Homewood’s early years: The village begins to grow up

  People stand on Homewood’s wooden sidewalks
  at the corner of Ridge Road and Harwood Avenue.

  (Provided photos courtesy of Homewood Historical 
  Society)
 
Editor’s note: The village of Homewood celebrates its 125th year in 2018. This is the second in a series of articles, which sheds light on the life and times of the village’s early years.  
 
After Homewood was incorporated in February 1893, the village board debated for months on the details of construction of a village hall. There was little debate, however, when it came to the question of sidewalks and other improvements.
 
For years, sidewalks in town were either non-existent or installed randomly by a few conscientious home and business owners. Residents had grown weary of trudging around town through mud or dust, depending on what the weather conditions were.
 
In order to remedy this situation, the village board passed an ordinance in July 1893 requiring landowners, in what is now the area of the central business district, to install “substantial” sidewalks fronting their property, built to specifications promulgated by the village.
 
Property owners were given 15 days from passage of the ordinance to have the sidewalks constructed themselves or the village would have the work completed and assess the owner the cost. 
 
The sidewalks were to be “connective and constitute one system of uniform walkway.” They were to be constructed on 2-inch by 6-inch piers to support 2-inch by 6-inch pine planks set 4 feet apart. On this base, “top surfaced” pine planks, set to a width of 5 feet 4 inches wide were placed. 
 
The ordinance further stated the whole was to be properly nailed with 2 ½ inch wire nails and no plank was to be over 10 inches wide. All lumber was to be of the grade called “good common.” 
 
To forestall any shoddy workmanship, Trustees Carl Puhrmann, Jabez Howe and Samuel Black were appointed to monitor sidewalk construction and enforce the provisions of the sidewalk ordinance.
 
Following installation of the sidewalks, the village board turned its attention to street lighting. Other than light from lamps on private property, public ways were not lighted. In December 1894, 20 oil lamps were installed on principal corners throughout town.
 
  Wooden sidewalks and an 
  early oil lamp near St. Paul's
  Church.  

  
For most of the next decade, resident Billy Mueller was employed as the village’s lamplighter. At dusk, Mueller was a regular sight driving his two-wheel horse cart through town loaded with a small ladder, oil and other supplies. At each lamppost, Mueller mounted his ladder, replenished the oil supply, trimmed the wick and lit the lamp. For many of these years, he returned to the streets at 1 a.m. and extinguished the lamps to preserve oil. 
 
During the day, Mueller was also responsible for making repairs to the plank sidewalks. In later years, Mueller made a name for himself building new homes. 
 
By 1896, the village board allocated funds to “pave” the first streets in Homewood. Main Street and the Chicago-Vincennes Road (Dixie Highway) were the first two streets chosen. 
 
The pavement consisted of several layers of stone. Larger stone composed the base of the roadway and this was followed by gravel and a final layer of crushed stone placed on the road surface to provide for sure footing and a smoother ride. In succeeding years, additional streets were paved utilizing this method. 
 
One drawback to this was the dust the stone generated during dry spells. The dust, churned up by passing wagon and buggy traffic, was the bane of all homemakers trying to maintain a clean house. To combat this problem, oil was periodically spread on the streets in the warmer months to “keep the dust down.”
 
Though these improvements seem rather rudimentary by today’s standards, they were much appreciated by Homewood citizens in the 1890s.
 

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