Friday, May 29, 2015


I have mentioned before in this blog that I have had a lifelong fascination with silent film superstar Rudolph Valentino.  As the years passed and I learned more about Valentino's life and work I began to branch out and started doing research on his family, friends and coworkers. From the first time I saw her dance with Valentino in 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (Metro-1921) I became a fan of Beatriz Dominguez.  What was her story?  How did she come to do the tango with one of the most famous dancers of all time?  And what caused her sudden death in 1921 at the age of 24?  Let's see  what we can "dig up".

Beatriz (some sources have Americanized it to "Beatrice") Dominguez was born in San Bernardino, California (not Mexico as many sources indicate) on September 6, 1896 to Tirso Dominguez (????-????) and Beatriz  nee Valencia (1860-1931).  Within the family Beatriz the mother was called "Petra" to differentiate her from Beatriz the daughter.  Beatriz the daughter had four sisters:  Cecelia (1883-1946), Maria Elena (1885-1948), Lola (1889-1959), and Inez (1893-1981). Beatriz' ancestors on her mother's side were from Sevilla in Spain.

As her sisters did, Beatriz received her education at the Sacred Heart Convent School in Los Angeles. Her family would have preferred that she pursue a professional career as a doctor or a lawyer, but from the very start Beatriz felt that her calling was to be a dancer. 

She was said to have danced professionally from the age of 14 as a dancer for the Mission Inn in Riverside, California.

The first mention in the press of Beatriz Dominguez dancing was in the The Riverside (CA) Daily Press that described a 1914 New Year’s Eve appearance by Dominguez as part of the formal opening of the Mission Inn’s Spanish Art Gallery.

This was followed by an article stating that Mission Inn officials sought to put her under contract for the entire performing arts season.  She danced La Jota with partner, Professor Raphael Valverde to the music of La Madre del Cordero. Later that season, she danced solo to the Espana Waltz and the classic Manzanillo.

Dominguez said she was taught authentic Spanish dance by her mother, Petra, who was taught the 1840-style by her grandmother.  She told Riverside reporters in 1914 that she provided the Mission Inn audience with genuine Spanish dances.  “Back in 1840, they were popular with the Spanish people and I hope that my interpretations tonight will meet with the approval of the guests of the hotel.”

Her younger sister Inez had a short-lived career dancing in films, and she suggested that Beatriz might be able to achieve the success that had eluded her.  In late 1913 and early 1914 Beatriz had credited roles in two Vitagraph shorts:  'The Masked Dancer', and 'The Sea Gull.'

Having gained popularity with the public through her dancing at the Mission Inn, she was a natural choice to dance at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Diego in 1915-1916.  Her dancing was such a draw, that an image of her was put on one of the posters advertising the fair:

She was billed as "La Bella Sevilla" and as before she danced the classic La Jota.  After seeing Beatriz dance, Theodore Roosevelt said she was “California’s sweetheart—fairest dancing daughter of the dons.”

While performing in San Diego, she was said to have had an uncredited role in the Douglas Fairbanks film, 'The Americano' (Fine Arts-1916). After the exposition, Beatriz returned to dancing in vaudeville.

“After I left San Diego,” Beatriz recalled, “and had danced at the Mission Inn in Riverside—I wished to act.  I called at some of the studios and did not say that I was the premiere dancer at Balboa Park (San Diego).  I simply registered as ‘La Bella Sevilla.’  Mr. O. H. Davis, who was a vice-president of the Exposition, was appointed general manager of Universal.  One day, when I called there, he suggested that I use my own name, because directors were rather afraid to employ a dancer because they reasoned that she could not act.  I was baptized ‘Beatriz,’ but at the studios they have turned that into the American ‘Beatrice.’”

She returned to films in 1919.  Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal saw her and considered her “an exceptional motion picture type”.  She appeared in 'The Light of Victory,' 'The Sundown Trail', and the short 'The Wild Westerner' all for Universal.

She continued working for Universal in 1920 and appeared in the short 'Hair Trigger Stuff,' as well as Rex Ingram's 'Under Crimson Skies.'  She also was cast in an Art Acord serial 'The Moon Riders.'

Beatriz became one of the first Hispanic actresses to receive screen billing and to be mentioned in the trade press.

In late 1920 she appeared in another Art Acord serial 'The Fire Cat' but it was during this time that Beatriz Dominguez had the role for which she is most remembered today:  dancing the tango with Rudolph Valentino in 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (Metro-1921).  The trade papers announced: "Beatrice Dominguez, a Spanish dancer, has been engaged to play in the Metro production of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which Rex Ingram is directing."  The ironic thing is, although this is the role for with Beatriz is best remembered, her name does not appear in the credits.

