized as one of the top 10 high schools in the United States by the Ladies Home Journal (May 1968).  The Library has copies of the school yearbook for 30 years of the school's existence, from the first graduating class through today (specifically: 1963-1967, 1974-1975, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1987-1989, 1991-1993, and 2000-2012)*.

We also have an alumni directory for all 4 branches of Maine Township, District #207 - North (closed 1981) and East, South, and West - with coverage through 1995.  This high school district preceded the establishment of the Ridgewood High School District by 57 years. Pennoyer School, District #79 students are within this high school district.  (Fun fact: Maine North, after being closed, was used as the set for both The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.)

Additionally, the library has compiled books of over a decade of the Giles Elementary School, District #80 newsletter
(1951-1969).  Giles was established in 1928, named after James Giles, a local farmer who had served for years as the Township Supervisor and President of the Board of Education as well as serving as the district superintendent.  Giles Elementary School was preceded by the Leyden School, which was established in 1851 but burned down in 1951. Also in this school district is the John V. Leigh School, built in 1958 and named after another long-time superintendent.

If you'd like to browse any of these volumes, just ask at the Answers Desk.

*If you have copies for any years we're missing and would like to donate them, we would be delighted to accept!

Local News

Front page of Norwood Park Citizen newspaper, January 4, 1940If you're looking for local news, you probably already know you can read the Pioneer Press Norridge-Harwood Heights News at the library.  You may know we keep issues for the past year (in fact, we have reference copies of issues back to 2008).  You may even know that we subscribe to the Newsbank database that has all the text-only content for the paper that's been digitized since 2002, allowing you to do keyword searches for stories. 

But did you know the library has physical copies of Pioneer Press papers back to 1940?

Before the villages were incorporated, the regional Pioneer Press paper was called The Norwood Park Citizen.  In 1952, it was renamed The Citizen.  The library has bound copies of this newspaper from 1940 through 1985 in the local history reference collection. Complete original newspaper pages are sewn into volumes - this includes photos, ads, obituaries, classifieds.. everything.

three rows, two columns of bound volumes of newspapers mostly black spines plus a few red on white shelvesIn the mid-1980s, narrower regional papers cropped up: The Harlem-Irving Times, and two papers for the villages, Norridge News and Harwood Heights News.  Pioneer Press granted the library custodianship of numerous bound volumes of original papers for the latter two papers, which combined into Norridge and Harwood Heights News in 1991. The volumes the Library received cover 1985 through 2003, with some gaps.  We now have over 100 volumes of original local newspapers in our collection.

Currently, the library is working on cataloging and digitizing these papers so patrons can search and browse them online.  It's a massive undertaking!  Eventually, we hope to have every paper searchable by topic, subject names, and keywords, with the original pages viewable as images, as well.

In the meantime, ask at the Answers Desk to see our reference copies!

40th Anniversary Gala

Black and white picture of two cars with signs supporting the Eisenhower library driving in a paradeAs early as 1963, residents of Harwood Heights and Norridge were discussing how to get their own library.

The Chicago Public Library system provided services to suburban patrons, but residents wanted their own building, their own collection. (And eventually the Chicago Public Library system stopped offering free service, in 1972.)

Starting with a federal grant from Project Plus, the Eisenhower Public Library was funded for a full year. The Library used that time to draft a referendum to create a library district, a taxing body that would sustain the library with the support of the villages of Harwood Heights and Norridge.

Library referendum sign with white text on blue reading Have Library Need Building Vote YES 41 The Eisenhower Public Library District referendum passed in March of 1973. 40 years later, the Eisenhower Public Library is commemorating the anniversary of the Library's creation with a year of festivities.

Check out pages 4 and 5 of our Newsletter for details about these events.

We kicked off the celebrations with our Anniversary Gala on March 1st, 2013.  Browse our Flickr album of photos from the event.

Remember When?

Local Landmarks, Gone But Not Forgotten

The landscape of a city is constantly shifting, with buildings springing up and vanishing again as the economics and community developments of the region rise and fall. The history of the landmarks and the legends develop over years and decades but can disappear overnight.

Harwood Heights and Norridge have had quite a few interesting landmarks and businesses come and go over the years.  Do you remember...

Sepia-toned image of Lane Tech riding club on their horses at the Norridge Happy Day Stables in 1956Happy Day Stables

Norridge, 1952 - approximately 1976

Formerly in 2 locations - at the intersections of Montrose and Cumberland and at Lawrence and Cumberland - the stables were owned by George Jayne: brother, rival, and eventual victim of the infamous horse breeder Silas Jayne. The Happy Day Stables burned down in the late 1970s.

Harlem Outdoor Theatre sign and empty marquee sign (from Craig's Lost Chicago website)Harlem Outdoor Theater

Norridge, 1946-1976

At the intersection of Harlem and Forest Preserve, this was the second outdoor theater to open in the Chicagoland area, with room for more than 1000 cars.


sign for Maurice Lenell Cookie Company : cartoon of boy peeking out of cookie jar, jar lid on his head as head and arms stick out, boy is licking his lips.Cookies by Maruice Lenell

Norridge, 1937-2008

A Chicagoland institution, the Maurice Lenell cookie factory was located near the intersection of Harlem and Agatite. At its peak, the "cooky" company produced 10 million cookies a day.

sign with profile of clown in white-spotted red suit pointing to the left; underneath, "Little Chief" miniature fire engine holds eleven waving children.Kiddytown

branch location: Norridge 1952-1976 (main location, Kiddieland: Melrose Park, 1929-2009)

A family-run amusement park for 80 years, Kiddieland had a branch location known as Kiddytown in Norridge, right next to where the Harlem-Irving Plaza stands today.

Dunning Hospitalblack and white image of burned out room from the Dunning Asylum after a fire circa 1910 Photo by Christine Zenino via

Cook County Hospital for the Insane, south Norridge/Harwood Heights, 1854-1912

Now called the Chicago-Read Mental Health Center, the infamous mental hospital started out as an almshouse for the poor in 1854. The institution did double duty as an insane asylum, as well, starting in 1858. It was turned over to the state after a fire in 1910 destroyed several buildings.

gray gravestone reads with star of David and flowers on a book, written on scroll image : Shel Silverstein Sept 25 1930 - May 10 1999 Beloved father brother uncle and friend, followed by Hebrew characters; photo published by Ginny M on FindAGrave.comWestlawn Cemetery


South of Montrose, between Thatcher and Ozanam, you will find many prominent names buried. Besides local families, notable internments include: author Shel Silverstein; Abe Saperstein, founder of the Harlem Globetrotters; movie critic Gene Siskel; and Jack Ruby, murderer of Lee Harvey Oswald. The cofounder of Sears, Roebuck, and Companty, Alvah Curtis Roebuck, is also buried nearby, at the Acacia Park cemetery.

Have pictures of these places or any other memorable landmarks in the area?
We would love to see them - bring them to the Answers Desk

Originally published in the Fall 2010 Eisenhower Public Library District newsletter