Lansing history: The lengthy, confusing story behind Jack’s Pub

Wall Street Capital, LLC and CEO Matt Ahmeti purchased Jack's and plan to remodel the building again. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma, December 2022)

Moving buildings can make it difficult to follow history

By Marlene Cook

LANSING, Ill. (December 6, 2022) – If only walls could talk! They might confirm or deny the many stories surrounding the property at 3325 Ridge Road, currently known as Jack’s Sports Pub and Eatery.

Our story begins in 1913

The only known photo of Horn’s store — which eventually became Jack’s Pub — was reproduced in the Lansing Centennial album published in 1993.

The earliest historical data about that property tells about a small grocery and meat market owned by Ed “Butch” Horn. In 1913, Horn was one of the first to purchase and install a refrigerator plant in his business. In addition to being a business owner, Horn was a confectioner, a boxing manager and trainer at Calumet Memorial Park in Calumet City, and director of a boxing club in Riverdale, Illinois. He lived on Oakwood Avenue in Lansing, and his unusual phone number was listed as 1289Y4.

Things get confusing in 1916

Around that time St. John’s School, known as “the German school,” was located on Wentworth Avenue just south of Ridge Road. (An apartment building is there today.) The school building was put up for sale in 1916, and Horn bought it and moved it to Ridge Road on the lot just west of his grocery store.

The building in the background is St. John’s School as it stood on Wentworth Avenue prior to 1916. The people in the foreground are unidentified. (Photo courtesy of the Lansing Historical Society)
Jack's Pub
This photograph captures the moving of the building. The handwritten caption reads, “German school being moved across the Penn Rail Road crossing in 1916.” Men can be seen at the base of the building, though it is not clear what engineering process they set up to move the structure. There are several buildings in Lansing that have been moved in their entirety from one location to another. (Photo courtesy of the Lansing Historical Society)

Horn transformed the new building into Lansing’s first movie house and was showing silent films by 1917. He was in the movie business for only one year when he sold the building to Anthony Koselke. The building then became known as Koselke Theater, and Koselke continued to feature silent movies. Records show that Mrs. Elizabeth Winterhoff and Miss Gertrude Busack — both prominent family names in early Lansing — played piano during the shows.

What about the school?

The original St. John’s School had been built in 1893 just north of the St. John Church building, which had been dedicated 10 years earlier in 1883. After Horn bought that school building and moved it to Ridge Road, a new school building was constructed on the Wentworth Avenue site. The new building provided two classrooms on the first floor and a hall and kitchen in the basement. Until April 1923 the school conducted only seven grades. All students wishing to go further with their education transferred to the public school system.

A new St. John’s School was built after the original building was moved to Ridge Road. (Photo courtesy of Dwayne and Sandy Schultz)

Those buildings served the congregation for 68 years until members built a new edifice at Wentworth and Randolph Street in 1951.

The current St. John’s Lutheran Church and School was built in 1951 at the southwest corner of Wentworth Avenue and Randolph Street. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Meanwhile, back on Ridge Road

It is not known how long the building that was moved to Ridge Road continued to serve as a theater. Nor are there records of how long Ed Horn’s grocery store lasted. Newspaper articles and ads from the time provide clues indicating that after the theater and the grocery store, several other businesses rented space in either 3323 or 3325 Ridge Road. (The two addresses were intermingled often.) For example, the Fruit Store — the first store Martin Rispens opened — was in one of the buildings for a time, until Rispens moved across the street in the 1920s and changed his business name to Rispens Seeds. Lansing Liquors — established by Sidney Fried in 1938 — was also in that location, even through several changes in ownership. The Lansing Journal newspaper office operated from 1931 until 1949 in the former school building. And K-D Sports Shop, formerly of Hammond, Indiana, was at that location from 1951 to 1955, selling everything from boat motors and clothing to records and toys. In 1955 K-D Sports Shop moved down the street to 3265 Ridge Road (near today’s Lansing Sport Shop).

The legend of the old blackboard

There are many different stories circulating about the two buildings and the people who worked in them. The story gaining most of the attention is about a blackboard. Some claim that behind a covered wall somewhere inside the Jack’s building hangs a school blackboard. Some even say there is writing on it dating from 1916. Former Jack’s owner Jeff Keister, however, claimed the blackboard story is an urban legend. He referred to a photograph of the school that looks as if there are windows on all sides. “No blackboard wall,” he pointed out, adding, “At that time blackboards were on a stand, and the board flipped so it could be used on both sides.”

However, Lansing Historian Paul Schultz, whose mail carrier career took him along Ridge Road, said he saw the blackboard in 1970 or so. As Schultz was walking his route, a friend stopped him and said, “You have to see this.” They went to the Jack’s building, which was at that time in the midst of complete renovation. Schultz recalls entering the building and seeing the blackboard wall.