I have often been asked what is my favorite Rudolph Valentino film. My first choice would be 'The Sheik' because that was the first Valentino film I ever saw, but overall I would have to say that my favorite is 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse'.  This film has everything: war, romance, betrayal, love, death, a screenplay by June Mathis and Valentino dancing with Beatriz Dominguez.  If you have never seen it, you should. It is readily available today on DVD and it is well worth your time.  It is truly a spectacular film.  It cost an estimated $800,000 to film (in 1921 dollars) and grossed over nine million dollars!

Watching a clip from a film is like taking a comment out of context, but here is a clip of Beatriz Dominguez dancing the tango with Rudolph Valentino in 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:'

The 1920 US Census (January, 1920) shows Beatriz Dominguez living at 415 N. Fremont Avenue in Los Angeles.  The family told the census taker that Beatriz was 19 years old and had been born in Mexico.  Her occupation was listed as "Actress in Motion Pictures."  She was living with her mother Beatrice who was 58 years old and a widow, sister Inez, who was 25 and a film developer and 8 year old Louis Garcia.  The Da Vinci apartments are currently being built on that spot today.

Later in 1920, Beatriz and her family bought a home at 2522 Elsinore Street in Los Angeles:

2522 Elsinore Street, Los Angeles

In December of 1920 Beatrice appeared in the prologue to 'The Mark of Zorro' starring Douglas Fairbanks during its seven week run at the Mission Theater.

In February of 1921, Beatriz started work on another Art Acord serial, 'The White Horseman' (Universal-1921).  During filming, Beatriz collapsed with a ruptured appendix and was rushed to the Clara Barton Hospital at 447 South Olive Street.

It was thought that Beatriz was out of danger but several days later peritonitis set in and it was necessary to perform a second operation. Beatriz Dominguez died from the complications of the operation on February 27, 1921. She was 24. One week later, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse opened in New York City to rave reviews and made Rudolph Valentino a star, in part because of his tango with Beatriz.

The wake for Beatriz Dominguez was held at her home at 2522 Elsinore Street.  The funeral Mass was held at the Plaza Church in old Los Angeles:

Plaza Church, Los Angeles

Here is her obituary from the Los Angeles Times of February 28, 1921:

Ironically, Rudolph Valentino would die from the same thing (peritonitis from a ruptured appendix) five years later.

Beatriz Dominguez is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles - Section A, Tier 5:


Here's my favorite photo of Beatriz from October 7, 1916 in Los Angeles:

Beatriz Dominguez - Oh, how she danced...may she rest in peace.

Friday, May 22, 2015


If you enjoy genealogy and genealogical research you probably are also interested in history.  An interesting, and fairly easy, project you can do that combines both of these is to trace the lineage of your house.  Just like every person, every house has a lineage and a history - from the architect and builder through all of the owners up to the present time. With all of the records on the internet today, tracing the history of your house should not be too difficult - even for a beginner. And like tracing your family tree, you never know what you may find. Most places today require that a potential buyer be told if something notorious took place in a house that is up for sale, but that rule did not exist years ago.  

I have traced the history of the house I grew up in (which will always be "Home" to me) as well as the bungalow I owned for many years.  I was not able to uncover anyone famous or infamous who lived in either place, but there were some interesting stories nonetheless.  This week I am going to tell you the story of a man who owned my boyhood home from 1924 until his death in 1930:  Joseph I. Markey. 

Joseph Ignatius (some sources spell it "Ignacious") Markey was born April 15, 1868 in Chillicothe, Missouri to Peter Markey (1825-1889) and Margaret (1838-1925).  Peter Markey was born in Dublin, Ireland and when he came to the US, settled in Chillicothe, Missouri.  Peter was a civil engineer by trade.  Some sources say that Margaret was born in Ireland, others say Michigan, still others Mississippi.  Eventually she ended up in Chillicothe, Missouri  with Peter. 

Peter and Margaret Markey were blessed with four children:  Mary T. (1857-1932), Francis (1859-????), James A. (1861-1943) and Joseph Ignatius (1868-1930).  

At some point in his youth, Joseph Markey left his home and family in Chillicothe, Missouri and moved to Red Oak, Iowa - about 150 miles as the crow flies.  Young Joseph had always been interested in writing, so after completing his schooling, he started submitting stories as a roving reported for the Red Oak newspaper - called the Red Oak Express. The newspaper was not really interested in the concept of a roving reporter, but circumstances far from Iowa would soon change that. 

