Could there be a haunted portrait of Abraham Lincoln somewhere in one of the municipal buildings in the City of Evanston? It is many times better to be lucky than good! At least we used to say that in the police department. This little tidbit of a story came to me when I was comparing Chicago New Year celebrations in 1913 as compared to 100 years later in 2013. That by the way is another story in itself and somewhat comical but for another post.
As I was researching New Year celebrations in the local papers in 1913, I saw an article in which an African American Janitor who worked at the Evanston Police Station claimed that either the police station itself or a portrait of Abraham Lincoln which hung in the courtroom of the building was haunted.
For four years, William Thompson had decorated the portrait of President Lincoln on Christmas Day and New Years Day with silver foil and holly to show his appreciation for his emancipation. (New Year’s Day in 1913 would have been the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, to the day!) Every time Mr. Thompson decorated the portrait within a couple of hours the decorations disappeared. This last time Mr. Thompson decorated the portrait he stayed close by the courtroom and swore nobody had entered the room since he left but the decorations were again missing! He made a New Year’s resolution in 1913 and swore never to decorate the portrait again! Of course newspapers of the time were anything but politically correct and I am only including the quote for historical reference but the paper quoted Thompson as saying:
“Lawsy, I’ll nebber hang no more holly on dat frame.” I’se been right ‘round dis heah coteroom evah since I hung up dat holly dis mahnin. Dat am a most singulah manifestation. It am gone an’ nobody tuck it. Maybe dis coteroom ain’t hanted but I reckons from mah experience it am.”
The police station and courtroom in question would have been in the building at Sherman and Grove that was built in 1892. The new police building at 1454 Elmwood was built in 1949 and is still there. Seems to me that for people who are in my “Chicago History-The Stranger Side” Group on Facebook or to subscribers to this blog it might be a little bit of a treasure hunt to see if a portrait of Abraham Lincoln dating back to 1913 would still exist somewhere on the walls in an Evanston municipal building and if so maybe we should try to decorate it in honor of the 150th Anniversary!