So there you are, cleaning out the basement of a building where you want to open a new business, and the next thing you know, you stumble across history.
That’s what happened last week over at 8900 Fairview Ave. in Brookfield, where Steve Landrey and ZeZe Aiyash have been readying the property for their new venture, the Brookfield Ale House.
Needing the lower-level space in order to expand the kitchen upstairs, the two had been spending the past couple of weeks hauling out decades of accumulated materials, much of it dating back to the time when the building housed Fisher’s Pharmacy.
As they were removing some old drug-store cabinetry, said Aiyash, they uncovered, in a box on the top of a shelving unit, file folders containing photos and newspapers of Brookfield dating from near the turn of the 20th century.
Among the gems found in the file folders was an April 20, 1907 edition of the Grossdale Magnet-Vigilant newspaper and a June 5, 1909 edition of the Suburban Magnet (the Grossdale paper changed its name after residents of the village voted to change the name of the village to Brookfield in 1905).
The file folders also contained a trove of old sepia-tone photos documenting life in Brookfield between 1900 and the late 1930s. Landrey and Aiyash, along with John Scaletta, who has been helping the duo with their startup, wanted to share what they found.
Scaletta posted a number of the images on Facebook; they were an immediate hit.
“Brookfield has a rich history and people care about it,” Aiyash said.
Landrey and Aiyash said they are hoping to incorporate some of the images in the décor of the ale house, which is slated to open later this spring.
“We want everyone to be excited,” said Landrey. “Here’s another great thing that fell into our lap and we want to share it with everyone.”
Among the images are what appear to be class photos from S.E. Gross School, one of them dated 1908 in ink on the front. There are several photos related to the long-gone Speidel coal and ice business, which once had a building on the south side of Brookfield Avenue next to the railroad right-of-way near Sunnyside Avenue, according to local historian Chris Stach.
The building burned down and later moved west of Maple Avenue on Southview Avenue. Some of the photos may have come from the Speidel family. In addition to the photos related to the business, one of the school class photos has “Carl Speidel” written on the back of it.
In addition, the collection contains several early photos of the Brookfield Fire Department, some of which have been published previously in 1993’s Brookfield, Illinois: A History and the book published for the Brookfield Diamond Jubilee in 1968.
The fire department photos may also have come from the Speidel family, since Carl Speidel is identified in a 1916 fire department photo reproduced in the Diamond Jubilee book. That very photo was among those discovered in the file folders in the basement of 8900 Fairview Ave.
The photos may well have been selected for possible inclusion in the 1968 Jubilee publication, since a reference to the Jubilee was written on one of the file folders found by Landrey and Aiyash.
Why they ended up in the basement of 8900 Fairview Ave. is also unclear, although Fisher’s Pharmacy occupied that building at the time. Mylon Fisher, the owner of the pharmacy and Brookfield village president from 1977-81, was also a member of the Diamond Jubilee’s executive committee.
Whether that’s the case or not, the fact is the photos and old newspapers are being shared again and have opened a window to the past.