On February 15, 1898 the battleship USS Maine sank in the harbor of Havana, Cuba.  The United States, outraged, immediately demanded that Spain surrender control of Cuba.  After diplomatic efforts failed, Spain declared war on the US on April 23, 1898.  Joseph Markey, caught up in the patriotic fervor, enlisted in the US Army on May 9, 1898, and was mustered on May 30, 1898.  Now the Red Oak Express was more than interested in Markey's services as a roving reporter - he would be their war correspondent, writing periodic letters to the editor of the paper.

Markey joined what became Company M of the 51st Iowa Infantry.  In preparation for being shipped to the Philippines, Company M was shipped to San Francisco, California. 

By early May 1898, trains began arriving in Oakland with young men from Pennsylvania and Colorado, Oregon and Kansas---all coming to form a 20,000-man expeditionary force headed by General Wesley Merritt. Welcoming parties of the Red Cross Society met the units at the San Francisco Ferry Building with food and flowers. The mostly-volunteer infantries, feted and cheered along the way, would then march up Market Street to their campsites.

Early arrivals were put up at the Presidio, but it soon became apparent that there was not enough fresh water there for the number of troops which increased exponentially as the days passed.  

A second camp was established on land provided by the Crocker Estate Company. They offered the government use of the defunct Bay District Race Track land, situated between the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. The site had enough space for 10,000 troops, with nearby city water mains available. The Army gratefully accepted, and starting on May 18, 1898 rows of white tents lined the sandy lots between today's Geary Boulevard, Fulton Street, Arguello Street and Sixth Avenue. An eventful summer for the Richmond district was about to begin.

Initially called "Camp Richmond" or "Bay District Camp" the growing encampment received the official name "Camp Merritt". Despite this honor, the eponymous commanding officer was rarely seen in the area. General Merritt roomed downtown at the Palace Hotel, and when he left his suite it was usually for soirees, parties, and balls in the city or down the peninsula at the estates of the wealthy.      

As the number of soldiers in the Richmond approached 7,000, a camp extension had to be created on James Clark Jordan's adjacent land, today's Jordan Park neighborhood. On May 28, 1898 the division hospital moved to this section, and eventually troops from Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa would camp on these blocks between today's Geary Boulevard, California street, Palm and Commonwealth avenues.  This is where Joseph Markey ended up with the 51st Iowa Infantry when they arrived in San Francisco at the beginning of June, 1898.

The division hospital sadly received a lot of use. Poor sanitation and crowded conditions created a lot of illness and not a few deaths among the men in Camp Merritt. Over 150 soldiers crowded the field hospital on July 11, 1898 a number with pneumonia. 

With the sand, fog, and sickness, soldiers remembered Camp Merritt as "an unhealthy, ill-drained, wind-swept locality".  It was here that Joseph I. Markey filed his first letter home to the Red Oak Express. Markey vowed that for all the hospitality of the locals and the delights of nearby Golden Gate Park, "We have hopes that at some time the truth will come out as to who is responsible for Camp Merritt's existence and that the guilty will not go unpunished." 

Ten men died over the summer, from measles, typhoid and other diseases. Poor sanitation and close living was the chief reason for the sickness, but the Army didn't hesitate to blame the Richmond district location "to which hucksters and immoral and depraved persons within the city had access."

Luckily Joseph Markey and the 51st Iowa shipped out to the Philippines on November 2, 1898 before the conditions at Camp Merritt had a chance to harm them.  They embarked on the transport ship "Pennsylvania."  

The regiment arrived at Manila on December 7.  Much to their surprise, the war with Spain officially ended three days later with the signing of the Treaty of Paris before Markey or his fellow soldiers even had a chance to set foot on Philippine soil. The regiment stayed aboard the Pennsylvania, being shipped to Iloilo, where it arrived on December 28th. The regiment continued to stay aboard the transport until January 31, when it arrived back at Cavite, near Manila. Finally, after being aboard ship since November 2, the men were permitted to go ashore and go into quarters on February 3, 1899.  The regiment was attached to the Second Brigade, Fourth Division of the Eighth Army Corps. It turned out they were not too late to see action after all.  The day after the men set foot on Philippine soil, the Philippine American War broke out.

Unknown to most Americans, the Spanish-American War actually consisted of two different wars.  The first was the war between Spain and the US.  When that war ended, the United States as victors gave Cuba her independence but decided to keep the Philippines as a US possession.  The Filipino people felt they were trading one absentee owner for another and so they declared war on the US at the beginning of February, 1899.  It was this second war that Markey and the 51st Iowa were involved in.

