Imagine that the year is 1945…
We are going to take an imaginary tour around the area we know as Glenbrook Countryside. We are driving north on Waukegan Road past the Dundee Road intersection and are surrounded on both sides by Somme Woods Forest Preserve. Further north on the east side of Waukegan Road is the charming Chalet restaurant bordering the forest preserve on the south since the Tollway Spur does not exist. Immediately north of the Chalet is the eighteen hole Blackheath Country Club complete with golf course, club house and swimming pool. Blackheath extends east almost to the present Cottonwood Road and north to County Line Road.
Just beyond the golf course, at the southeast corner of County Line and Waukegan roads is Phil Johnson’s Restaurant, established in 1928. On the west side of Waukegan Road is farm land belonging to the Werhane family. The farm house, barn and out buildings are to the south across the street from the Chalet. Back at Phil Johnson’s we make a right turn onto County Line Road. To the north is farmer Nicholson’s property. In 1945, he is still plowing his fields with a team of horses and preparing to plant soybeans and corn. Continuing east, County Line Road gradually starts going downhill until it crosses the narrow bridge over the Middle Fork of the North Branch of the Chicago River. Next to the river on the south side of the road is a riding stable with a bridle path leading to Somme Woods.
A developer, known as Glenbrook Subdivision Homes, Inc., purchased Blackheath Country Club and additional property to the east. In 1945, the area was subdivided into approximately 285 half acre lots. The name Glenbrook had its origin in combining the names of two existing neighboring villages; Glencoe and Northbrook. (Glenbrook High School is actually a combination of Glenview and Northbrook and is unrelated to our subdivision name.) The Blackheath club house was used as a sales office by the developer until 1955. In 1946, the first five houses were built at the north end of Cottonwood Road. Approximately twelve homes were built and occupied by 1947. Property sold very quickly as post-war housing was sparse, and GI loans were available to help with financing. By 1951 all but 10 lots had been sold.
Many of these original residents still live in Glenbrook Countryside, and they have helped us recreate what it was like to live here in the late 40’s and 50’s.County Line Road was a narrow two lane country road. A stop sign at Waukegan road stopped east-west traffic only. Glenbrook Countryside had gravel roads until about 1955. The North Shore Railroad was just east of the present Northwestern Railroad freight line that parallels Skokie Highway, but it was abandoned in approximately 1958 and is now a bike path. Bus service was available to downtown Chicago. Mailboxes lined County Line and Waukegan roads in ever increasing numbers until April of 1954 when home delivery was available for the first time. The utilities available to the early residents included electricity, water service and natural gas. Natural gas was available only to streets that were more than 50% developed. All homes had septic systems which caused problems from the beginning due to the clay underlayer in the area. Sanitary sewers were installed in 1967. In 1949 a telephone call was placed by telling an operator the number you wished to call. A typical telephone number was Northbrook 581. This didn’t change until the Crestwood 2 exchange was initiated in 1956.
April 29, 1953 marked the establishment of the Glenbrook Countryside Property Owners’ Association (GCPOA). Formation was made necessary since several important issues needed to be addressed by all the residents; the club house issue being the most urgent. Three lots containing the Blackheath club house and swimming pool had been set aside by the developer to use as a sales office and caretaker’s residence. (These three lots are the present Countryside Park at Walnut Circle and Oakwood Road.) The three lots were to be turned over to the property owners when all the lots were sold. The developer, however, was reluctant to follow through and, in fact, tried to sell one of the lots. A property owner’s association was needed to legally resolve the problem. In 1955 the run down club house and swimming pool were demolished.
