A chat with White Fence Farm’s owner and manager

A reader recently tipped me off to this interview by the Village of Romeoville, Illinois, of Laura Hastert, owner and manager of the original White Fence Farm for nearly 20 years.

The six-minute video provides background on the famous fried-chicken restaurant along Joliet Road (aka Route 66) near Chicago, including about Hastert herself.

The restaurant’s website doesn’t have much on its long history, but Wikipedia does:

Stuyvesant ‘Jack’ Peabody, son of Peabody Coal Company founder Francis S. Peabody and himself CEO of Peabody Coal at the time. It was opened on a 12-acre plot that Jack Peabody owned across U.S. Route 66/Joliet Road from his 450-acre Lemont horse farm, where thoroughbred racehorses were bred, boarded and trained.

The story was that Jack Peabody often had weekend guests at his horse farm, but there was no restaurant in the area where he could entertain them – so he started one himself. The roadside restaurant, which opened in a converted farmhouse, was known then for its hamburger sandwiches and Guernsey milk products, including ice cream.

By the time U.S. Route 66 opened in November 1926, White Fence Farm had already served several thousand customers. It was reviewed several times during the Peabody years by the early restaurant critic Duncan Hines, who had been a fan of the restaurant since the late 1920s. After Prohibition ended, Jack Peabody promoted California wines at the restaurant and helped to revive the California wine industry, as he had earlier helped to revive thoroughbred horse racing in Illinois during the 1910s and 1920s. Peabody operated the restaurant successfully until his death in 1946.

The Hastert family took over the restaurant in 1954 and have been running it since.

Here’s a 1983 television ad for the restaurant:

White Fence Farm long has competed with another Route 66 fried-chicken institution, Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket of nearby Willowbrook.

The White Fence Farm in Romeoville shouldn’t be confused with the White Fence Farm of Lakewood, Colorado, that closed late last year. The restaurant near Denver had no affiliation with the Chicagoland restaurant.

(Hat tip to Marla “Lulu” Bagdon; an image of White Fence Farm in Romeoville, Illinois, via Facebook)

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