Dwayne Schultz (no relation to Paul) attends St. John’s Church and has always heard about the blackboard but has never seen it. He also remembers that a former St. John’s principal heard there were books in the attic of the former school building and was given the opportunity to look for them, but found none.

The legend of the old printing press

Paul Schultz also said he’d heard that in the basement of Jack’s remain cement slabs that once anchored a printing press of the first Lansing Journal. It was 1931 when the first Lansing Journal newspaper office occupied the space. Journal Founder Carl Wulfing had some experience in the printing industry, but when the Great Depression limited the printing work available, he decided to start his own business. With one typewriter in his inventory Wulfing rented an office on Ridge Road — and some sources say that office was located in the old school building. On July 1, 1931, he published the first edition of the Lansing Journal using a printing press at a Hobart, Indiana, newspaper where he had once worked. Sometime along the way, Wulfing gained a printing press and began printing the Journal under the name of Lansing Printing Company. He continued working from that address until 1949.

Lansing Tap and the Ridge Room

In the meantime, William Last and his wife Rebecca bought the building at 3325 Ridge that is now Jack’s. On September 19, 1947, they opened Lansing Tap, a small cocktail lounge serving sandwiches and offering nightly music on the Hammond X66 organ.

In 1955, Last acquired the building next door and expanded his business to include a white-tablecloth restaurant named the Ridge Room. Contractors that helped create the Ridge Room included Myers Heating, Scott Draperies, Lansing Plumbing, Oak Glen Electric, Rainbolt Decoration, Frank Plantz, and Cipolla & Zarante Floor Covering.

A page from the “Lansing Centennial” book shows photos of the Lansing Tap during its heyday.

In 1970, the Lansing Tap underwent another massive remodeling — that was when the blackboard was allegedly discovered.

When William Last died in 1975, his son Bill and his wife Cheryl bought the business and continued to operate as Lansing Tap and Ridge Room until 1984. By then the older patrons who had enjoyed the more formal service had dwindled, and the Lasts felt the need to attract a younger crowd.


Bill was a high school teacher and coach at Bishop Noll High School in Hammond, and Cheryl had been holding down the fort at the restaurant. Attempting to draw the younger crowd, they remodeled again and renamed it Benchwarmers Sports Pub and Eatery. In 1996 Bill retired after 29 years of teaching, and Cheryl retired from the kitchen duty. They had hired managers to relieve the burden of working so many hours, and for a short time they turned the kitchen into “Sports Burrito,” which they advertised as a festive Mexican setting. In 1997 they leased the kitchen to Paul Boeck, and it became Paul’s Sports Grill.

Finally, Jack’s

The building became the property of Jeff and Jake Keister in 2010, and they renamed it Jack’s Sports Pub and Eatery. In 2016 Jeff remodeled again, taking down the front facade and discovering the original neon sign that had spanned the length of the building in the 1950s. Keister restored the “Cocktail Lounge – Ridge Room” sign, and it once again brightly invited patrons to come in to wine and dine.

The beauty of the early sign was uncovered by Jack’s in 2016 when the old facade was removed in the remodeling process. (Photo: Dan Bovino)

What next?

The business has again been sold. Wall Street Capital, LLC and CEO Matt Ahmeti purchased Jack’s as well as the Bakers Square building down the street. Their plan is to slowly transform the longtime bar into a new Bulldog Ale House location, without closing during the remodel. Lansing residents have expressed hope that the new owners will retain the local history, as confusing as it is.

Wall Street Capital, LLC and CEO Matt Ahmeti purchased Jack’s and plan to remodel the building again. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma, December 2022)

Author’s note: In attempting to document information about the school move and the businesses surrounding it, I uncovered many truths, half-truths, and untruths. For example, one Times story written in 1992 claimed the old German school was built on Ridge Road and the first teacher lived upstairs. That is not the way it was. Through the years other businesses have rented space in either of the two buildings, and eventually the two buildings merged to become one. I did reach out to the new owners of the building to attempt to verify some of the stories, but they were not available. The writing above represents my best attempt to unravel the somewhat tangled facts I could find, and produce an accurate record of this part of Lansing’s history.



  1. The blackboard is still behind a wall and was found when x-building commissioner and contractor Jim Peterson trnsformed Lansing Tap into Benchwarmers ! The concrete slabs are in a crawl space behind the existing bar. The bar was on the east side of the buildings before a new bar was built on the west side. Jack’s has two addresses because they are two buildings that were put together some years ago before the Last family aquired the property. I know for a fact the concrete slabs are under and behind the bar. I got stuck between them crawling under to run new beer lines ! The building has a lot of history from school house to home of Lansing Journal to tavern ! Most of my info came from Bill Last , Bill Last Jr. and Jim Peterson x building commissioner contractor at benchwarmers, Benchwarmers as well as Bill Sr. and Jr. are gone and Benchwarmers was never the same and never will be !

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