Madison County Genealogical Society

Minutes of the Meeting - March 13, 2014

The March 2014 meeting of the Madison County Genealogical Society was held at the EdwardsvillePublic Library on Thursday, March 13, at 7:00 pm.

President, Robert Ridenour, called the meeting to order.


The following is the Treasurer's report for the month of February:


GIFT MEMBERSHIPS AVAILABLE

Do you have a family member that is interested in (or even obsessed with) genealogy? A membership in the Madison County Genealogical Society would be a very thoughtful gift. A gift card will be sent to the recipient of any gift membership.

The following memberships are available:
Individual/Family Annual Membership $20.00
Patron Annual Membership $30.00
Life Membership $250.00

Contact our Secretary, Petie Hunter, at petie8135@att.net, about a gift membership.


March Meeting

On March 13, 2014, Norma Asadorian, President of the Lincoln Place Heritage Association, presented a program on the history and culture of Lincoln Place in Granite City, Illinois. Lincoln Place Heritage Association was established in 2008 to preserve the history and culture of the ethnic groups that settled in the area now known as Lincoln Place.

Granite City got its start when the Niedringhaus brothers from St. Louis were looking for a place to manufacture their line of household goods coated with crushed granite, called Granite Ware. That is the origin of the name Granite City. The steel mills then moved in, supplying material for the granite ware and the railroads that passed through Granite City on the way to St. Louis. Other industries developed in the area as well. All of this industry was a huge draw during the late 1800s and the early 1900s for immigrants coming from Southern and Eastern Europe. The first groups that came to Lincoln Place came from Hungary in large numbers. As a result, Lincoln Place was originally called Hungary Hollow or Hunky Hollow. Railroad tracks separate Lincoln Place from the rest of Granite City. There was a train station at the entrance to Lincoln Place. You disembarked from the train, crossed the tracks, and you were in Lincoln Place - it literally was on the other side of the tracks.

Lincoln Place became a complete little community; not because they necessarily wanted it that way, but the immigrants who earlier settled in the Six Mile (Granite City) area were primarily German farmers. The Germanic people of uptown Granite City did not accept the immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe.

As the people settled in Lincoln Place, they had to rely on themselves. They did not have much money and they developed a little community in Lincoln Place. There was a movie theater, a bowling alley, several grocery stores, and many taverns. Interestingly enough, there were no churches although almost everybody who settled in this area was either Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Christians. In the early 1920s, a lot of Mexicans immigrated to Lincoln Place as well, and they were primarily Roman Catholic.

In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, Lincoln Place was called Hungry Hollow. After the 1930s, there was a push to Americanize the immigrants of Lincoln Place. The neighborhood had started to build up a little. There lots of businesses and boarding houses, taverns, etc., but there were not very many streets. The streets were just muddy paths with boards so you could cross the street without getting in the mud. People began to realize that these immigrants were going to be here permanently. In addition, there were families starting to develop in Lincoln Place, not just men coming for the work.

Over the long run, the businesses in Granite City wanted to incorporate the immigrants into American society and to help Americanize them. In the 1920s, the Commonwealth Steel Company got together with businessmen in town and decided to meet with the people in Lincoln Place and discuss the Americanization and development of the Lincoln Place area. It was decided at that meeting that it needed a better name than Hungary Hollow. At that time, the immigrants suggested that they call it Lincoln Place, because President Abraham Lincoln was a person the immigrants greatly admired. That is how the neighborhood got its name Lincoln Place.

Commonwealth Steel offered to provide materials and a design for a building that would become the focus of the neighborhood. It became known, at that time, as The Lincoln Place Community House. Today it is called The Lincoln Place Community Center.

The Community House was built by the labor of the immigrant men and the material and design were paid for by Commonwealth Steel. The men would come home from their work shifts; the women would cook all day. They would take the food to where the building was going up. The men would work on the building, the women would ready the food, and the children would be playing. It was similar to a barn raising.

The Community House eventually became a focus for a number of things. A lot of it was geared toward Americanizing the immigrants. The Lincoln Place Heritage Association was started to preserve the ethnicity and culture of the neighborhood; the Community House was developed to Americanize the immigrants by wiping out their different ethnicities and cultures. What came out of it was an "Americanization" where people had their ethnic identity as well - a cultural pluralism.

In their efforts to help Americanize the neighborhood, Commonwealth Steel funded a kindergarten - the first kindergarten in Granite City. The Community Center programs were geared mostly toward the children. During the summer, the girls were taught to sew and embroider and the boys were taught vocational crafts. The Community Center also had classes for the adults - cooking, food preservation, hygiene, etc., and especially citizenship classes. Becoming an American citizen was very important to the immigrants in Lincoln Place.

Many oral history interviews of the immigrants, their children, and grandchildren have been done. (Many of the children and grandchildren of the original immigrants still live in Lincoln Place.) One thing that almost everyone points out in their interviews is that they were like one big community. It did not matter that they came from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. (At last count, there were 31 different ethnic groups represented in this five block by seven block area.) They learned each other's languages, tasted each other's foods, and played with each other's kids. It was one really cool neighborhood - a mini-United Nations. They said Lincoln Place was a wonderful place to grow up and a place where every body got along.

Norma had many photographs and items from Lincoln Place on display. She also brought some home-made Armenian baklava as refreshments for the attendees. If you were not there, you really missed out!

If you would like a chance to experience the flavors and cultures of Lincoln Place, the 2014 Lincoln Place Heritage Festival is scheduled for September 20, 2014, 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM, at the Lincoln Place Community Center, 822 Niedringhaus Avenue, Granite City, Illinois. For more information, call (618) 451-2611.


This presentation was very well attended, very well received, and produced several questions from the audience..

 




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