When the Northwestern Railroad built a roundhouse at Desplaines Avenue and Harrison Street, there was a saloon called Harlem House where men could get a stein after a hard day’s work. A decade or so later, in the 1870’s, Forest Park became the biggest cemetery area in northern Illinois, and the all-day trip of mourners required refreshments, often at Thode House or Gadens, both on Madison Street and Desplaines Avenue.
By 1955, Forest Park had 55 tavern licenses. It was not known as a “night club” town, however, but as a “friendly tavern” town, an oasis supported, ironically, by the good residents of “dry” Oak Park, River Forest and Maywood.
On the south end of town, at Desplaines Avenue and Roosevelt Road, was Vic and Vi’s at 7737 Roosevelt Road (present day McGaffer’s), where Friday night crowds waited impatiently for potato pancakes and the fish fry. In earlier days the bar was Frank’s Old Time Tavern, closely tied to the racetrack and cemeteries south of Roosevelt Road.
Click through for more photos and stories of Forest Park’s saloons of 1955.
McGaffers, once Vic and Vi’s was Frank’s Old Time Tavern. view the 1938 film clip of Frank’s Old Time Tavern.
Boehm and Zepfel’s have early ties to Thode’s Restaurant. To read more about August Thode and his druid burial, click here.
The friends, Boehm and Zeptel, purchased their saloon from Max Schultz, read more about early saloons and “rushing the growler” here.
To read more about Vogel’s click here.