Photo by Dermot Connolly Auctioneer Bret Walters sells a pair of swords that had once been on display in the Sabre Room, 8900 W. 95th St., Hickory Hills.
Photo by Dermot Connolly
Auctioneer Bret Walters sells a pair of swords that had once been on display in the Sabre Room, 8900 W. 95th St., Hickory Hills.
The Sabre Room has been closed since May, and on Sept. 14, just about everything in the iconic banquet hall at 8900 W. 95th St. in Hickory Hills went up for auction, including the kitchen sink.
More than 150 people signed up in person as bidders for the all-day event, and hundreds more were bidding online at the live auctions held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. by Grafe Auction Company. Many restaurant owners were among the bidders, and they went away with vans loaded with china plates, cups and glassware, pots and pans, and even stone planters. But quite a few seemed to have come for nostalgic reasons, hoping to get one last look, and maybe pick up a souvenir or two, from a place they remembered visiting on all sorts of happy occasions.
Arnold and Marie Muzzarelli opened the Sabre Room in 1949, on the 30-acre grounds of the former Dynell Spring Spa. The Muzzarellis had connections in the entertainment business, and seating for more than 2,500 people, so top stars began performing in the 10,000-square-foot building. During its heyday, with Frank Sinatra appearing in 1976, and Dean Martin in 1977, the Sabre Room became one of the most popular concert venues in the Chicago area. Elvis Presley, as well as Liberace, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour and Rudy Vallee also made appearances.
“It is a neat, historical event,” said auctioneer Bret Walters, as he led a group of bidders from one banquet hall to another, selling everything with a numbered tag on it. He said as many as 600 people could have been involved in the bidding, conceivably from anywhere in the world.
He reminded his audience that Elvis had appeared there, as he held up a compilation of Presley’s music, which was quickly snapped up for about $60. Beside it was a one-of-a-kind ship made out of cooling racks by one of the chefs, just one indication of the plethora of things that were available for sale.
Among the other music-related items that Walters sold was a collection of 45 rpm records.
He also sold two antique swords that had been on display on one of the walls.
Mellody Kelleher, of Chicago Ridge, did not get the swords, but she was able to buy a set of bongos that she had her eye on.
Each banquet room had its own free-standing bar, and each of them were up for sale as well.
“My brother’s wedding reception was here, and my aunt was one of the (Sabrette) dancers for many years, so being here brings back a lot of happy memories,” she said. “I was happy to get the bongos.”
More often in recent years, wedding receptions, New Year’s Eve parties, quinceaneras and other social and ethnic events were held in its spacious rooms. And a collection of New Year’s Eve hats was among the least expensive items for sale in the main kitchen.
Judd Grafe held court there, running the auction for the “back of the house,” while Walters ran the front. In the kitchen, he sold everything from a chocolate fountain tht was popular at parties, up to the ovens and chef’s islands that included sinks and warmers.
Hector Brambila, of Chicago, was looking for supplies for a bakery he is opening, and picked up industrial-size mixers, some antique mixing paddles sold separately, and large bowls as well.
“There are some good deals here, but you have to pay attention,” said Brambila. “Some things are expensive, and a lot of it is old. I think some people forget that they have to pay a premium on top of the auction price too,” he added.
Keith Vanselor, of Oak Lawn, said he wasn’t looking to buy anything in particular, but just wanted to see the place one last time.
“I didn’t see any of the big names here, but I was at a lot of events here over the years. It is a shame to see places like this go. With the Martinique already gone, it was the last of its kind.”
Hickory Hills officials said back when the Sabre Room closed in May that the 30-acre site will not be broken up into separate parcels. Expectations are that it will eventually be turned into a mixed-use development of businesses and residences, but no definite plans have been presented yet.