If these walls could talk: 202 South Main (today's Lakeside Auto)
We continue our series of semi-regular journeys through Culver’s past as we look at the lives of historic buildings in the Culver area. For now, we're strolling down Main Street's east side in down¬town Cul¬ver, making our way south.
This week we pay a visit to 202 South Main Street (the east side of the street at the southeast corner of Main and Madison Streets), today's Lakeside Auto, owned by Steve McDaniel.
Traveling back in time, the spot was apparently home to a barber and cobbler, circa 1906 (say the Sanborn Fire Maps) and the Sutherlin Jewelry Store prior to 1911. In 1911, Howard L. Werner journeyed to Culver that year and was initially uninterested in starting his jewelry business here, wrote son John in his "Memoirs of One John Howard Werner" (the book is a fascinating read for its extensive account of the early 20th century in Culver, and may be read online at www.fulco.lib.in.us/genealogy/Tombaugh/Family%20Books/Pdf/Werner%20Memoi...). However, John Schilling of the State Exchange Bank talked him into opening up shop here, and that year he brought his wife and children to town to live in the back part of the building, the front of which became his jewelry shop.
"The store that my Dad bought consisted of one room about 18 foot square with a hard coal burning Base Burner heating stove," wrote John Werner. "It had two showcases for the display of the merchandise (and) a doorway with a curtain over it that led to living quarters part of the building. This consisted of a combination dining room, living room, and kitchen leading to a small enclosed back porch with sink and a water well hand pump."
A stairway led up to the kids' two bedrooms, he continued, and of course there was no indoor plumbing at the time. Werner paid $10 a month rent, he also recalled. He claimed to have purchased the first electric washing machine in Culver, and, wrote John, "I see no reason to doubt his claim since he had two sets of twins born only 16 months apart and that made a lot of washing."
Around 1920 or 1921, according to the memoir, H.L. Werner rented a small store across the street in the next block to the north. His jewelry shop held court above today's Cafe Max for decades, but that's a different building for a different article.
Sally Ricciardi, whose father Charles would later purchase the building, believes it was simply a private residence during the ensuing years. An article in the March 15, 1944 Culver Citizen confirms what she says: Charles Ricciardi purchased Culver Cleaners at what is now 116 N. Main (the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council at the corner of Main and Washington Streets) from John Drnek. The same year, says Sally, her father started the new concrete block building at 202 S. Main, the house having been razed by this point.
Charles Ricciardi was born in Italy in 1896 and immigrated to the US in 1920, arriving in Culver from Chicago in the early 1930s, purchasing the current Ricciardi house circa 1933, according to Sally. He had an interesting connection to the Werner jewelry store: he married one of those twins of H.L. Werner, Mary Werner, in September, 1944, the same year he bought the cleaning business (Mary happened to be a twin sister to your editor's grandmother, Martha).
And so, located at the site of his wife's early childhood, Charles Ricciardi made Culver Cleaners a family business, running it until August, 1977, recalls Sally. He had originally opened it with his brother-in-law, Louis DeAngeles, though DeAngeles left the business shortly after it opened.
"All the (Ricciardi) kids pretty much worked in it at different times," recalls Sally, who adds her older sisters Betty and Lucinda usually waited on people at the counter, while she handled a lot of the pressing. Brother Ed helped with building maintenance. She remembers playing in the fur vault in the building's basement (which current owner Steve McDaniel says is still there), complete as it was with a fumigation system in it to protect the furs.
Charles Ricciardi continued his tailoring work (prior to opening the business, he'd been a tailor at Culver Military Academy) at his home after his retirement at age 82. Sally says he continued tailoring until about a month before his death in August, 1984.
The building, meanwhile, he sold to Robert "Bob" Healy, who operated it as an auto parts store into the 1980s. Bob Healy ran the auto parts business at 108 S. Main (last home to a Chinese buffet, today an empty store front) starting in 1962, according to Steve McDaniel, prior to moving into 202 S. Main in 1977. Bob's son Rand Healy took over the business during the 1980s (many will recall Dean Neff working at the store). All this time, it was known as Culver Auto Supply.
On December 17, 1992, Steve McDaniel and wife Cindy purchased the store from Rand Healy and changed the name to Lakeside Auto Supply.
Steve had been a manufacturing engineer in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, though the couple had been regularly visiting Cindy's family on the lake, the Randolphs, since the 1970s (Cindy's brother Steve was a businessman in Culver as well, the owner for a time of the Entertainer at 202 North Main Street).
Steve says the opportunity to buy the auto parts business gave his family a chance to move to Culver. "I don't miss the traffic, the taxes -- I don't miss Illinois at all!" he laughs.
He notes the building is essentially the same as when he bought it (Sally Ricciardi notes the formerly flat roof became a pitched roof sometime after her father sold it, but otherwise appears as it was).
Next week, we'll stroll south to an area with some interesting and varied history, on the same side of the street. Until then, we'll see you around town.