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Exploring Ray Kroc’s Chicago

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McDonald’s is soon to be in the news for reasons other than the company’s much-ballyhooed impending move from Oak Brook to the bustling West Loop neighborhood in downtown Chicago. A Hollywood film starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, due out in January, chronicles how this Chicago native wrested control of the hamburger stand first hatched in California. Here’s a guide to Kroc’s Chicago from the author of a new book about the hamburger king and his third wife, Joan.

Lisa Napoli is the author of the new book, Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave it All Away, published in November by Dutton.

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1. Oak Park Arms Hotel

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408 S Oak Park Ave
Oak Park, IL 60302
Pioneering radio station WTAY (Wireless Tunes Await You) launched in the ballroom of this elegant hotel in 1923 and later became WGES. Newlywed to his sweetheart Ethel, Ray would work all day as a salesman for Lily Paper Cup, and by night play piano live on the air until the station went dark for the night.

2. 515 E. Fairview

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515 E Fairview St
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
When Ray and wife Ethel bought their first home, it was in suburban Arlington Heights, just a stone’s throw from the Rolling Hills Country Club. Ray convinced a number of his golfing buddies to become the first McDonald’s franchisees.
Google Street View

3. LaSalle-Wacker Building

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121 W Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60601
The limestone and granite art deco LaSalle-Wacker Building facing the Chicago River is where Ray first set up shop as franchise agent for Prince Castle Sales, selling five-spindled milkshake machines called Multi-Mixers. Later, he operated McDonald’s and Franchise Realty Corporation out of this location. The elevator operator announced to visitors that they had reached “Hamburger Heaven” when they arrived on the floor.
Wikimedia Commons

4. McDonald’s #1 Store Museum

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400 Lee St
Des Plaines, IL 60016
Often erroneously referred to as the first McDonald’s, this site was the location of the first franchise location built by Ray Kroc in 1955. The true first McDonald's location was built in San Bernardino, California in 1940 by the brothers McDonald. The structure that stands in Des Plaines today is a replacement of the original, which McDonald’s Corporation tore down in 1984.
AJ LaTrace

5. Hottinger’s Swiss Garden Chalet

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201 Glenwood Dyer Rd
Glenwood, IL 60425
Before Ray opened Raymond’s, the upscale hamburger place in Chicago and Beverly Hills, he and business associates Harry Sonneborn and June Martino pooled money to buy this old beer garden in suburban Glenwood. There were no hamburgers on the menu here—the Chicago Tribune called the brisket and country fried chicken “hearty and reasonably priced.”

6. First Hamburger University location

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1912 E Higgins Rd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Built in the basement of the Elk Grove McDonald’s in 1961, and later expanded in 1968, this trade school still exists today to train employees in all things Mickey D’s, from operating the fryer to proper milkshake viscosity.

7. Whitehall Hotel

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105 E Delaware Pl
Chicago, IL 60611
After he divorced Ethel in 1961 and was spurned by Joan, Ray found himself spending time at this Magnificent Mile gem. It was in the dining room where he met Chef Rene Arendt, the Luxembourger whom he later lured to McDonald’s, where he created Chicken McNuggets.
Whitehall Hotel

8. 1242 N. Lake Shore Drive

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1242 N Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60610
When Ray finally convinced Joan Smith to marry him, they purchased the top two floors of this elegant Gold Coast building for $140,000—ten times the cost of an average house at the time. Designer Raymond Jacque Dayan was hired to remodel the 5,300-square-foot residence, including the installation of an organ in the wall, as well as a freestanding piano, and a state-of-the-art air filtration system (the better to vent the cigarette smoke of these prolific smokers.)
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff

9. Children's Memorial Hospital

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2300 N Childrens Plaza
Chicago, IL 60614
After McDonald’s IPO in 1965 made him a multi-millionaire, Ray Kroc began making strategic philanthropic gifts as criticism of McDonald’s impact on the environment and consumer’s nutrition began to mount. Donations included a theater at the Adler Planetarium, an environmental exhibition at the Field Museum, an ape house and animal hospital at the Lincoln Park Zoo (the Krocs were allowed to name a gorilla as part of their gift), and a three-story wing at Children’s Memorial Hospital dubbed the Joan and Ray A. Kroc Diagnostic Treatment Center.
Children's Memorial Hospital

10. American Pet Motel

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21801 Milwaukee Ave
Lincolnshire, IL 60069
When the idea for a chain of pet motels on the scale of McDonald’s crossed Ray’s desk, he bit, if only to give his animal-loving wife Joan busy. The prototype was built replete with brass beds for dogs and custom snacks but when the business deal went sour, the chain never took off.

