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PART I - EARLY WINNETKA - 1832 – 1871

Introduction – Chicago's history is directly related to its rapid growth. Beginning in the 1840s, its population exploded and continued unabated through the rest of the century.

The Green Bay Trail – Mail runners between Chicago and Green Bay took their lives into their hands as they entered the seemingly impenetrable forest along the North Shore. They followed the narrow paths cut by the Pottawatomi  Indians.

The Wayside Inn - 1836 brought the first permanent settlers t o Winnetka, the Pattersons, who built a tavern on the Green Bay Trail, now Sheridan Road at Lloyd Beach.

The Early Settlers – Following the Pattersons, a small handful of pioneers settled in the area that would become Winnetka, including John Happ  from Trier, Germany.

Beautiful Land - Charles & Sarah Peck purchased the Bowman Farm, what is today downtown Winnetka . They divided the farm into square blocks and invited their rich Chicago friends to move there. They called it "Winnetka ", an obscure Indian phrase meaning "Beautiful Land".

The Father of the North Shore – Walter S. Gurnee, president of the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad, purchased most of the land along the North Shore for development, founded Glencoe  where chose to live, and picked Winnetka  as a train stop, thus securing its future.

Hubbard Woods – A former country, schoolteacher from upstate New York named Jared Gage purchased the dense woods north of Winnetka, calling it "Lakeside". It was the railroad that would later change the name to Hubbard  Woods.

The Lady Elgin -- On Friday September 7, 1860, hundreds of Irish D emocrats from Milwaukee were returning home from a political rally in Chicago when, in the midst of a fierce storm, their ship, the Lady Elgin, was struck by a lumber schooner off Highland Park. The boat sank and the wind pushed the survivors to Winnetka .

Peck's Place -- Twelve years after Charles & Sarah Peck founded Winnetka, they moved back to the city. For the next 50 years their beloved mansion went through a succession of varied owners, including Hetty  Green, the wealthiest woman in America.



After the Chicago Fire - One third of the city was left homeless. Nearly half of them moved to the North Shore, doubling the population overnight. A canny real estate developer named E. Ashley Mears  exploited the situation, building a cluster of fake mansions in Hubbard  Woods.

The Four-Mile-Limit – Winnetka  was the first village on the North Shore to follow Evanston's lead and ban the public consumption of alcohol. Despite prohibition's  failure, the ban would last for over a hundred years.

Henry Demarest  Lloyd – Writer and thinker Henry Lloyd has been called America's first muckraker, the inspiration behind Upton  Sinclair's  The Jungle. Lloyd and Quincy Dowd, pastor of the Congregational Church, founded the Winnetka  Town Meeting. These monthly gatherings brought Progressive Education to Winnetka, ultimately making its schools world famous.

Murder Town -- In the late nineteenth century, a string of lurid, high profile homicides earned Winnetka  the unwelcome nickname of "Murder Town". Two of Winnetka 's founders were killed during this brief but sensational crime spree.

Academy Hall & the Tower – Two of the most important landmarks in Winnetka  were the old Academy Hall and brick Water Tower.

Perfect Arbors – A.W. Stevens from Springfield Massachusetts visited Winnetka  around the turn of the last century and made some interesting observations.

Speed Bumps – The arrival of the automobile was seen as a serious threat to Winnetka 's serenity. The world's first speed bumps were installed on Sherid an Road in Winnetka  and Glencoe  in a vain attempt to maintain the quiet country life.


PART III - MR. WINNETKA - 1900 – 1945

Mr. Winnetka – Frank Windes  was made village engineer in 1898. In that capacity he envisioned the two most important engineering feats Winnetka  would undertake: the creation of the Skokie Lagoons and the lowering of the train tracks through town.

Plan of Winnetka -- Edward Bennett, co-author of Daniel Burnham 's Plan of Chicago, created the Plan of Winnekta in 1921. The thrust20of the report was an argument for track depression but it also highlighted the need for a number of other engineer projects as well.

Che -Wab Skokie – The Indians called it "Che -wab  Skokie", meaning the swamp prairie. Frank Windes  came up with the idea of digging a series of lagoons in that marsh to mitigate the constant flooding and allow Winnetka  to expand westward. In 1933, Winnetka  native Harold Ickes, FDR's  Secretary of Interior, approved the creation of the Skokie Lagoons as Civilian Conservation Corp project.

Track Depression -- In a span of 25 years, Winnetka  saw 31 fatalities at its railroad crossings, more than any other village along the North Shore. Public indignation reached a fever pitch in 1937 when Winnetka  finally made the dream of Track Depression a reality.