Markey's letters from the front were eagerly awaited each week by readers of the Red Oak Express and accounts were clipped from the paper and mailed all over the country as anxious families waited for word of their loved ones half a world away.

Joseph Markey's writing proved so popular that he decided to publish them in a book form.  In 1900 the Thomas D. Murphy Company of Red Oak Iowa published From Iowa to the Philippines - A History of Company M, Fifty-First Iowa Infantry Volunteers by Joseph I. Markey.   I was lucky enough a few years ago to be able to purchase an autographed copy:

Markey was a natural born writer and his account transports the reader to the heat, dust and sweat of tropical warfare.  If you are interested in reading Markey's book, it is available for free online:

The war ended for Joseph Markey on May 26, 1899 when he was badly wounded by being shot in the right leg at San Fernando.  In August, Markey, along with other wounded members of the 51st Iowa, was shipped back to San Francisco aboard the hospital ship "Relief."  Joseph Markey was officially discharged from the US Army on August 18, 1899.  

Upon his return to Iowa while he was still convalescing from his war wounds, he was able to edit his letters and put them into book form - but that only lasted for awhile and he was still a young man - 32 in 1900.

Markey decided to move to the big city - Chicago - and got a job with The Chicago Horse Review magazine in 1901.  Within a very short time it became apparent that Joseph Markey had an eye for the horses.  Markey was one of the first to sing the praises of a standardbred trotting horse named Lou Dillon.  Markey predicted that she would become the first trotter to trot a mile in 2:00 minutes, and, in fact, she did just that at Memphis in 1903.  He was also the first to predict stardom for trotters Uhlan and Peter Manning.    

During this period, Markey often wrote under his pen name of "Marque." 

It wasn't all trotters for Joseph Markey - that is to say he found a little "filly" that turned his head.  Markey and Miss Bertha K. Sefton (1875-????) were married in Chicago on October 21, 1909.  Markey was 41; his bride was 34.

The 1910 US Census finds the newlyweds living at 5629 S. Indiana Avenue in Chicago:

5629 S. Indiana Avenue, Chicago
Markey listed his occupation as "Journalist for a Horse Paper"; Bertha was a stenographer.  They also had a live-in servant, 51 year old Childs E. Childs.

Joseph Markey's star as an expert on trotters kept rising through the 1910s.  In 1912 he brokered the sale of the trotting champion Harvester to Mr. C. K. G. Billings of New York City for "in excess of $50,000.00." Quite a coup for the boy from Chillicothe, Missouri.

Markey continued to be a valued contributor to the Chicago Horse Review throughout the teens and 1920s. 

By the time of the 1920 US Census, the Markeys had moved to the north side of Chicago - to 7742 N. Paulina:

7742 N. Paulina, Chicago

Joseph was a "Journalist for a Publishing Company."  Bertha was not employed, but they no longer had a live-in servant.

Joseph Markey's greatest contribution to horse racing happened in 1924. In April 1924, nomination ads for a stake with a value estimated at $50,000 appeared in The Horse Review.  Markey wrote several editorials in support of the race and John C. Bauer, the publisher, was credited with suggesting the name Hambletonian, after the great sire.

Markey's idea was made a reality by promoter Harry O. Reno of Chicago, Illinois, who assembled a managing committee of ten prominent breeders and officials. That managing committee became The Hambletonian Society. Reno, along with his brother-in-law W. M. Wright, owner of Calumet Farm, and Markey served on the original executive committee.

Three tracks (Atlanta, Ga., Kalamazoo, Mich., and Syracuse, N.Y.) submitted bids for the inaugural running of the Hambletonian Stake in August 1926. The race was awarded to the New York State Fair at Syracuse, which offered to add $8,000 to the purse. From the first edition it was the richest race in the trotting sport, a status it maintains to this day. In no small way the amount of the purse is responsible for its position as the sport's greatest prize. Because of the enthusiastic reception by breeders and owners, the 1926 purse swelled to $73,451 -- which was reported to be more than the sum total of next five richest stakes offered for 3-year-old trotters that same year. 

The race became a perennial favorite and is run to this day at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  For his contribution to the sport, Joseph I. Markey was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1978.

In about 1924 Joseph and Bertha Markey bought my boyhood home, at 1027 Harvard Terrace in Evanston, Illinois.  In 1921 various Chicago area home builders decided to construct a neighborhood of upscale bungalows on land that used to comprise the estate of Major Edward Harris Mulford in South Evanston.  The Markeys, living at that time at the far north end of Chicago, would certainly have seen the bungalows being built, and purchased 1027 Harvard in 1924, where they lived until Joseph Markey's death in 1930.

