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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Homewood in Cook County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Dixie Highway connected Chicago to Miami in the early days of automobile travel

Homewood: a bustling town grows along a former Indian trail

 
 
Dixie Highway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
1. Dixie Highway Marker
Inscription. Following a path worn by buffalo, Native Americans traveled the length of the eastern border of Illinois. French fur trapper-traders utilized the same trail. Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, a fur trader for John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Trading Company, became legendary as “Swiftwalker” and established trading posts between Chicago and Vincennes, Indiana. The route was identified as “Hubbard’s Trail” on early maps. Suspecting the Winnebagos were going to attack Fort Dearborn in July 1827, Hubbard rode 140 miles to Danville, Illinois in 20 hours to recruit a company of Vermillion County Rangers. In 1835, the Illinois General Assembly ordered a state road to be established and Hubbard’s Trail was selected as the most favorable route – Route 1 – and mile markers were placed along it. Hubbard was a close friend of Abraham Lincoln’s and constructed the “Wigwam” in Chicago where Lincoln was nominated for president.

Settlements developed along the route with the first residents arriving in this area in the 1830s and 1840s to farm the fertile soil. James Hart platted Hartford as the first subdivision in 1853 the same year the first Illinois Central Railroad train came through. The railroad designated the stop as Thornton Station. Thornton Flour Mill Company (1856), general stores and taverns
Dixie Highway Marker - Upper left photo image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
2. Dixie Highway Marker - Upper left photo
Looking north, circa 1920, the Dixie Highway had already been paved at this intersection with Main Street, now called Ridge Road. Concrete paving of the highway in Homewood was completed in 1917. Two old tavern buildings dating from the 1850s occupied the west side of the road.
opened to serve the residents. As the settlement’s importance increased, the US Post Office changed the name to Homewood in 1869. Homewood was incorporated in 1893.

By 1915 automobile travel became increasingly popular for business, agricultural, and recreational uses. Citizens demanded that the government provide better roads, which at this time consisted primarily of dirt and were passible in fair weather, yet quickly became muddy and impassible after a few hours of rain. Governors from several states met to consider an improved road from Indianapolis to Florida. States lobbied for inclusion, so instead of a single route, two major divisions were designated. Carl Fisher, a civic booster, an auto enthusiast instrumental in developing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a Florida land developer, and called the “Father of the Lincoln Highway,” convinced the governors that Chicago should be the northern terminus. The great Dixie Highway was born.

By the turn of the century, golf courses sprouted in Homewood’s countryside, and wealthy Chicago golfers developed two golf courses in Homewood: Ravisloe Country Club in 1901, and Calumet Country Club relocated here from Chicago in 1917. In the 1920s, Amalfi Gardens, a restaurant at 175th and Dixie Highway, drew visitors from as far away as Chicago. After several different owners, it became Surma’s Restaurant
Dixie Highway Marker - center left photo image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
3. Dixie Highway Marker - center left photo
Homewood’s first traffic signal was installed in the center of the intersection of the Dixie Highway and Main Street (Ridge Road). Cook County Trust and Savings Bank, on the right, opened for business in 1925, replacing the pioneer tavern that had previously occupied the site. The signal was removed after being struck too many times.
(1946-2003) and still operates as a restaurant today.

Dixie Highway became Homewood’s main thoroughfare. A white frame two-room school built in 1880 now houses businesses and apartments just north of this sign. Next to the building is a Dixie Highway mileage sign post. On this site known as Independence Park, a four-room, two-story brick building named Standard School was built in 1904. An underpass was constructed under Dixie Highway so students could cross the highway safely. The Homewood village Hall, at Dixie Highway and Chestnut Road, was built with the aid of PWA funds and was dedicated in September 1939. It is considered an architectural gem.

In 1998 the Village of Homewood Heritage Committee sought the cooperation of the Illinois Dixie Communities to promote the heritage of the highway. The result was Dixie Highway signs, street pole banners, an Illinois State Historical Society marker and starting in 2002 the “Drivin’ the Dixie,” a vintage and collector car tour, supported by A’s R US Model A Ford Car Club and Tri-Town Radio Amateur Club. For more information visit, homesweethomewood.com.
 
Erected 2015 by A's R US Model A Ford Car Club.
 
Location. 41° 33.608′ N, 87° 39.932′ W. Marker is in Homewood, Illinois, in
Dixie Highway Marker - lower left photo image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
4. Dixie Highway Marker - lower left photo
The Homewood Garage was renovated into the Homewood Theater, opening in November of 1937 with the musical comedy Double of Nothing starring Bing Crosby and Martha Raye. Demolished in 1992, the theatre is depicted in a Richard Haas mural.
Cook County. Marker is at the intersection of Dixie Highway and Hickory Road, on the right when traveling south on Dixie Highway. Touch for map. Marker is located at the entrance to Independence Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 18120 Dixie Hwy, Homewood IL 60430, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 6 other markers are within 11 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Dixie Highway (here, next to this marker); Washington Park Racetrack (approx. 1½ miles away); Camp Thornton #2605 and the Civil Conservation Corps (approx. 3½ miles away); Site of Absolem Wells Cabin (approx. 3.8 miles away); The Lincoln Highway / The "Ideal Section" (approx. 9.3 miles away in Indiana); St. John Township School District #2 (approx. 10.4 miles away in Indiana).
 
Categories. Roads & Vehicles
 
Dixie Highway Marker - center right photo image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
5. Dixie Highway Marker - center right photo
The 1923 Illinois Central Railroad train station on the west side of the tracks reflects the Spanish Mission Style clubhouse architecture of the Ravisloe Country Club. Adjacent to the depot, a locomotive and caboose are on display. On the east side of the tracks, a rai-viewing platform provides a speaker system that announces freight train activity.
Dixie Highway Marker - lower right photo image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
6. Dixie Highway Marker - lower right photo
Ravisloe Country Club was established in 1901. The Spanish Mission Style clubhouse was completed in 1917.
Dixie Highway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
7. Dixie Highway Marker
with nearby state Dixie Highway marker in the background
Dixie Highway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
8. Dixie Highway Marker
looking south along Dixie Highway
Dixie Highway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
9. Dixie Highway Marker
looking north along Dixie Highway
Dixie Highway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
10. Dixie Highway Marker
close-up of text area
Dixie Highway marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
11. Dixie Highway marker
close-up of inset map
Dixie Highway Marker Center Photo image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, August 7, 2015
12. Dixie Highway Marker Center Photo
Homewood Service Garage, built in 1924 on the west side of Dixie Highway just south of Ridge Road, sold Standard Red Crown Gasoline. Some early auto owners stored their vehicles here because they did not have garages to accommodate them at home.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 12, 2015, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 211 times since then and 51 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. submitted on August 12, 2015, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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