Three Successive Generations of Zengelers

Zengeler’s Cleaners in Winnetka, 1970.


Three Successive Generations of Zengelers
This article appeared in the Winnetka Talk, 60th Anniversary Edition, 1930

Back in 1857, grandfather Zengeler, whose picture appears [at left], announced the opening of the New York Steam Dye Works, located at 208 South Clark Street in the then frontier city of Chicago. Migrating from Germany to the land of opportunities, with a thorough knowledge of the dyeing business, an industry for which his mother country was famous, young Zengeler soon enjoyed a flourishing business, keeping pace with the rapidly growing Chicago which was fast becoming a busy metropolis.

In 1871, the year of the great Chicago fire, in common with thousands of other concerns, the New York Steam Dye Works was reduced to a mass of charred ruins.


Image of Clark Street near Adams after the Chicago fire in 1871. This was the approximate location of Zengeler’s New York Steam Dye Works.

The new Chicago, which rapidly sprung up after the great conflagration, again finds the Zengeler’s pushing forward, establishing a new dying plant at Cottage Grove and Prairie Avenues. About this time the dry cleaning process made its appearance and a modern dry cleaning department was added to the dyeing plant which had continued to enjoy healthy growth. 

The pioneer’s son, whose picture appears [at left], now assumes active charge of the enlarged cleaning and dyeing plant, keeping abreast of progress at all time. 

With the Pioneer instinct still very much alive, the year 1904 finds the Zengeler Cleaning and Dyeing Plant operating in Lake Forest continuing there until 1925. Five years later, finds the grandson and three great grandsons of the pioneer immigrant conducting a modern cleaning and dyeing establishment, house in a new plant and offering Winnetka and vicinity a complete dyeing and cleaning service, based on expert knowledge, gained from the experience of three generations of cleaners and dyers. 

NOTE: As of 2022, Zengeler Cleaner’s is still in operation across the North Shore and is still owned and run by the Zengeler family. It is now one of America’s oldest cleaning businesses.