The Lone Ranger: Home on the Range

Vol. VII No. 1 - SPRING 1996

By: J. D. Meacham

The modest exterior of the solid, red brick with white trim house at 6254 N. Glenwood belies its fascinating history. Uninformed passers-by would hardly guess that it was the boyhood home of an American legend - The Lone Ranger.

Built between 1901 and 1902 by Edmund Raymond, a prominent masonry contractor, the house has gone through few renovations or “remuddlings.” Prior to 1909, when Glenwood was named Southport and Rosemont was Ernst, its address was 2829 Southport. The Raymond family were its original occupants. Mr. Raymond was also responsible for building the Queen Anne style home next door at 6252 N. Southport, completing it in 1897.

By September 14, 1914, however, the Raymonds had moved out and the Moore family had moved in. Local legend has it that, on that date, in what is now one of the back bedrooms, their son, Clayton Moore, was born.

Clayton grew up in the Edgewater area and attended Hayt Grammar School, Sullivan Junior High and Senn High School. At Sullivan, he was the drum major. At Senn, he was a gymnast and a member of the Alpha Sigma Lambda fraternity. His family was close-knit and spent a lot of time doing fun things together, like tobogganing, skiing (in Palos Park) and ice skating.

To this day, Mr. Moore attributes his strong sense of values to his Edgewater upbringing and the good, strong Midwestern foundation he received during his school days.

A March 8, 1992 “Chicago Voices” article in the Chicago Tribune Magazine (interviewer: Norma Libman) quoted Moore on some of his youthful recollections:

I remember the Granada Theater at Sheridan and Devon. I used to go there on Saturdays and take my cap guns with me. We’d get there at 11 o’clock or noon and stay all day, watching the serials and the westerns. There was William F. Hart and Tom Mix and George O’Brien. We loved watching the movies and then playing cowboys and Indians.
And we had our groups of friends. My group was called the Glenwood Middies. I had no idea what that word meant or how we could have spelled it if we ever wrote it down, which we didn’t. Another group was called the Wayne Avenue Middies. We weren’t gangs, just groups of fellas who did things together. We were always having contests: baseball games and prairie football, ice skating races - that sort of thing.

The Middies skated in the school yard back of St. Gertrude’s on the corner of Glenwood and Granville; the church used to flood it for the kids during winter. During warmer months, they took advantage of the Hayt School playground, which had rings, bars and slides.

In later years Moore spent a good deal of his time at the Illinois Athletic Club on Michigan Avenue near the Art Institute. There he met Johnny Weissmuller (a.k.a. “Tarzan”), who was in training as an Olympic champion swimmer. More importantly, that is where he and a group of friends formed a flying-trapeze act called the Flying Behrs. They named themselves after John Behr, the club’s athletic coach. Moore was both a flyer and a catcher in the group.

His first job in show business, so to speak, was performing with the Flying Behrs in Chicago at the 1933 World’s Fair. The group did two shows a day. It was the first time Clayton ever performed in public and he really liked it. But he didn’t actually realize he wanted to be an actor until he left Chicago for New York, at the age of 19, and became a John Robert Powers model for awhile.

Hollywood and the movies were Moore’s next stop. His athletic abilities and rugged good looks got him into dozens of westerns and Saturday afternoon thrillers, such as Perils of Nyoka and The Crimson Ghost. He made a living filming serials long before he became the Lone Ranger.

But it is for his television shows in the character of the Lone Ranger between 1949 and 1957 and Clayton Moore’s subsequent court fight to retain the legal right to wear THE black mask, that most of us best remember him.

Title to Moore’s boyhood home changed in 1944. Long after the Moores had moved on and Clayton was no longer doing television, the house went through another change. Deeded to the Lutheran Church circa 1964, it became the Lake Bluff Home for children and was used to house indigent families and unwed mothers. This was a rough period on the interior of the house. Fortunately, though, most of the architectural detail and some of the stained glass windows survived.

Following their purchase of the property in 1985, the present owners restored much of the interior to its original layout and condition. The home’s third floor Ballroom and Card room, however, have taken on the more accurate, if less august, title of Master Bedroom.

Amazingly, the present owners bought the house before ever seeing its insides. It was a case of “love at first sight,” from the outside only, but they have never regretted their decision. They heard rumors from the neighbors about it once being the Lone Ranger’s home, but their broker at closing could not confirm it one way or the other.

The veracity of the claim was undeniably proven shortly thereafter, in the summer of 1985, when Clayton Moore and his entourage showed up, unannounced, on the owners’ doorstep. Moore had come to town for the opening of the Radio Hall of Fame and wished to pay a visit to his cherished old home and neighborhood. The owners were dumbfounded, overjoyed and very lucky to be among the few “outsiders” who ever met the Lone Ranger face-to-face, sans mask.

Unlike most of his Hollywood compatriots, Clayton never assumed a “stage name” - he was always just Clayton Moore, plain and simple. Some new celebrities now reside at 6254 N. Glenwood and, like Mr. Moore, refuse to “change their spots.” You’ll have a chance to meet them yourselves on EHS’s Eighth Annual Home Tour on Sunday, September 15, 1996, since the Moore home is one of those being featured.

And, since we’re on the subject of features, please join us in the next issue of the newsletter for the history of the legend, as we return to the thrilling days of yesteryear in The Lone Ranger Rides Again.