Olde Western Avenue

Photographs by Joyce Sheldon


In 1896 a fire destroyed much of Blue Island’s commercial district. The fire did not cross the Calumet feeder canal and the area known today as the Olde Western Historic District was left intact.


The two block district contains the home of Stephen Jones, who settled here and opened his wagon shop in 1836, and commercial establishments from the period during which Blue Island began to provide vital services to the region – establishments continuously used for over a century. It contains homes and businesses from the pre-Civil War period of German settlement, such as the pioneer Friedrich Jebens, whose hardware store was established in 1876 and today is the oldest continuously operated business on the Dixie Highway in Illinois. The area has continued to welcome each proceeding wave of immigrants, and many have discovered their own opportunities on Olde Western.


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Western Ave was the site of Market Day, a farmer’s market that was held on the first Tuesday of every month. Before the Cal-Sag Channel was expanded in the late 1960s and the street was rerouted to the north, Western Avenue came down the hill, passing Schreiber’s and the Bauer House before crossing the canal to this point. The City of Blue Island created the Olde Western Avenue Historic District in 1983.


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