Site of New Higgins, Mannheim Development has Hospitality History
From Elms Inn and Orchard Place to Sheraton Hotel and a new parking garage, hotel and restaurant development.
The corner of Mannheim and Higgins roads, the gateway to O'Hare International Airport, has attracted intense interest in the last decade as the City of Des Plaines has sought redevelopment to take full advantage of its location between the airport and the toll way.
The triangle that makes up TIF 6, bounded by Mannheim, Higgins, and the Canadian National Railroad line, was once the developed portion of the village of Orchard Place.
The area that once was Orchard Place has been overwritten several times now, and with new development coming to TIF 6, it will soon look even more different.
In February, City Council approved a bid from TPS Des Plaines, LLC to develop a 4.9-acre plot of land on the northeast corner of Mannheim and Higgins Roads, south of the I-90 Tollway, into a hotel, parking lot and restaurant.
Orchard Place got its start in 1887 when farmer Elbert D. Scott agreed give some of his apple orchard to the Wisconsin Central Railroad, a predecessor to the CN. In exchange, the railroad agreed to build a depot.
Scott subdivided and sold off his land, and a small village began to emerge. Scott later became a prominent real estate agent in Des Plaines, and Scott Street is named for him.
There were two lumber & coal yards, Duntemann & Hasselmann along the railroad, which later became the Marland Oil Company. As it became a destination for farmers seeking food and supplies, and shipping their goods, an economy grew, with two general stores, one including a post office, a cobbler, blacksmith, two saloons & dance halls, two farm supply stores, and a dozen homes. Almost all of this lay within the triangle.
Across the street, at the southwest corner, the Elms Inn was a popular destination. A typical roadhouse, its postcard advertised home cooking, a picnic grove for rent, gas pumps, and a baseball diamond popular among the farmers. Signs advertised Rhinegold beer and 7-Up. Nearby was a large greenhouse.
As automobiles and trucks became common in the 1920s, dairy farmers no longer needed to make daily trips to town for shipment, and the village began to wither. The area would soon be transformed.
World War II brought the Douglas Aircraft Company to the edge of Orchard Place in 1942; the influx of workers, jobs, and their needs eventually made the area completely unrecognizable. Farms gave way to runways and homes on the factory site were dismantled or moved away. Temporary housing was built for the workers. After the war, in 1945, the factory became Orchard Field Airport, and in 1949 was renamed O'Hare.
The land that was Orchard Place was bisected in the 1950s by the Northwest Tollway; its path went right through the heart of the empty town. Structures including the Depot and Stellman Buffet were directly in the way, and most of what remained was removed.
The Elms Inn site became a mobile home sales facility, which later moved to the area north of the toll way, an area that had been residential.
South of the toll way, a Travelodge motel was built to compete with the O'Hare Inn across the street, and a Henry's Hamburger stand was built on the corner, which later became a McDonald's.
The greenhouse gave way to the elaborate Flying Carpet Motor Inn Motel, with its Moorish architecture, golf course and helipad on the roof. The motel even kept a smokestack from the greenhouse and redesigned it to resemble a minaret. Later, the Concord Motor Inn motel was built along Mannheim.
All these, in turn, were replaced by the Sheraton Chicago O'Hare Airport Hotel, formerly Sheraton Gateway Suites, and O'Hare International Center, and its cluster of office towers and hotels.