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A Tale For What 'Ales' You

A history of the village's well-known watering holes.

For such a small village, seemed to have more than its share of taverns.

In the earliest days the tavern was a place for travelers to stop for the night and get a meal before continuing on their way. Daniel Gray’s tavern on Jefferson Street was located near the a shallow spot in the Fox River where the Galena Stage Coach could ford the river on it’s journey to and from Chicago.

In the 1830s, Nicholas Gray built a log cabin on the west side of the river, just south of the village of Montgomery. Indians would travel down the river and stop at the cabin, scaring his wife Sophia ‘half out of her wits’. When a spring “freshet” swept the little cabin away, the family escaped and moved to higher ground. They built a new log cabin nearer to Route 31, and eventually added more rooms. In the early 1930s, this building was purchased by Chicago racketeers and fitted out with a three thousand dollar bar, and elegant furnishings to suit the Roadhouse they intended to open. Unfortunately, rivals torched the building on the night before it’s grand opening. Nothing remains of this historical building.

In the heart of town, Shannon’s seemed to be most like the typical small town bar where the locals hung out after work and cashed their paychecks on Friday.  It was much like the popular TV series “Cheers.”

On the corner of Webster and River Streets, the Southshore Inn/Riveria Hotel attracted the most outsiders, and a lively late night crowd. The second floor hotel had a questionable reputation, so any local who valued his or her’s would avoid being seen there.

Along the east riverbank, just north of the Montgomery Bridge, the Fox River Tavern sat back from the road in a grove of trees.  The area was at that time, just outside of town. Mysteriously it seemed to keep going in spite of prohibition. The Kendall County record mentions an altercation between customers of “Crazy Mary’s Place” in Montgomery. This is the most likely location for that tavern.

If there were other taverns operating in the area, no records could be found. After the cheese factory at Mill and River Streets burned to the ground, a new Tavern was built with Mike Grass as proprietor. It became known as Bill’s Place.  It was later purchased by Alex Pocus and named the Mill Tavern. After her father’s death, his daughter Alice operated it until her recent death. Along with Shannon’s tavern, it was a friendly bar frequented by the locals and workmen from the area factories.

Sometime after 1937, a new restaurant, dancehall, and bar opened on South Broadway, north of the Montgomery Bridge at the corner of Sherman Avenue. It was called Chicken-Jack’s Rainbow-Gardens. An early ad in the 1937 Aurora City Directory calls it “the Most Popular Place in the Fox River Valley. We are noted for our famous fried chicken, steak and seafood dinners… DANCING AND ENTERTAINMENT…  (Located) East River Road, Two miles south of Aurora, near Montgomery Bridge. A later ad includes Frog Leg Dinners on the menu.

This establishment changed hands often over the years. It was once listed as Hattie Mikel’s Tavern, then later as Mrs. Harriet R. Mitchell’s. In 1943, Horace Kenell and wife Alta owned the Rainbow Gardens. In 1946 Eleanor Hanlon owned it. In 1948, Jack Bierworth of Oswego is listed in the Aurora City Directory as owner of Rainbow Gardens. In 1954, Gregory Hanlon was listed as owner, along with his wife Eleanor.

During the years that it was known as Chicken Jack’s, a radio advertising campaign told listeners they would make random phone calls and give a free Chicken dinner to anyone who answered the phone with, “Wishin’ for Chicken.”   Imagine the surprise when a favorite aunt would answer her phone with “Wishin’ for Chicken” instead of “Hello.” Did Chicken Jack’s ever call her?  Probably not.

Eventually it became known as Mitchell’s Cocktail Lounge, owned by Mitchell Blusiewiez. A drive-in package liquor business occupied the Sherman Avenue side of the building. He renamed it Bluz Bros. Steinfactory in 1983.

In 1987, the business directory listed “Suds Pub” and “Suds” Discount Liquors, at 1250 S. Broadway, Montgomery. Connie A. Charest was listed as owner, living on Culver Road in Boulder Hill.

In 1990, the owners are listed as Eileen Kileen and Victoria Peterson. The following year Connie Charest’s name was dropped, but Eileen Kileen and Victoria Peterson gave the same Culver Road address.

By 1992, Drew Peterson was listed as owner of “Suds Pub,” along with his wife Victoria, and they lived on Seminole Lane in Bolingbrook. This would be Peterson's address for the next three years. He was listed as owner of “Suds Pub” with 10 employees, until 1995. This is the latest record that our researcher, Barbara Peck, could find in the archives of the Historical Preservation files and the Montgomery collection of Aurora City Directories. 

Drew Peterson was married to his wife Victoria for 10 years before she divorced him in 1992 while he was dating Kathleen Savio. They married two months later. In one entry she is listed as a co-owner of “Suds” with Drew. They were divorced in 2003 after 10 years of marriage.

The bar attracted a rowdy crowd and eventually wore out it’s welcome. The rest of the Drew Peterson story is currently being played out in the courts, as the ex-Bolingbrook policeman is on trial for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen. This sensational trial is gaining national attention and has prompted this story of the history of this building.

The current bar and restaurant, under new management, is called Elmer’s, and enjoys a much better reputation than the earlier pub.

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