Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wooden Hadley Houses Part of Local History

If you’ve lived in Winnetka, Illinois for a long time, you may remember a red and green wooden schoolhouse with Hadley School for the Blind painted on the side.

Designed by former Hadley director Dorrance Nygaard, these Hadley Houses graced a number of area businesses thanks to the efforts of Robert Lechner, a longtime Winnetka resident and former president of Zengeler Cleaners. Lechner was active in the community as a member of the Winnetka Lions Club for more than 20 years, including serving as its president. He also was a past president of the Winnetka Chamber of Commerce. Lechner was interested in promoting Winnetka’s “hometown treasure,” so he worked with the Lions and area businesses to feature the Hadley Houses in their establishments.

One of those businesses was Charlie Beinlich’s Food and Tap in Northbrook. According to Lechner’s son, Larry, he used to frequent Beinlich’s every week. While we can’t say for certain, we are fairly sure that’s how three wooden Hadley Houses ended up in Charlie’s tavern in 1954.

According to Charlie’s granddaughter, Linda Rainey, who now owns the business with her husband Tom, the Hadley Houses have become a staple in the tavern’s history. When Charlie Beinlich’s first opened, the “language” in the place was so bad, Linda says, that Charlie insisted anyone who swore had to put some change in the “blind box.” He would then match the amount from the register. Over the years, any change dropped onto the floor or behind the bar was promptly added to the Hadley House as well. These hard-to-miss wooden houses still sit on the bar today and have generated thousands of dollars for the school. The houses also have been a great conversation starter, especially with out-of-towners. One is even featured on the tavern’s website.

The Hadley Houses also have played an important part in local Lions history, showcasing the strong relationship Hadley has had with the organization since the 1930s. Giant replicas of the Hadley Houses were featured on floats in local “Candy Day” parades to raise awareness, and Lions members who referred new students to the school were recognized with a special pin. Whether it was through the Lions of Illinois Blind Activities Committee that was set up to assist Hadley, or the Winnetka Lions Club, word got out about the school.

This year, Hadley celebrates its 90th anniversary as the leading educator of braille and the largest provider of distance education for people who are blind or visually impaired, their families and blindness service providers. With 10,000 students in more than 100 countries, the world is Hadley’s campus, but because of the support of community members such as the Beinlich family, Bob Lechner and the Lions Club, this will always be our home.

© 2010 The Hadley School for the Blind
700 Elm Street, Winnetka, Illinois 60093 - 2554
Toll-Free: 800-323-4238
Phone: 847-446-8111
Fax: 847-446-9916
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