What Used to be There?
By John Hmurovic
Have you ever driven by a new building and wondered, “What used to be there?”
Fortunately, a collection of city directories at the Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society can help answer some of those questions.
City directories are guides published by R.L. Polk, a company based in the Detroit area. Since its founding in 1870, the company has printed directories for over 1,000 cities in the United States. Their publications are aimed at businesses, but because the directories list who lives at every address in those cities, and which businesses operate in those cities, they also serve as an excellent tool for anyone researching family history or local history. City directories for Whiting-Roberstdale are usually a part of the Hammond City Directory, which goes back to 1891. The Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society has a partial collection of directories which cover 1937 to 1977. (HINT: If you have copies of the book collecting dust in your home or office, we’d be glad to accept them as a donation.)
So, how can these directories help us answer the question: “What used to be there?” Whiting-Robertsdale’s newest business can serve as an example. DaVita, Inc., which operates over 2,500 outpatient dialysis centers in the United States, is opening its newest one in Robertsdale. It’s on the southeast corner of Calumet Avenue at 119th Street. Its new building and parking lot sits on land which used to be four different addresses: 1915 Calumet Avenue, and 806, 816 and 820 119th Street. What used to be at those addresses?
816 119th Street
Owens-Ruzich Funeral Home
This was the last business to operate at this corner before its building was torn down to make room for DaVita. It first shows up in the city directories in 1964 as the Owens Funeral Home. Owens constructed a new building when it moved to that site in 1962. It had been at the corner of 119th and Indianapolis Boulevard in Whiting, in the building currently occupied by the Clipper tavern. Owens Funeral Home had been a part of the Whiting-Robertsdale community since 1905. At one time it was located just to the east of where the present-day post office sits. The government acquired that property around 1932 so it could construct the Whiting Post Office. As for the site at 816 119th Street, the city directories do not list anything at that location prior to the arrival of the Owens Funeral home.
820 119th Street
John Ciesco Insurance Agency
The 1977 City Directory lists the John Ciesco Insurance agency as the occupant of 820 119th Street, and it’s listed at that location as far back as the 1966 directory.
Prior to being an insurance office, 820 119th Street was a pharmacy for several decades. It was listed as Stoltz-Cataldi Drugs in 1962 and 1964.
West Park Pharmacy
West Park Pharmacy came before Stoltz-Cataldi. West Park goes back to at least 1954.
Claude Ball Pharmacy
The original pharmacy located at 820 119th Street was operated by Claude Ball. This was his store from at least 1931 to 1952.
Louis Haysack Delicatessen
The building didn’t start out as a pharmacy. In 1928 it’s listed as a delicatessen operated by Louis Haysack. That year, 1928, is the first time 820 119th Street is listed in the City Directory.
806 119th Street
Lake Michigan Winery
Our City Directory collection only goes back to 1977, but for over a decade starting in 1992, the only winery in Whiting-Robertsdale operated at this address. The Lake Michigan Winery moved into the same building that housed the Gregorovich Service Station. The winery was the last business to operate at 806 119th Street before the building was torn down to provide additional parking for Owens Funeral Home.
Gregorovich Service Station
806 119th Street was the lot on the southeast corner of 119th Street and Calumet Avenue. Even though it was a 119th Street address, the building on that lot faced Calumet Avenue. For years it was a service station operated by the Gregorovich family. The station sold Standard Oil gas and oil products. Like most service stations of its time, it was a full-service station, meaning the attendant pumped the gas for you, checked under the hood to see if your car had enough oil, and washed your windshields. They also did automotive repair work. The building which housed the service station was remodeled in 1957 when it added a large canopy over the pump area to keep everyone dry on a rainy day. The service station is listed in the directory from 1939 and is still listed there in our 1977 directory. In 1937 and earlier years nothing is listed at 806 119th Street.
1915 Calumet Avenue
Boz’s Hot Dogs
Sometime after 1977 this address was the home of Boz’s hot dogs. The building, which would have been next door to Frankie V’s at 1923 Calumet if it was still standing today, was torn down to provide more parking for Owens Funeral Home.
Richway Gyros was at this address sometime before 1977. It later moved a few blocks north on Calumet Avenue where it is still serving gyros and more.
Merry Isle Ice Cream
The building at 1915 Calumet Avenue was built to serve food, and for many years that food was primarily ice cream. Merry Isle is listed as the occupant of the building in the city directories from 1964 through 1977.
Zesto Ice Cream
The first mention of anything at this location goes back to the 1954 City Directory. The business located there was Zesto Ice Cream. Zesto is a national brand which can still be found in several communities across the country. Zesto continued to be listed in the city directories through 1962.
Since our directories only go up to 1977, we may have missed some of the other businesses to operate at these addresses. Feel free to comment below if you remember any others, or if you would like to share any of your memories of the businesses which were at these locations.