1027 Harvard Terrace, Evanston

The census taker for the 1930 US Census came to 1027 Harvard Terrace on April 21, 1930.  The Markeys reported that Joseph was 62 years old; Bertha was 55.  They said that 1027 Harvard was worth $16,000.00, and that they had a radio.  Bertha reported that her native language was German. Joe reported his occupation as "Writer for a Paper Publisher."       

Joseph I. Markey died at the Hines VA Hospital on June 2, 1930, after being ill for several years.  He was 62 years old.  Here is his Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of June 4, 1930:

Having been wounded in the service of his country, Markey was qualified to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and he was, on June 5, 1930 in Section W ENL, Site 21676:

So now you know the story of one of the owners of my boyhood home. As I said, no one famous or infamous, but a person with an interesting story nonetheless.

There are more sordid tales connected with my boyhood home – the mysterious and sudden death of the architect/builder, and the husband who plotted with unscrupulous doctors to have his wife declared insane so he could get rid of her – but those are stories for future articles in this blog.

So take some time and look into the history of your house – you may be very surprised.

The only known photo of Joseph I. Markey - from Hoof Beats Magazine, September, 1940:

Joseph I. Markey

Joseph I. Markey – Soldier, author, harness racing hall of famer – may he rest in peace.

Friday, May 15, 2015

THE VILLA VENICE - Albert "Papa" Bouche'

The public television station in Chicago sometimes runs a program called "Chicago Time Machine."  It's sort of like this blog on TV.  The host stands before a spot in Chicagoland today, and the tells you what happened there years ago - along with photos of the way it used to look.  One rainy Sunday afternoon I stumbled on an episode of Chicago Time Machine and I thought, "Now that's my kind of TV show," so I sat down to watch.

After several stories the host stood in front of a chain hotel in Wheeling, Illinois and started to tell the story of the Villa Venice restaurant and nightclub which stood on that spot from its opening in 1924 until it burned to the ground in 1967.  The host said, "The Villa Venice was owned and operated by a character called "Papa" Bouche."  He then went on to talk about the time the "Rat Pack" appeared at the Villa Venice, and  of it's mob connections, all of which happened after Papa Bouche sold the Villa Venice in 1956. 

The Villa Venice was before my time, but my parents used to fondly reminisce about evenings at the Villa Venice - and saved their most effusive praise for Papa Bouche himself, and what a wonderful host he was.  After hearing the Chicago Time Machine refer sneeringly to "a character called Papa Bouche" I decided to see what I could dig up about him and tell his story in this blog.  So sit back and I'll tell you the story of magical nights in Wheeling, Illinois and gondola rides on the Des Plaines River.

When digging into someone's background you usually discover interesting facts about them and this is certainly the case with Papa Bouche.  Albert Bouche was born Abram Laurin on January 13, 1881 (some sources say 1882) in Celano, Arbuzzo, Italy.  Nothing is known of his parents but his immigration papers mention a brother, Augusto Laurini.  We do know that Abram Laurin came to the United States from Italy for the first time on August 29, 1901 a the age of twenty.   We don't know how long he stayed in the US on this trip, but we do know that he came back to the US on July 30, 1906.  At that time he reported his name as "Abramo Laurini" and his occupation as "Cook."  He was coming to live with his brother Augusto who lived at 1091 East 182nd Street in New York City.  Abramo said that he had been in the US once before - for a "Job" in 1901.

Sometime after his arrival in the US in 1906, Abram Laurin changed his name to Albert Bouche'. History does not record why Abram changed his name, but he may have thought that the more exotic name of Albert Bouche' sounded better for a restaurateur.  The newly named Albert Bouche settled in Rochester, New York, and, the story is that he became not a restaurateur, but a policeman for the City of Rochester. (Note: Through the years Albert spelled his last name sometimes as "Bouche' " with the accent over the last "e", and sometimes as just "Bouche" without the accent.  For ease of typing, for the remainder of this story I will not use the accent unless the primary source uses it.)

There is no record of either Abram Laurin or Albert Bouche on the 1910 US Census but it was about that time that Albert made two life-altering decisions:  he got married, and he moved to Chicago.

For his bride he chose Flora Marseilles - a divorcee with a young daughter.  We'll let the new Mrs. Bouche tell the story in her own words:

"My maiden name was Flora Marseilles," she said.  "I met my first husband (Joseph) DeRepentigny, while I was attending the Notre Dame Convent in Montreal.  He forced my to elope with him to Rochester, New York, where the child (Marguerite Carmen DeRepentigny) was born. Subsequently Albert Bouche, who was then a policeman in Rochester came into my life.  I married him, and we moved to Chicago."

