Graphics Company Occupies Remnant of Riverview’s Past Identity

Riverview was planned to be an industrial powerhouse, but wound up a subdivision.

While Des Plaines has had a litany of failed development schemes, Riverview was the first and largest. Bounded by Oakton, River, Touhy, and Lee streets, it experienced a quick burst of activity, then fizzled.

All that remains of its fledgling industry today is a building occupied by Schawk, Inc., a graphics service and brand design company, 1695 S. River Road, numerous identical frame houses, and a church.

After the construction of the Douglas Aircraft Plant during World War II, many of the streets filled with economical but sturdy colonial brick duplexes, wiping out any remaining signs of the failed industrial schemes of 50 years prior.

The one successful factory still stands today. In 1920, Safety Electric Company, a small manufacturer of electric light fixtures, moved in to a building first occupied by Jones Woolen Mill and then by Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company.

After Safety Electric left, the building was home to Jordan Manufacturing Company from 1964-1979. In 1982, the radically altered building, minus one floor, the front tower, and with rearranged windows, became home to Schawk.


Riverview Backstory

In 1890, the Columbia Steel Car Works announced a new factory to be built south of Des Plaines, alongside the Wisconsin Central Railroad. Rumors circulated that a brewery would be built nearby.

The Magill Real Estate Company promised the Columbia Works, Sunshine Co., and Baltimore Tin-Plate would soon employ as many as 6,000 in another area known as Columbia, where the forest preserve now stands. None of the factories ever opened.

Columbia Steel Works, located at the southeast corner of Everett and Maple, stretching to Prospect & White, would have produced hopper cars and shipped them by the Wisconsin Central spur that ran alongside Circle Street. The factory was largely built in 1890, but never was finished.

The company's founder also started the Riverview Shoe Company in 1891, but work on its factory, adjacent to the Steel Car Works, was halted before a roof was even put on.

In 1891, the Western Coated Paper & Card Company opened a 75-by-250-foot factory on the north side of Everett Street between Linden and Orchard Street, but went into bankruptcy in 1897. It burned to the ground June 7, 1902. The nearby Kreh Chalk & Pencil Company was short-lived and also burned down.

The Western Brass Works, a hardware manufacturer, opened a factory on the west side of the Wisconsin Central, at Howard Street in June 1892, but went into bankruptcy a year later. The building later became the Schaeffer Piano Manufacturing Company, but burned to the ground January 20, 1903, ironically one day after the foundation for its delayed sprinkler tank was finished.

Riverview Canning was built, but lasted only three years. A small, frame-planing mill was built but did not last long either.

Jones Woolen Mill opened in 1892 in a building along the Des Plaines River, some distance from the rest of Riverview, but in 1896 the building became home to the Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company, an early competitor to Thomas Edison's light bulb dominance.

Riverview's failure to launch left its scattered cottages with little reason to be occupied. The community continued to struggle, and in 1925 the remaining residents asked Des Plaines to annex it. With the annexation, Des Plaines transitioned from a village to a city.

Riverview's Town Hall at the northwest corner of Illinois & Everett, which once housed its fire pump on its first floor and an auditorium for dances and meetings, was turned into a tool shed for WPA workers and was demolished in 1941. A house now stands on its site, while a church across the street still stands.

A block to the north, at the southwest corner of Illinois and Prospect, the first Riverview School stood until it was replaced in 1938 by the current South School, which took seven years to complete. The Wisonsin Central depot between Circle Street and the tracks was demolished as well.

Riverview's street names even disappeared. Jefferson Avenue became Oakton street, Cuttle was changed to Riverview, Everitt to Everett, Park to Prospect, Centre to Stockton, Columbia to Howard, Gay to Spruce, Broadway to Ash, Washington to Pine, Franklin to Cora, Oak to Linden, Walnut to Sycamore, Jennie to Locust, Hamilton to Birch, May to Bennett, and Green to Kennicott.

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Brian Wolf May 23, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Another project I didn't mention was the Nashville Linoleum Company Factory. Announced in 1891, the factory buildings would have been designed by the renowned architecture firm of Adler & Sullivan. The Independent Linseed Oil company did build a factory at the southeast corner of Howard and Chestnut, which later became an onion set warehouse, one of several in Des Plaines. Riverview Canning's factory was along the east side of the tracks, north of Riverview Avenue.
Brian Wolf May 23, 2012 at 01:33 PM
By 1905 the Riverview Canning building was being leased by Fisk-Kyle Company. A map shows a husking shed and the note that the factory was in use only about 6 weeks a year.
Phil Heller May 23, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Thanks for showing me the website....I have a photo of inside the tavern if you want me to scan an send it?
Brian Wolf May 25, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Sure, that would be interesting. Maybe put it on facebook.


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