Throwback to Otto's Restaurant

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By Historical Society

In May of 1952 the Forest Park merchants and community celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the community.  The Review reported that "the streets were decorated; widows were filled with merchandise and memorial items and a German band roamed through the business sections to entertain the shoppers."

Leading up to the week, Henry J. Mohr, posed for this photo.  He came to Forest Park in 1894 with "a total cash capital of $15.00, 2 animals which might pass for horses, and a wagon which would track in any ruts, he started his business career as a retail oil dealer."  Henry J. Mohr was elected President of the Village of Harlem in 1902, '03, '04, '09, '10, '11, '12 and was elected the first Mayor of the Village of Forest Park in 1913.

 Gottlieb Schwab, also in the photo, came to Harlem in 1892, opened a meat market called Schwab Bros. at 22 Madison St. with his brothers Jacob and Wilhelm.  Their business was considered one of the most enterprising along Madison, especially after they added a grocery department to their meat market.

Gottlieb also was the proprietor of Schwab's Tavern, which was a gathering place in the 1950's for more recent immigrants with German ancestry and it was the hub of the various German singing societies of the 1950s.

 Otto's Restaurant was located at 7212 Washington Blvd. and was opened in the Village of Harlem in the 1890's by Otto Schneider.  This fine dining restaurant served locals and visitors, especially those who would come for funerals.  The 10-mile trip from Chicago to the cemeteries took a half day by horse and carriage and both the mourners and horses needed to eat and rest before taking the trip back to Chicago.

 Otto's Restaurant was very famous for its steaks and chicken dinners.  Otto Schneider retired in the 1920's and turned the business to his "frau," specifically, his nephews, Hinie Ring and Conrad Heitman.

 Otto's would exchange hands a few more times, and in the 1970's and 80's had a series of owners before it closed in 1984.  One month after the village council rejected a proposal to build a 56-unit apartment on the site, the vacant landmark structure said auf Wiedersehen in April, 1986 when at 11:02 pm a suspicious fire broke out.

 Soon it was gutted and townhouses were slated for the property.  It took a few developers, but finally Pilipborn Realty Corporation purchased the property in 1987 for $220,000.00 and broke ground for 20 luxury townhouses.

 Click through the gallery above for photo of Otto Schneider's home at Elgin and Washington, photo of Otto Schneider, Otto's Restaurant and more.

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