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Pritchett, Schmitt compile the history
By Cathryn Gran   - 02/07/2007

Franklin Park Herald-Journal

More Info on This Book: Franklin Park

Now that the hard work is done, the fun can begin for Franklin Park's newest authors.

After a year of research, Village President Dan Pritchett and his daughter, Amanda Schmitt, have put together a 128-page book on the history of the village, complete with photos.

"It all started with the 1992 centennial walking tour map of buildings of historical importance," Pritchett said. "I started with the (Cook County) recorder of deeds and researched the history of some of the older properties.

"It really opened my eyes," he continued. "I started hoarding anything and everything with Franklin Park on it."

Knowing he could not finish the project on his own, Pritchett approached Schmitt.

"I had a lot of disjointed ideas, she had skill to put them in a form you could read," he said. "I would write a story and she would rewrite it and send it back to me.

"Plus when she was a small child, I would drag her around with me. So she was there for some of the history."

"We've always worked together," Schmitt noted. "I was kind of an assistant. But this time, it's more of a partnership."

Schmitt's job was to assemble the pages of the book.

"I do the village calendar, but this was the first time I did a book," she said. "Each photo had a number, and each story had to match that number."

"That's when it started to get a little stressful," Pritchett added. "We had reams of paper."

All that information had to be scanned on a disc.

"Everything - photos, stories - was submitted on a disc," he said.

"But we kept hard copies for back-up," she added.

The two turned in the disc to Arcadia Publishing in late October.

Cutting room floor

Because they had to keep the book to 128 pages, Pritchett said they had to edit out about 20 stories.

"There just wasn't enough room," he said. "The book starts with stories about the area before Franklin Park was incorporated and the Potowatomi Indians lived on the land.

It ends with the luncheon on Grand (Avenue) under the overpass."

Pritchett noted a couple of things stuck out as he worked on the book.

"Many of the streets were named after founder Lesser Franklin's wife, kids and business associates," he said. "Some were named after the early pioneers."
Some of the early settlers, such as William Draper, were hard to illustrate, he added.

"With the Draper House, I started with a photo of the head stone and worked from there," he said.

Pritchett and Schmitt also received a lot of support from village residents, former and current.

"The Hammill family let us use a lot of their photos," he said. "Lawrence Hammill took crime photos."

The two also received help from residents.

"They would open up musty old family albums and let us take their photos," Pritchett said. "We'd keep them for an hour to scan them and then give them back.

"Wally Felt, a lifelong resident, dug out a lot of pictures," Pritchett continued. "Edith Pfundt had amazing recall. She was very quick to identify things. She also was very generous, sharing family photos."

Pritchett reached out to his father in Port Orange, Fla., who interviewed former Franklin Park resident Sam Asta, who now is living in New Smyrna, Fla.

"Sam is 90, but he still has a real good recollection," Pritchett noted. "He also supplied some photos."

Some information came from unlikely sources.

Meyer for mayor

"We had the campaign literature of Fred Meyer, who ran for mayor in 1919 on the Citizens ticket," Pritchett said. "We used old phone directories. The State Improvement Record of October 1913 focused on Franklin Park, and someone made a copy of it."

The pair looked at the advertisers in old church books and Chamber of Commerce books, and even at Leyden High School year books to piece together the village's history. And they dipped into books from other communities.

"We looked at Schiller Park, Elmwood Park, River Grove," he said. "With River Grove, often times our histories overlap."

A Melrose Park anniversary compilation included an article
about the Buick Plant that once stood at the corner of North Avenue and Mannheim Road.

"That plant affected Franklin Park profoundly," Pritchett said. "It was an important connection. People came out to work, and stayed here. That accounts for the population spike in the 1950s."

With book coming out in print, Pritchett said the fun part starts now.

"I'll be doing book signings," he said. "I like being the village's cheerleader. We have a very interesting history."

Pritchett will be at the Franklin Park Public Library beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, to sign copies of the book, which will be available for purchase.

Pritchett said 5 percent of the profits from the sale of the book will go to the village for future history projects.

Buy It Now: Franklin Park $19.99

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