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Garfield Ridge historical marker to be restored

Most people probably don’t know the history behind a stone gate post that stood at the northwest corner of Archer and Melvina

avenues since 1910 and served as a road sign.

But it served as a buffer, limiting damage caused by a Nov. 30 car accident at the corner and local history buffs would like to see it restored.{{more}}

At about 7:30 p.m. that day, a 19-year-old woman driving a Ford Explorer without a license hit the post, tearing it from its

base and pushing it into the Community Cleaners business at 6268 S. Archer Ave. There was significant damage to the building, but the business is still but the business is still open while repairs are

being made.

Photos taken that night show the broken post lodged between the vehicle and the building.

ÒI would say the post definitely saved the building from significantly more damage, and possibly saved lives in the vehicle

because if it had gone through the building, the roof could have come down on top of them,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, who owns Community

Cleaners with his wife, Nancy Russo Fitzpatrick, the second generation of her family to run it.

The driver of the vehicle, who had two friends in the car, said her brakes failed as she made the turn from Archer to Melvina. Fitzpatrick said the driver had no license or insurance.

He noted that the post was installed on the site as a gatepost in 1910, so when Nancy’s mother, Sonia Russo, opened the business in 1962, it had been there for 52 years.

ÒI mowed the grass around it, but didn’t think much about it until now,” said Fitzpatrick, who added that the barbershop next door to Community Cleaners also has been there since 1962.

The Clear-Ridge Historical Society is looking into getting the post restored as close to its original appearance as possible, and

the Fitzpatricks have pledged to pick up some of the cost. They are currently in the process of making the needed repairs to the building. The driver of the vehicle had no license or insurance.

Rob Bitunjac, president of the historical society and head librarian at Clearing Library, explained that the post at

Archer and Melvina, which has the street names printed on it, is one of just two left in Garfield Ridge, although in the early 20th

century, they were found at many intersections, including

Archer and Mobile and Archer and Merrimac.

Bitunjac said that the stone posts are among the few historical remnants left in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood, which originally was known as Bartlett Heights. It was named after real estate developer Frederick Bartlett, who began building homes in the area between Austin and Harlem avenues in 1910, before it was annexed to Chicago in 1915. Bartlett also developed neighboring Summit,

and is credited with coining the name Garfield Ridge.

He noted that Bartlett Heights was originally a gated community, and the stone posts were found on at each intersection along

Archer, and were used to hold up gates to mark the various subdivisions.

ÒThey were ornamental in nature and consisted of two posts of unequal height located at the intersection of each street

along Archer Avenue, with a wrought iron gate running between the two posts,” he explained.

He said these ÒBartlett Gates” gave the subdivisions a Ògated community” feel and were featured in early advertisements of the developments.

Over time, the gates found up and down Archer were removed or fell into disrepair. Only two of these posts remain in their original locations, including the one at Melvina and another at the southwest

corner of Archer and Nordica, beside Weber’s Bakery.

A few others were incorporated into the ÒLech Walesa Triangle” property at the intersection of Archer, 55th Street, and Narragansett. Another was found on private property on the 5300 block of South McVicker.

Before the accident damaged the post on Melvina, Bitunjac sent a letter to Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) stating that ÒWe at

the Clear-Ridge Historical Society would like to see these neighborhood landmarks preserved before they fall apart or are

moved or discarded. At the very least we would like to see them adorned with a plaque, commemorating their importance, and possibly even restored.”

Bitunjac said he is currently gathering estimates from stone masons to see how much it would cost to repair the post.

ÒWe were considering having some kind of fundraiser too,” said

Bitjunac. ÒIt is great that the Fitzpatricks have offered to pay for at least part of the restoration.

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