The Log House – Built in the 1820s, the Schmidt-Burnham  Log House is one of the oldest structures in Cook County. The tale of how it ended up in the Crow Island Woods mirrors Winnetka 's own story.



Memorial -- The Iroquois theater fire of 1903 still ranks as the deadliest building fire in U.S. history. Six hundred and two people, mostly small children and their mothers, were killed during a matinee of a musical comedy at the theater on Randolph Street in Chicago. Some of the victims were from Winnetka .

Progressive Education – Colonel Francis Parker started two schools in Chicago, launching what became know as Progressive Education. Two of his students, Carlton Washburn  and Perry Dunlap  Smith, became influential Winnetka  educators. In time, Winnetka 's school would become world famous, held up as the best example of implanting the Progressive method.

Crow Island – Carlton Washburn  wanted to build a new school that exemplified the principles of Progressive Education. The result was the Crow Island School, one of the most imitated schools ever built.

Potowatomi – There were three tribes living in the Chicago area when the first Canadian explorers arrived here20in 1673: the Illinois, the Miami, and the Potowatomi . By the time Winnetka  was founded, they were gone from the area. Here's the story behind their removal.

The Winnetka  Hermit – In the 1880s  there was a tinsmith who gained a reputation as Winnetka 's hermit. He earned the nickname for constantly trying to kill his wife.


Over and hour of rare, never-before-seen footage of Winnetka  in the early part of the 20th Century.

Daily Life in Winnetka – Everyday life in Winnetka  in the early 1930s .

Sledding Sheridan Road - Busy Sheridan Road was blocked off so locals could sled the ravines in Hubbard Woods down to the beach.

4th of July  – The 4th of July celebration on the Village Green included pageants, marching bands and plenty of competitive games.

Winter in Winnetka – Snowplows clear the streets and sidewalks after a heavy snowfall.

Maple Street Beach – Locals swim, dive off the pier and hold the annual "duck race", swimming out in the lake to catch a live duck.

Winter Sports – Playing hockey in Indian Hill Park; ice-skating in Hubbard  Woods Park; ice games in Skokie Park on Hibbard  road; and plenty of ice skating races.

The Fire Department – Fireman practice fighting fires at the old "Fireman's Castle" on Green Bay Road, only to be called to a real fire.

Skokie Playfield – The Skokie Playfield  was home to every sport imaginable: women's lacrosse; baseball; golfing; cricket; races and more.

The North Shore Line Part I – Starting on Greenleaf  Avenue in Wilmette, we follow the electric train as it makes its way through downtown Wilmette, eventually arriving in Kenilworth .

The North Shore Line Part II – The electric train arrives at the Indian Hill station; it stops at Willow Road; passes through downtown Winnetka, Eldorado, Hubbard  Woods, Glencoe, Ravinia  and finally arrives in Highland Park.

The Police Department – The Police department was located in the Village Hall when this cautionary, crime-doesn't-pay tale was filmed in 1931.

Paving the Roads – It took thirty years to pave all of Winnetka 's roads. This short clip gives us rare glimpse of village engineer Frank Windes  overseeing the project.

Water & Power – Winnetka 's self-sufficiency in water & power brought it national attention and was a great source of pride for nearly a century.

New Home Construction 1929 – A rare glimpse of new home construction in Indian Hill.

Memorial Day 1934 – Starting at the park in Hubbard  Woods, the Memorial Day parade snaked along Linden to Tower to Green Bay Road to Elm, finally stopping at the Village Green for a solemn ceremony of prayers, poems and 21-gun salutes to the brave men who fought in America's wars.

Memorial Day 1939 – Rare color film of the same event five years later. It is clear from this film that Memorial Day was one of the most important events in Winnetka ', much more important than the 4th of July.


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Special Features
  • Daily Life in the 1920s
  • Sledding Sheridan Road
  • 4th of July on Village Green
  • Winter in Winnetka
  • Maple Street Beach
  • Winter Sports
  • The Fire Department
  • Skokie Playfield Sports
  • The North Shore Line Part I
  • The North Shore Line Part II
  • The Police Department
  • Paving the Roads
  • Water & Power
  • New Home Construction 1929
  • Memorial Day 1934
  • Memorial Day 1939

See DVD Chapters

Total Running Time: 3 hrs, 50 min.
Movie: 2 hrs, 20 min.
Bonus Scenes: 20 minutes
Special Features: 70 min.


Winnetka Story DVD - http://www.winnetkastory.com

©2007 John Newcombe. All Rights Reserved. Home  |  Buy DVD Now  |  View Promo Clips  |  DVD Chapters  |  History