In fact, the first two times the name "Albert Bouche" was in the Chicago newspapers it had to do with his wife and step-daughter.  On September 3, 1912 the Chicago Tribune reported that a man named Joseph Milora tried to commit suicide because Flora would not leave Albert and marry him.

One year later on September 13, 1913 their names were in the Tribune again.  This time, Joseph DeRepentigny tried to kidnap ten year old Marguerite as she left Holy Name Cathedral Academy in Chicago. Luckily there were witnesses around, and within a short time DeRepentigny and his accomplice were captured and the girl (whom the Tribune called Marguerite Bouche) was reunited with her mother and step-father.

The Tribune did report that Albert Bouche was the proprietor of the Cafe Belvidere at 868 N. Clark at Chestnut Streets.  A parking lot occupies that space today.

The next time Albert Bouche's name was in the Chicago Tribune was on January 15, 1917, when the newspaper was reporting Bouche's arrest for refusing to observe Chicago's "Sunday Closing Rule" where restaurants could not serve liquor on Sundays.  There was a new police chief in town named Herman Schuettler and he was determined to enforce the "no liquor sold on Sunday" law.  On January 14, 1917, using eight teams of one policeman and one policewoman, Schuettler managed to close twenty-two "saloons, cafes and restaurants" and arrest their owners, bartenders, and sometimes even their waiters. Albert Bouche was among this unlucky group.  There was no further publicity about his arrest, so Bouche probably paid the fine and that was it.

On April 19, 1917 Abram Laurin, aka Albert Bouche applied for US citizenship - and was rejected - probably due to his police record.  In fact, Albert Bouche did not become a naturalized US citizen until 1926.  

On May 27, 1917 the Chicago Tribune announced that Albert Bouche was opening a new "summer restaurant" at Clark and Lawrence in Chicago at the site of the old Rainbo Gardens.  He called it the Moulin Rouge Gardens in remembrance of the time he worked as a chef (he said) at the Moulin Rouge in Paris.  Albert Bouche sold the Moulin Rouge Gardens in 1921 in preparation for bigger ventures.

First off, he bought a parcel of land on the Des Plaines River in Wheeling and built a roadhouse he named "The House That Jack Built."  It was on Milwaukee Avenue where it crosses the river.

The House That Jack Built - Wheeling, Illinois

Then he sold the Moulin Rouge summer restaurant and instead opened the Moulin Rouge all-year-round restaurant at 416 S. Wabash in Chicago.  416 S. Wabash is also a parking lot today.


The Real Estate page of the Chicago Tribune of April 6, 1924 carried the following item:


The 1920s were good for people, and good for Albert Bouche.  People had a lot of money to spend and they liked to go out to dinner or even better, dinner and a show.  Albert Bouche already knew that "if you build it, they will come."  The Chicago Daily Tribune from June 12, 1924 announced the upcoming opening of the Villa Venice:

From the very beginning, Albert Bouche strove to make an evening at the Villa Venice an "event." He spared no expense on the exterior and interior of the restaurant and also on the shows he produced. 

He wanted the time spent at the Villa Venice to be "magical," and it was, but it was more than that. According to people I have talked to, Papa Bouche had the talent of making everyone feel that he was doing all this just for them.  He was a gracious host, greeting every guest by name if possible and went out of his way to make their evening one they would talk about for years to come. 

In the summer of 1925, Albert Bouche the showman had an idea - there were gondolas in Venice, why not gondolas at the Villa Venice? Here's the announcement from July 25, 1925:

Yes, you could actually take a gondola ride on the Des Plaines River - complete with singing gondoliers.  The gondolas Albert Bouche bought were original antique Venetian gondolas - he had to get permission from the Italian government to take them out of Italy.  Here's a view of the gondolas in the Des Plaines River and their launching point from the Villa Venice:

In the early 1930s, Albert Bouche decided to branch out - he opened a second Villa Venice in Miami Beach, Florida.  Here's the first ad for it from June 9, 1932:

and later in the 1930s he opened a third Villa Venice - this one in Dallas, Texas.

Here's a program from the Villa Venice from 1933.  It will give you a good idea of what a night at Papa Bouche's meant:

Three shows each night - the first at nine, the second at midnight and the third at 2:45 a.m.!  And the midnight show was different from the other two and you were invited to stay!  Boy, those days are gone forever...

