Greenhouse demo on Milwaukee reveals glimpse of area’s history
by BRIAN NADIG
The recent demolition of the K House of Flowers greenhouse at 5241 N. Milwaukee Ave. revealed some historic details about the area’s commercial district.
A painted sign promoting “B & S Hardware” could be seen on the the adjacent two-story building at 5251 N. Milwaukee Ave. as the greenhouse was reduced to rubble. The sign, which includes a reference to the Wells Petroleum Co., had been covered up for decades due to the construction of the flower shop about 60 year ago.
“The building next door was a hardware store from the 40s until the 80s. It was initially owned by a person named Louis Bocheneck, who is now buried in Saint Adalbert’s cemetery. He named the store ‘O.K. Hardware,’” Northwest Chicago Historical Society president Susanna Ernst aid. “There was also a currency exchange in the building, and (Bocheneck) lived upstairs on site. It became a True Value Hardware Store in the 70s and then ceased operation as a hardware store sometime in the 1980s.”
Ernst added, “Interestingly, the True Value that now sits up the street, 5329 Milwaukee, was also called ‘O.K. Hardware,’ and they were both operating in tandem for a while. Evidently back then the area could handle duplicate hardware stores proximate to one another.”
In the mid-1950s, the store’s new owner renamed it Bara and Sons, or “B & S” for short, Ernst said.
The construction of a four-flat is planned for the former flower shop site, and its developer, Ambrosia Homes, also owns the adjacent building, which in more recent years has had a medical office on the ground floor. Ambrosia has been renovating the building.
On a side note, the existing H and B True Value at 5329 N. Milwaukee Ave. was once a meat market in the 1920s. The Northwest Chicago Historical Society has provided a photograph of the market.