Out-Takes From My Highland Park History Book


Highland Park: Settlement to the 1920s covers the earliest history of Highland Park to 1920.  This is the first book published on Highland Park history in nearly 50 years.  There are photographs of log cabins and houses that predate the City of Highland Park, which was incorporated in 1869.  Julia tried to organize the book chronologically to tell the story of the community’s development beginning with the pioneers and first construction by the Highland Park Building Company through the building boom of 1890-1910.  There will also be a focus on the geographic and natural beauty of Highland Park.  A final chapter presents the people that have influenced Highland Park either as leaders in the community or individuals that did something significant in Highland Park’s history.

Julia had so much fun working on this book and learned quite a bit about the people who lived here.  One story that she find amusing was the first jail in Highland Parkon First Street built on a wood frame.  Three men were able to lift it off of the foundation allowing the prisoner to escape.  The second jail, built on the corner of Green Bay & Central, was of solid brick on a good foundation but the roof was not attached so it could be lifted up allowing the prisoner to escape.  In 1889 the first City Building was built on the northeast corner of Green Bay and Central and the jail was put inside the building.   The days of easy escape were over.

The Highland Park Historical Society and Executive Director Kathy Leable have been instrumental in assisting Julia.  Many of the photographs in the book are from the Historical Society archives.  Kathy Leable was very enthusiastic about this project and helpful in identifying photos and providing me with information.  I have spent a lot of time at the museum.  One of my goals for the book is to have a written record of names and dates inHighland Park history…. things that sometimes get lost through time and memory.

Julia Johnas is Director of Adult Services at the Highland Park Public Library where she maintains its local history archive and provides research assistance on local and architectural history and genealogy for historians. She also is a liaison to the City of Highland Park Historic Preservation Commission. She is a member of the Chicago History Museum and the Highland Park Historical Society.

Recorded Thursday, May 29, 2008 at the Highland Park Library by Chicago Amplified of WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.