Here are color photos of two of the dining rooms at the Villa Venice:

Bouche's first name was Albert, but everyone called him "Papa Bouche." I don't know how this got started but the first time it appeared in print was June 17, 1942:

My parents always referred to "Papa Bouche" as if he were a member of the family.

Papa Bouche's restaurants may have been very successful, but his marriage was not.  He had married Flora back in about 1910 in Rochester, New York when he was a policeman.  Now he was a noted restaurateur and showman with Villa Venice nightclubs in Chicago, Miami Beach and Dallas, as well as a dinner theatre in New York City. During those days, Papa Bouche was either working or travelling.  He was constantly back and forth to Florida to Texas to New York to Chicago to keep an eye on things, and then off to Europe, Cuba or South America hunting for new talent and new ideas for his shows. Albert and Flora's marriage was essentially over by the late 1920s, although Flora was still calling herself "Mrs Albert Bouche" as late as 1934.  I could not find any record of a divorce, but Flora seems to disappear after the mid-1930s.

Starting about 1930, Albert picked up an interesting travelling companion.  Her name was Edna Olts (1898-1984) and she accompanied Albert on all of his overseas trips.  By the 1940s she had even moved into the Villa Venice and was openly living with Albert.  In fact, as late as 1947, travel documents were referring to her as "Edna Olts known as Edna Bouche."  They must have finally married in 1948 because it was reported that the IRS audited Bouche's return for 1946 and 1947 and "the returns of Bouche and his wife Edna" for 1948, 1949 and 1950.

You would think that for someone in the limelight like Papa Bouche that there would be hundreds of photos of him in existence.  The truth is, in all my research I was only able to find two - and neither one is a head-on shot.  The first one is from June of 1948 where Papa Bouche is in New York looking for 25 girls to add to his show.  It seems he had gone through all the pretty girls in Chicago:

Here's one where he's a little more "formal", and the girls are a little less...a little less...well - a little less!:

The end of an era was announced in the Tower Ticker column of the Chicago Daily Tribune on October 12, 1956:

"Aging Papa Bouche sold his Villa Venice (in Wheeling) and poof goes Chi.'s most fantastic showplace."

Yes, the Villa Venice would continue under new ownership as the "New" Villa Venice, but it just wouldn't be the same.  The dream that was the Villa Venice finally ended when it burned to the ground on March 4, 1967.

Albert Bouche had maintained a separate residence in Miami Beach, Florida for years and he ultimately lived there full time after he sold his Chicago operations.  Eventually Bouche sold all his restaurants as age and poor health began to catch up with him.

Albert Bouche died in August of 1964 in Miami Beach.  He was 83 years old.  He was buried in Fred Hunter's Hollywood Memorial Gardens East in Hollywood, Florida:

Photo Courtesy Find a Grave Volunteer JoeyC

Out of sight - out of mind.  Even after all his years as a restaurateur and showman in Chicago, the only note of the death of Papa Bouche was this mention buried in Herb Lyon's "Tower Ticker" column of  August 21, 1964:

"Albert (Papa) Bouche who ran the spectacular shows at the Villa Venice during its voom days, died in Hallandale, Fla., at 83."

After the Villa Venice burned in 1967 it was not rebuilt.  Instead, a Hilton Hotel and Allgauer's restaurant (which they have the audacity to call "Allgauer's on the Riverfront") now stand on the site.

Since I moved to Wheeling last year I often pass by the site of the Villa Venice.  And if I concentrate really hard I can hear the sound of music and laughter and the singing of the gondoliers on the Des Plaines River. Oh, the Villa Venice - how magical it must have been.

Papa Bouche' - there will never be another like him.  May he rest in peace.

Friday, May 1, 2015


I did not know my aunt Rachel Craig (nee Harvey) very well.  She was married to my father's oldest brother Raphael Craig.  I know that my aunt suffered terribly from multiple sclerosis so to visit we had to go to them, rather than them coming to see us.  They lived way out on the south side of Chicago and in the days before expressways, going to see them was an all-day trip.  Aunt Rachel died in February of 1959 and Uncle Raph followed her in January of 1960.

It wasn't until years later when I was doing genealogy research that I found out the terrible story about the sudden death of Aunt Rachel's father, Edward Harvey.  Through I was contacted by Rachel's nephew Cliff Harvey and he filled me in on all the details about the Harvey family.  Before we look at the story of Edward Harvey's sudden death, let's take a look at his life.

Edward Henry Charles Harvey was born September 24, 1877 in Lacon, Illinois to Michael Henry Harvey (1851-1934) and Katherine, nee Kennedy (1858-1944).  Michael and Katherine had married in Lacon on December 24, 1876 and were blessed with two sons:  Edward (1877-1919) and William (1879-1957).