11. Continental Plaza

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909 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
700 of Ray’s friends and associates gathered here to mark his 75th birthday in 1977, including a school chum from Oak Park Elementary and spurned associates Harry Sonneborn and June Martino.
Courtesy of Lisa Napoli

12. Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center

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250 W 119th St
Chicago, IL 60628
Ray died in 1984, leaving Joan his fortune. When she passed away in 2003, her largest single donation was close to $2 billion, for the creation of recreation centers around the nation. The 160,000-square-foot Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center erected on a 33-acre campus on the South Side opened in the Pullman District in June of 2012.
Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center

1. Oak Park Arms Hotel

408 S Oak Park Ave, Oak Park, IL 60302
Pioneering radio station WTAY (Wireless Tunes Await You) launched in the ballroom of this elegant hotel in 1923 and later became WGES. Newlywed to his sweetheart Ethel, Ray would work all day as a salesman for Lily Paper Cup, and by night play piano live on the air until the station went dark for the night.
408 S Oak Park Ave
Oak Park, IL 60302

2. 515 E. Fairview

515 E Fairview St, Arlington Heights, IL 60005
Google Street View
When Ray and wife Ethel bought their first home, it was in suburban Arlington Heights, just a stone’s throw from the Rolling Hills Country Club. Ray convinced a number of his golfing buddies to become the first McDonald’s franchisees.
515 E Fairview St
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

3. LaSalle-Wacker Building

121 W Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601
Wikimedia Commons
The limestone and granite art deco LaSalle-Wacker Building facing the Chicago River is where Ray first set up shop as franchise agent for Prince Castle Sales, selling five-spindled milkshake machines called Multi-Mixers. Later, he operated McDonald’s and Franchise Realty Corporation out of this location. The elevator operator announced to visitors that they had reached “Hamburger Heaven” when they arrived on the floor.
121 W Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60601

4. McDonald’s #1 Store Museum

400 Lee St, Des Plaines, IL 60016
AJ LaTrace
Often erroneously referred to as the first McDonald’s, this site was the location of the first franchise location built by Ray Kroc in 1955. The true first McDonald's location was built in San Bernardino, California in 1940 by the brothers McDonald. The structure that stands in Des Plaines today is a replacement of the original, which McDonald’s Corporation tore down in 1984.
400 Lee St
Des Plaines, IL 60016

5. Hottinger’s Swiss Garden Chalet

201 Glenwood Dyer Rd, Glenwood, IL 60425
Before Ray opened Raymond’s, the upscale hamburger place in Chicago and Beverly Hills, he and business associates Harry Sonneborn and June Martino pooled money to buy this old beer garden in suburban Glenwood. There were no hamburgers on the menu here—the Chicago Tribune called the brisket and country fried chicken “hearty and reasonably priced.”
201 Glenwood Dyer Rd
Glenwood, IL 60425

6. First Hamburger University location

1912 E Higgins Rd, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Built in the basement of the Elk Grove McDonald’s in 1961, and later expanded in 1968, this trade school still exists today to train employees in all things Mickey D’s, from operating the fryer to proper milkshake viscosity.
1912 E Higgins Rd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

7. Whitehall Hotel

105 E Delaware Pl, Chicago, IL 60611
Whitehall Hotel
After he divorced Ethel in 1961 and was spurned by Joan, Ray found himself spending time at this Magnificent Mile gem. It was in the dining room where he met Chef Rene Arendt, the Luxembourger whom he later lured to McDonald’s, where he created Chicken McNuggets.
105 E Delaware Pl
Chicago, IL 60611

8. 1242 N. Lake Shore Drive

1242 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60610
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff
When Ray finally convinced Joan Smith to marry him, they purchased the top two floors of this elegant Gold Coast building for $140,000—ten times the cost of an average house at the time. Designer Raymond Jacque Dayan was hired to remodel the 5,300-square-foot residence, including the installation of an organ in the wall, as well as a freestanding piano, and a state-of-the-art air filtration system (the better to vent the cigarette smoke of these prolific smokers.)
1242 N Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60610

9. Children's Memorial Hospital

2300 N Childrens Plaza, Chicago, IL 60614
Children's Memorial Hospital
After McDonald’s IPO in 1965 made him a multi-millionaire, Ray Kroc began making strategic philanthropic gifts as criticism of McDonald’s impact on the environment and consumer’s nutrition began to mount. Donations included a theater at the Adler Planetarium, an environmental exhibition at the Field Museum, an ape house and animal hospital at the Lincoln Park Zoo (the Krocs were allowed to name a gorilla as part of their gift), and a three-story wing at Children’s Memorial Hospital dubbed the Joan and Ray A. Kroc Diagnostic Treatment Center.
2300 N Childrens Plaza
Chicago, IL 60614

10. American Pet Motel

21801 Milwaukee Ave, Lincolnshire, IL 60069
When the idea for a chain of pet motels on the scale of McDonald’s crossed Ray’s desk, he bit, if only to give his animal-loving wife Joan busy. The prototype was built replete with brass beds for dogs and custom snacks but when the business deal went sour, the chain never took off.
21801 Milwaukee Ave
Lincolnshire, IL 60069

11. Continental Plaza

909 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Courtesy of Lisa Napoli
700 of Ray’s friends and associates gathered here to mark his 75th birthday in 1977, including a school chum from Oak Park Elementary and spurned associates Harry Sonneborn and June Martino.
909 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611

12. Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center

250 W 119th St, Chicago, IL 60628
Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center
Ray died in 1984, leaving Joan his fortune. When she passed away in 2003, her largest single donation was close to $2 billion, for the creation of recreation centers around the nation. The 160,000-square-foot Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center erected on a 33-acre campus on the South Side opened in the Pullman District in June of 2012.
250 W 119th St
Chicago, IL 60628