Gazette Article by: Laurie Starrett
Appeared in the Gazette: Winter 1998
Entrepreneurial spirit is fueled by necessity, opportunity, desire, and determination. All of these played a part in the founding of Winnetka’s first business.
In 1836 Erastus and Zeruah (also referred to as Zernah) Patterson and their five children were traveling west from Vermont as part of an ox-drawn wagon train of six families. The group camped on the hill at the site now known as Lloyd Park in Winnetka. While the five other families continued their journey, the Pattersons decided they had arrived at a spot both beautiful and ripe for commerce. The place where they settled was on the stagecoach route between Chicago and Milwaukee, about a day’s trip by horse and wagon from Fort Dearborn in Chicago.
They built a log house on the site in 1836 and opened the Patterson Tavern. There, wayfarers could warm themselves or cool off, depending on the season. They could also buy a drink or a meal, rest and feed their horses, and stay the night before resuming their journeys.
Erastus Patterson died the following year. “Widow” Patterson ran the tavern with her sons until 1845, becoming one of the first women in the area to operate a business. She sold the tavern to Lucas Miller, who sold it to Marcus Gilman a short time later. In 1847 Gilman sold it to John Garland, a prominent early settler.
The “Lake View Tavern,” as it was then sometimes called, had the reputation for selling “the best drink of whiskey between Chicago and Milwaukee.” Garland operated the tavern as a wayside inn six days a week; on the Sabbath (when no drinks were sold) it functioned as a church.
In a 1939 letter to Frank Windes (Village Engineer, 1898-1940), Susan Garland, John Garland’s granddaughter , who was born in the tavern, described the building as “ . . . quite roomy,” containing a barroom and adjoining rooms where travelers could stay for the night, a large kitchen, and the family quarters. She continued, it was a “ . . . typical log house, as they were built in those days. No clapboards, crude logs cut from the woods around about—chinked with some kind of plaster. Quite a large and rambling old place. The main building must have been a storey-and-a-half high. The ‘Garland Boys’ (my father and his brothers) used to tell how their sleeping quarters were up in the ‘loft.’ When there was a regular ‘Noreaster’ the snow would come sifting through the cracks and many times an extra white blanket would be over them in the morning.”
In 1854, when the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad began service through the village, stagecoach travel declined. Sometime in the late 1850s the tavern was torn down, but during its time, it was the place where both the Pattersons and Garlands saw an opportunity and possessed the need, desire, and will to build lives and conduct businesses in Winnetka.