Eventually. the three lots were given to the Northbrook Park District for development and maintenance. Park improvements in 1965 included a baseball diamond and play equipment. In 1989 the tot playground was modernized, and a sidewalk was installed. 2001 saw the addition of a basketball half-court and new playground equipment. The first meeting of the Glenbrook Countryside Property Owners’ Association was held at the home of Charles and Mildred Boldt; Mr. Dominic Valens was elected our first president and Mildred Boldt the first secretary. The purpose of the Association was to direct growth and activities for the community. (Dues were $1.00 annually, raised to $3.00 in 1958, to $10.00 in 1988, and $15.00 in 2001.) By 1953, eighty families called Glenbrook Countryside home, and thirty more houses were under construction. It became necessary to initiate a system of block captains and to publish a newsletter to communicate with all the residents. Our early Association had several committees to deal with community concerns including Zoning and Building, Club House, Roads and Ditches, Sanitation, Street Signs, and Complaints. At the November 8, 1953 meeting the Complaints Committee chairman reported getting four complaints. They were:
- Speeding and fast driving on our roads
- Small children playing in the streets
- Dogs running loose
- Wash hung out on the line on Sunday
(This committee’s report illustrates that three of the four complaints still plague our subdivision.)
GCPOA planned and sponsored many social events for our rapidly growing subdivision. The First Annual Glenbrook Countryside picnic took place on September 15, 1956. The vacant property on the east side of Cottonwood Road between Walnut circle and Oakwood was mowed and the street closed for the day. There were races, prizes, food and 500 people in attendance. May of 1957 marked the First Annual Countryside Dance held at Thorngate Country Club. These social affairs were a huge success and were repeated year after year. This was a community of young families with many children and the biggest problem confronting the couples going to the dance was finding a baby sitter.
All of the elementary school youngsters in Glenbrook Countryside attended Waukegan Road School (kindergarten through eighth grades). In 1954, this school was renamed Crestwood School in honor of the new telephone exchange. There was no high school district until 1953 when Glenbrook High School was built. First and second year high school classes were held in a portion of Crestwood for a few years but for the most part students were bussed to Palatine and New Trier High Schools. Crestwood closed its doors in 1978. Because of its historical value, Crestwood was preserved and is now a senior citizens housing facility. Glenbrook Countryside had its own bowling league at Sportsman’s Country Club. In 1956 Mrs. E. Johnson was one of those responsible for the formation of Cub Scout Pack 263 which was sponsored by GCPOA. The Scouts had a once a month street-side newspaper recycling pick up that continued until 1970. The Grounds Beautification Committee started a local project called “The White Watering Can Citation” in 1958. Each week four decorated watering cans were awarded to Glenbrook Countryside residents for neatness and beauty of their property.
Let us compare 1996 to what we saw on our imaginary 1945 tour. First we notice that in 1958 a Tollway Spur was built north of Somme Woods. The charming Chalet restaurant was first converted to the Snuggery Bar and finally in 1989 demolished to build Brookside strip shopping center. Louis Werhane gradually sold his property west of Waukegan Road. In 1956 seventeen acres were sold for the Tollway Spur; then thirty more acres were sold in 1971 to create Deerbrook Shopping Center, and finally the remaining seven acres (the Wayside farm) were sold in 1984 to Red Roof Inns, Inc. The 97 year old Werhane farm house and the farm land that had been in the family for 134 years was gone by 1988. In the late 60’s Phil Johnson had sold twenty acres of his land west of Waukegan to a local builder for the first section of Deerbrook. Phil Johnson’s restaurant was demolished in 1992 and was replaced by Borders Book Store.
The intersection at Lake Cook Road bears no resemblance to its 1945 counterpart. The Nicholson farm, visited by many Countryside children who enjoyed playing with the chickens and farm animals in the late 40’s, has been replaced by Briarwood Vista Subdivision. East on Lake Cook Road looms Northbrook Court Regional Shopping Center displacing the fields once plowed by farmer Roemer until 1969. Northbrook Court even brought about a change in the course of the Middle Fork River and necessitated an expansion of Lake Cook Road to four lanes. The stable survived until the late 60’s, but all that remains to remind us of the stable and bridle path is the tunnel constructed under the Tollway Spur which allowed equestrian access to Somme Woods.
These are only the highlights of Glenbrook Countryside’s early history. What hasn’t been emphasized enough is the part the individual residents have played in the success of our subdivision. Unselfish volunteerism is the real history of Glenbrook Countryside. The areas surrounding us have undergone dramatic changes since 1945. However, within our subdivision boundaries we still jealously hold on to our spacious country-look roots and spirit of community.
Click below and you can go through the years of Glenbrook Countryside.