Let’s Run It Up the Flagpole…

Submitted by Mary Ann Armbruster

In November 2013, at a general meeting of the MBRA, Mary Ann Middleton, a long-time champion of our neighborhood and our country, proposed that a plaque be installed at Tricorn Park, commemorating the placement of the flagpole which flies the United States flag more than 70 feet over the intersection.

The current Board of MBRA is working to fulfill that request and we will soon have a date for an official dedication. Mary Ann Middleton participated in the research and planning up until her untimely death on May 31st, 2014.  

The story of how the flagpole got to the park turned out to be a tale of imagination, neighborhood camaraderie and hard work. It all started one evening in 1975. The USA was approaching the 200th anniversary of its founding and plans were afoot all over the country for celebration. Moss Avenue residents Eleanor Heinz-Dries and Shirley Hanley were having a neighborly conversation and bandying about ideas for a patriotic party. As Shirley Hanley later told it to the community newspaper, the West Bluff Word, Eleanor said she would donate her sixty-five foot flag pole to be placed on the triangle if someone would move it over there. The flagpole of which she spoke had been placed in the backyard of Eleanor’s home at 1222 W. Moss by Murray Baker when he built the home in 1912. (Murray Baker was a founder of Caterpillar, and that’s another rich bit of Moss Avenue history!).

Shirley Hanley’s husband, John Patrick Hanley, was enlisted to take on the job of moving the flagpole. His family’s steel fabricating company, A. Lucas, would prove an invaluable ally when it came to equipment and know-how. Neighbors rallied round, completing paperwork for the city and park district, digging, welding, and painting, and finally, with the help of Hamm Erection Company, hoisting the flagpole into the ground. The triangle of ground was christened Tricorn Park, after the shape of the hats worn by Revolutionary War soldiers.

The celebration that ensued on July 4, 1975 included bagpipes, a clerical invocation, city officials and throngs of neighbors. The Dries family raised the first flag, which was donated by Mayor Carver and had been flown over the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The West Bluff Word story concluded by saying that “the true heart of this story is the spirit and determination of people when they want to get a job done.”

Future issues of the MBRA Newsletter will include more stories about Tricorn Park, its history, the brick project of the 1980s, the restoration project in 2008, and the on-going dedication to it’s maintenance by many neighbors.