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Heritage

How does a company stay in business for 125 years? For Elmhurst-Chicago Stone Company, the answer is its employees.

Elmhurst-Chicago Stone Company is the oldest continuing business in Elmhurst. The original grounds encompassed only an 11-acre quarry in Elmhurst. The quarry was leased to Adolph Hammerschmidt and Henry Assman in 1883 from Louis Graue. They chose the Elmhurst quarry for its rich deposits of dolomite limestone. Later, Hammerschmidt and Assman purchased the 11 acres from Graue for $3,300, which was quite a large sum in those times. Hammerschmidt eventually purchased Assman’s share and incorporated the business as “Elmhurst-Chicago Stone Company.”

From its modest beginnings, the company has grown to include eight locations in Illinois: five locations in aggregate production—Plainfield, Kaneville, Marengo, Belvidere and Barbers Corners in Bolingbrook—a concrete pipe plant in South Elgin, and four ready-mix plants in Elmhurst, Barbers Corners, Kaneville and Bartlett. The company also has a portable ready-mix plant, which moves to different job sites as needed.

Led by Chairman Charles Hammersmith, a descendant of Hammerschmidt who has been with the company since 1950, Elmhurst-Chicago Stone Company has transformed into a business composed of 110 dedicated employees. Ken Lahner, Vice President, states, “We always work hard and are very proud of our 125th anniversary, 1883 to 2008!”

The company’s history of success is directly related to the hard work and dedication of its employees—past and present. According to Lahner, “There is very little turnover within the company. We value our good employees.”

Jim Wilson confirms this. His first position at Elmhurst-Chicago Stone Company was in 1981 as a laborer in the Elmhurst quarry’s underground mine. He is now the Superintendent of both the Bolingbrook and Plainfield locations. Wilson grew up in Elmhurst and remembers going to the quarry as a child. “I used to stare over the wall,” he remembers. “My dad and I would go there on Saturdays and get sand for my sandbox.”

After college, Wilson had to decide between becoming a teacher and working at Elmhurst-Chicago Stone. He had the difficult task of choosing between two jobs he really liked. “I liked education,” he says, “and I liked working here. Not many are that fortunate.”

He chose to work at Elmhurst-Chicago Stone and has stayed there for 27 years. He says it’s “been a good company to work for. I like the people. It’s been a good experience.”

He very much enjoys the diversity of his position. “I have office work,” he comments, “but I’m also out in the field dealing with the explosions.” His work is a “nice challenge” that “keeps you on your toes.”

Wilson says, “A lot of people think you’re just blowing up rocks, but there’s a lot more that goes into it than that.” He plans on retiring from Elmhurst-Chicago Stone, remarking, “The old-time loyalties for these types of things seem to be gone.”

Employee loyalty is strong at Elmhurst-Chicago Stone, though. According to John Didlinger, who started in 1967 in the Quality Control Department, “You’re respected.” Looking back at his 41 years at the company, he remarks, “I’ve been respected, and I respect them.”

Now Plant Superintendent of the Kaneville operation, Didlinger states that the company gives employees the opportunity “to work on your own” and to “do as we need to do.” He also likes that the company is family owned, a sentiment echoed by Lahner.

Mark Kroeger, who has worked at Elmhurst-Chicago Stone for 31 years, also agrees with Didlinger and Lahner. One of the reasons he has stayed at the company since 1977 is because “it’s family owned. It’s a good solid company.” The origins of the company and its longevity are one of Kroeger’s favorite aspects of Elmhurst-Chicago Stone. “I love the history,” he says.

Kroeger started working at Elmhurst-Chicago Stone “straight out of college” and used his degree in forestry to start a tree nursery at the company. The trees were used to beautify the entrances of the grounds and used in the company’s reclamation efforts. Kroeger also worked in Quality Control before becoming the Ready-Mix Operations Manager. He enjoys the diversity of his “job and the jobs to be done. Everyday is something new and something different.”

Elmhurst-Chicago Stone “is always reviewing new equipment and technology,” agrees Lahner. “Last year a new environmentally friendly plant was installed at our Barbers Corners location to improve overall efficiency.”

Backed by its historically dedicated employees, Elmhurst-Chicago Stone will continue to provide its customers “with quality materials and timely service.” When asked about the company’s future plans, Lahner remarks, “We are focusing on our 150th anniversary.” Here’s to another 25 years of serving the Elmhurst community!

Heritage in Future of Historical Museum

museum

The Elmhurst Historical Museum has provided the community it serves with quality programs, award-winning exhibits and nationally applauded publications since its inception in 1957. The Museum has received awards from the Illinois State Historical Society, the American Association for State and Local History and the American Association of Museums. It has received more than 16 awards from the Illinois Association of Museums during the last 13 years. Within the next 10 years, the Museum plans to add a Heritage Center to its long list of achievements.

In 2005, the Museum and its foundation, the aptly named Elmhurst Heritage Foundation, created a detailed outline for the Museum’s future. One of the main goals of the Museum is establishing a stronger presence in the community. It plans to achieve this end through expanded exhibits and programs that will appeal to a broader audience. Also among the Museum’s goals is the rehabilitation of the City’s Churchville Schoolhouse. The refurbished one-room schoolhouse should open in the spring.

The most exciting project proposed is the creation of a Heritage Center. The Heritage Center will feature enhanced galleries with enough space to house larger exhibits and educational programs, increased collections storage, the capacity to showcase community programs and performances, a hands-on discovery space for families, an interactive exhibit on the history of Elmhurst and a museum store. Upon the Heritage Center’s completion, it will join the Churchville Schoolhouse and Glos Mansion in a trifecta of Elmhurst history. The Glos Mansion is the permanent location of the Elmhurst Historical Museum and an integral part of the history of the city.

The mission of the Elmhurst Historical Museum is to serve as the “community’s memory by collecting, preserving and interpreting significant original materials to share the stories that are the history of Elmhurst. The Museum fills an essential role in the life and legacy of the community by providing historical context and cross-cultural understanding for addressing contemporary issues by providing a forum for citizens to contribute to the city’s history, character and well-being now and in the future.” There’s no denying that the addition of a Heritage Center would further this mission.

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