Driving south on Desplaines to Randolph, I noticed a sight, which made me think, “The recession must be over.” Carpenters were working on the long dormant Randolph Street Depot.
Later I learned that Tim Shanahan purchased the building from the Marani family. He plans to convert it into a steakhouse and name it “M. Hermann’s” to honor his mother.
Tim gave me a tour of the former biker bar, which had been completely gutted. He was intrigued by the foundation, which looked like something out of the Flintstones. Tim said the building’s bones were good. Just the guts needed to be replaced.
I decided to research the building’s history. I called Frank Lipo at the Historical Society of Oak Park & River Forest and gave him the location. In a short time, he uncovered some astonishing information: the building was connected to the very founding of Forest Park.
In 1856, the Chicago & Northwestern RR dispatched 25 workers to construct a spur line along what became Randolph Street. Two of the workers were brothers: Frederick and Otto Hintze. After they finished the spur, including a station on the northwest corner of Desplaines and Randolph, they worked as motormen and conductors.
In 1877, Fredrick built a two-story tavern, with a rubble stone foundation, across from the station on Desplaines. Fred was later elected one of the first village trustees in 1884. Biographies of both brothers celebrate their rise from settlers to prominent citizens.
The Hintze building later served as the Fraternal Order of Eagles aerie. Their secretary Don Haugen loaned me a 1941 photograph of the place. The only remaining mystery was: how did the two-story hall become a one-story building?
I revisited the construction site and found my cousin Rich working there. Rich pointed to burn marks that showed the second floor had been destroyed by fire.
Tim Shanahan said the village has been very supportive of his plans. He expects to open his restaurant in February. Photos of the Hintze brothers and vintage pictures of the building will be part of décor. He loves the location, as it offers ample parking along Randolph. He sees it as a neglected gateway to the village.
M. Hermann’s will serve wet-aged steaks for around $20 and burgers for $5-6. Tim will also offer thin crust pizza and an array of appetizers. He’s installing a century old Brunswick bar, as well as enough booths and tables for 80 people. The outside deck will seat 150. He’s landscaping the property and adding a jungle of greenery to the beer garden.
Tim has faith in the future of Forest Park and is happy to restore part of its history. I’m sure the Hintze brothers would be pleased to learn their former roadhouse would once again bear a German name.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.