Monarch Laundry

Monarch Laundry was one of the largest laundries on the south side of Chicago. In Roseland, it was very popular and many people on the Roseland Facebook thread have commented they worked there. In fact, my father said he worked in the laundry area for a few months, my mother worked in the office for a few years, and her mother worked in the office for many years.

I don’t know the exact year, but it was founded by Bernard Vellenga, Sr., who is the son of my paternal great-great grandmother, Johanna Ooms Rieve, from her third marriage to Age Vellenga. He is a half-brother to my great-grandfather, Adam Ooms. A great-uncle or grand-uncle is the brother of one’s grandparents, so that technically would make him my (half) great-great-uncle or great grand-uncle then?

According to Robert Swierenga in his book, Dutch Chicago, Monarch Laundry had more than fifty trucks in service at one time. Simon Dekker mentioned Monarch Laundry in 1939 on page 225 of his book, History of Roseland and Vicinity, written in 1939:

“It has been built some twenty or twenty-five years ago by a stock company, but gradually the stockholders sold their stock to Mr. Ben Vellenga. Then it was only a small concern, a one story building fronting on Wentworth Ave. After it had been operating for a few years it was ruined by a fire on a Sunday morning. It was then rebuilt and a story added to it, later extending it on the north side. Business expanding they enlarged again, adding an addition on the south side. So it now fronts on 111th St. also, where the main office is now located, that street being more prominent than Wentworth Ave. How many hands they employ I could now say. I guess quite a few. The Monarch Laundry has a large garage on 104th Street near Michigan Ave. which will hold more than 50 trucks, and room for washing and repairing them. The Monarch Laundry is one of the largest if not the largest laundry on the south side.”

So that makes it sound as if it was built about 1919 or before that time.

I remember my father telling me and I mentioned it in an earlier blog post, that when the Ooms store was sold, Monarch Laundry had bought it and tore it down to make a parking lot. He also mentioned that when he worked at the gas station (now I can’t remember which one), that station had a contract to provide gas to Monarch’s trucks and he spent many afternoons doing this and got to know a lot of Monarch’s drivers. There was also a store on the southeast corner of 111th and Wentworth, which is still standing, where people could drive up and drop off/pick up laundry and dry cleaning. He said he spent much of his time in the backroom there hanging out with Ben, Sr.’s grandsons, Dave and Dan Vellenga (his cousins). He also mentioned that Dick Van Beek’s father owned the Mattmiller laundry on the south side.

About two decades ago, I corresponded with one of Bernard, Sr.’s children, Florence (Vellenga) Spindler, and saved her letter. She was a very nice lady who was so helpful with the Vellenga side. She told me that Bernard, Sr’s sons, Bernard, Jr., Arthur and William (Bill), her brothers, worked there, along with Dick Van Beek. After Bernard, Sr. and Arthur died, Dick Van Beek and Bill carried on until they sold the laundry in 1967.

This photo is from Calvin College’s Origin’s magazine from 1987, not sure what year it was taken:

Three weeks ago, my father gave me a Roseland area directory from August 1971-72 and I found an add for Monarch Laundry:

Thanks for reading!

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