Metro-East News

Historic calendar offers glimpse into life years ago in Belleville

Hill’s Bar was open at 2001 W. Main St. in Belleville from 1902 until 1919. Robert Hill was an English immigrant known for his half and half mix of ale and porter. The building is now owned by Lindenwood University.
Hill’s Bar was open at 2001 W. Main St. in Belleville from 1902 until 1919. Robert Hill was an English immigrant known for his half and half mix of ale and porter. The building is now owned by Lindenwood University. Labor & Industry Museum

After the popularity of last year’s calendar, the Belleville Historical Society decided to have one more round of old Belleville saloons.

Their 2017 calendar, “Historic Belleville Saloons II,” takes up where 2016 leaves off with 12 more months of great saloon pictures and information.

Belleville Historical Society President Larry Betz said last year’s calendar sold more than 500 copies. That compares to the 200 copies sold of the 2015 calendar, “Historic Belleville Churches.”

Not to knock historic Belleville churches, but the pictures in that calendar ended up being static, overall shots of the outside of churches. The saloon pictures involve people.

It’s easy to see why the saloons do so well if you look at the pictures. The old images offer a fascinating look at life years ago when the local saloon was a social hot spot for neighborhoods, where men gathered to have a few drinks, pick up or spread the latest news and retreat from a rough world.

Belleville historian Robert Brunkow gathered the information for the calendar and wrote the information capsules with each picture. Some pictures are from the collections of the Labor and Industry Museum of Belleville.

Brunkow noted that Belleville has had saloons since the very beginning in 1814 when founder George Blair had the first tavern license. He said that in 1909, the city of Belleville had 20,000 people and 119 saloons.

The pictures are celebrations. The owners are proud of their establishments and often customers, families and even dogs make their way into the photos. The details are fascinating.

In the blown-up section of the cover photo of Schneeberger’s Bar at the Mansion House, you see a small dog crashing the picture, what we might call photo bombing today. A couple of doors down, a man looks on while standing in a doorway underneath a shoe repair sign. On the wall, a giant man in a painted advertisement enjoys a cold frosty one. It is hard to imagine that The Lincoln Theater now stands where the famed hotel once was at 101 E. Main St.

At Isselhard Saloon, 722 Freeburg Ave., in 1905, a long line of patrons posed for the picture, including a policeman in full uniform. A large banner extolled whiskey for 10 cents.

A photo from 1915 of Hill’s Bar at 2001 W. Main St., has the usual proud looking men but a young man is holding what appears to be a mule while seated on the back of the animal is a young boy with a Dutch Boy haircut.

In 1931, the Budweiser Garden, without Budweiser legally available, was a lunchroom with brain sandwiches among other attractions. Signs in the picture advertise pig feet at 10 cents and herring at 15 cents.

The calendar even reflects changing times. At 1022 W. Main St., in 1949, Joe’s Place advertised a new “large 15-inch screen” television to entertain patrons.

The calendar costs $10 and copies can be purchased at: Artiste de Fleurs, 7500 W. Main St.; Circa Boutique, 128 E. Main St.; Dills Floral Haven, 258 Lebanon Ave.; Eckert’s County Store & Farms, 951 Greenmount Road; Eckert Florist, 201 W. Main St.; Local Lucy’s, 310 E. Main St.; Happy Hop Homebrew, 122 E. Main St.; Miscellanea House, 1111 W. Main St.; and Peace by Piece, 132 W. Main St.

Or you can order online using PayPal at bellevillehistoricalsociety.org.

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