The following article is from RPWRHS's The Greenhouses of West Ridge, The Historian, Winter 2012, Volume 28, No. 1, pages 4-5.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, West Ridge was primarily farmland. Farmers working the fields raised crops like beans, peas, melons, cabbage, squash, cucumbers, corn, and other vegetables. They took their crops, first on horse-drawn wagons and later on trucks, to the vegetable markets in Chicago. They made a modest living.
Then, greenhouses made their way to the country’s Midwest and the farmers noted that growing and selling flowers was much more lucrative than growing and selling vegetables. Not far away were Calvary Cemetery and St. Henry's Cemetery—and there would be mourners visiting the cemeteries who would be in the market for fresh flowers to lay at a loved one’s grave. How convenient it would be, the farmers thought, if the mourners could simply stop somewhere along the way and purchase their flowers. And unlike vegetables, flowers could even be grown all year long in a steam-heated greenhouse!
In the long run, it was the fact that raising flowers in a greenhouse year round made a farmer a lot more money than raising vegetables did during one short season a year. This is what drove these hardy Luxembourgers and Germans to switch from veggies to flowers.
The following article is from RPWRHS's Honoring our Founding Families St. Henry’s Cemetery Tour September 16, 2012
Several events contributed to the success and expansion of farming operations by the second generation of settlers.
In the 1860’s, "The Big Ditch" was dug from Evanston to (now) Pratt Boulevard and then east on Pratt to Lake Michigan This channeled the tributary west of (now) Western Avenue, which drained and opened additional land for agricultural development.
The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad (now: Metra) was built in 1853, opening easier access to Chicago markets and developing new markets throughout the U.S., as well as facilitating transport of day laborers.
The aftermath of the Civil War created a new demand for flowers for decorating the graves of the dead that spurred the transition from vegetable truck farming to growing of flowers. This market broadened with the Victorian taste for use of flowers in home decoration and as personal accessories.
In 1882, Adam Zender’s brother-in-law, Peter Reinberg, who had developed successful greenhouses a mile south on The Ridge, told Adam and his friend John Muno, Jr. "Boys, you better get into flowers." They asked," Pete, is there any money in it?" He said, "he had made better money in flowers than in vegetables" and they "went into it too."
At the peak of his operations, Peter Reinberg was the largest supplier of roses and carnations in the world, with 25 employees in the greenhouse and 6 packers in his Chicago wholesale warehouse. Peter Reinberg entered local politics and attained the office of alderman.
John Muno, Jr. maintained 22 greenhouses, with 36,000 sq. ft. under glass (almost an acre of land) near Touhy and Western, with shipments throughout the U.S. through his wholesale operations.
The greenhouse business persisted until the mid 1920s, when competition from growers in Florida and California developed and the land became too valuable for development for residential and commercial use to continue to support agriculture.
End of articles
Dominick Schreiber also built greenhouses.
RPWRHS photo C005-73359 shows eleven unidentified men standing in an unidentified greenhouse on Touhy Avenue in 1911.
RPWRHS Photo J007-0101 shows an unidentified woman standing inside an unidentified Greenhouse. No date given.
RPWRHS photo R044-0213 shows three unidentified children helping out with greenhouse deliveries. No address given. No date given.
RPWRHS photo S001-93573 shows the Sampson family house, probably Weber family house in rear and took care of greenhouse (rear), 7356 N. Rogers Avenue. No date given. There's confusion in the addresses between this photo and photo B002-2001. More research is needed.