Edward shows up on the 1880 US Census as a three year old along with his parents and younger brother.  Michael Harvey indicated his occupation as "Laborer."

Sometime between 1881 and 1885 Michael and Katherine were divorced.  After the divorce Edward lived with his father in Streator, Illinois.

The 1890 US Census for this area is, of course, lost.

The 1900 US Census shows Edward living with John and Daisy Miller on their farm in Long Point in Livingston County, Illinois.  He was employed as a farmhand.

On January 7, 1905, Edward Harvey married Grace Deffenbaugh (1883-1971) in Lacon.  Edward and Grace were blessed with eight children: Jack Edward/Gail (1905-1983), Ray D. (1906-1965), Rachel (1908-1959), Carl Owen (1909-1952), Clifford Charles (1911-1993), Lowell M. (1913-1990), John (1914-1980) and Walter (1916-1974).

The 1910 US Census shows the young Harvey family living in Bennington, Illinois.  Thirty-two year old Edward, a carpenter for a house builder, twenty-three year old Grace, and the children Gale, Ray, Rachel and Carl.  They were renting their home "Lots 1, 2, 3 and 4 north of 14th Street."

That brings us up to the terrible accident that took the life of Edward Harvey.  Here is the account from the Lacon Home Journal:

Met Death From Electric Wire Monday Afternoon
Sad Affair Happened About Four O'clock Just West Of Lacon Bridge.
Leaves Wife And Eight Children. 

It has been truthfully said that in the mist of life we are in death and the sudden passing of Edward Harvey of this city about four o'clock last Monday afternoon is another evidence of what an uncertain quantity is life. 

Mr. Harvey was employed with the line crew of the Public Service Company that was working on the city road west of the bridge.  Lines of wire were being changed and two long wires were tied to Edward McMahon's wagon.  He started to drag them a short distance, it being the intention to anchor them to an electric light pole so there would be no danger of them getting on the road. The wires were being pulled over the cross arms on several electric light poles and when one of the wires was about to pass over one of these cross arms it flew up and came in contact with a live wire of the high line carrying 4,400 volts of electricity.  Mr. McMahon noticed that something was wrong, as his team became almost unmanageable.  Almost at the same time Mr. Harvey started to untie the wire from the wagon.  No sooner had he touched it than he went down like a man struck with an axe.  As usual in such cases he was unable to let loose of the fatal wire and death must have been almost instantaneous.  Mr. McMahon was only slightly shocked, due to the fact that he was sitting on a dry blanket and had on shoes with rubber soles.  The wire that caused the death of Mr. Harvey came in contact with a pole along side of the road and there were reports like the crack of a pistol while fire flew in every direction.  The right hand of the unfortunate man was burned at one place to a crisp and there was also a seared place on his neck where the wire had burned.  

Drs. Bradford and Bennington were quickly summoned and the force of the workmen of the Public Service Company worked with the stricken man for almost two hours in an attempt to revive him, but in vain.  It is probable that he was dead in a few minutes after being stricken with the fatal current.
No one appears to have been a fault, the accident simply was one of those sad affairs that will occasionally occur in work of this kind.
The county coroner came over Tuesday and held an inquest at the Lenz Undertaking establishment were the body was taken after all hope of revival had been abandoned.  A verdict of accidental death was returned by the jury, which was composed of the following: Louie Lenz, Foreman, John Shafer, John Ludke, Turner Black, Ralph Jenkins and Frank Lewis.
Edward Henry Harvey was born in Lacon on September 25, 1877, being a son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Harvey.  He had lived the greater part of his life in Lacon, altho he sent a part of his earlier years in Streator with his father, his parents having separated.  He was married in this city on January 07, 1905, to Grace Deffenbaugh.  There were born to them eight children, all of whom with the wife survive him.  He is also survived by his parents, his father living in Manville, near Streator, and his mother, now Mrs. George Finkenbinder, of this city, and also one brother, William Harvey.  The children are seven boys and one girl, Gail, Ray, Rachel, Carl, Clifford, Lowell, John and Walter.  There are also one half brother and two half sisters living in Streator.
The funeral was held yesterday at the residence at 2 o'clock, Rev. L. M. Thompson officiating, and the interment made in Lacon Cemetery.

Here is Edward's tombstone in the Lacon City Cemetery:

So that's the terrible story of the sudden death of my Aunt Rachel's father, Edward Harvey - struck down in the prime of life leaving a widow and eight(!) children. 

Edward Harvey

Edward Harvey - May he rest in peace.