Ashuelot Doppelgänger

Visiting the Ashuelot, New Hampshire covered bridge on October 15, 2018.

Visiting the Ashuelot, New Hampshire covered bridge on October 15, 2018.

In the early 1970’s Robert Parker Coffin looked for some inspiration when designing a cover for Long Grove’s 1906 metal truss bridge over Buffalo Creek. According to the story, the covered bridge spanning the Ashuelot river in New Hampshire provided some ideas to Mr. Coffin (an architect and former Village President) who oversaw the building of what later became the iconic village symbol in Long Grove, Illinois.

This week, finding myself in New England on a vacation to enjoy the fall colors, I had to satisfy my curiosity by paying a visit to Ashuelot to view the original bridge. In addition to the beautiful autumn foliage, we spotted many wild turkeys as we made our way into the tiny town, spread along the riverside. The bridge itself is quite long, painted white with a red roof and a covered walkway on both sides. I did notice a striking similarity in the appearance of the entrance, and in the way that the posts and arches over the openings felt familiar.

Another bit of nostalgia was the warm feeling of goosebumps that I got driving underneath the wooden covering from one side to another. I can’t wait until we are able to experience that once again in Long Grove. As we concluded our visit several cars of tourists arrived with cameras in hand, verifying the attraction feature this bridge also shares with our hometown symbol back in Illinois. There is no doubt that covered bridges evoke a special kind of charm appreciated across the country.

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Witches Night Out

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Now that Fall is in full swing and Halloween is fast approaching, downtown Long Grove has several special events planned to help get you in the holiday “spirit.” My favorite fun and creative new idea this year is Witches Night Out, being held next Thursday evening, October 18th from 5 to 8 pm. Stores in the historic downtown will be staying open late and the restaurants in town will be offering special themed menu items to taste and sip. Wear your favorite pointy hat and you might even have an opportunity to bedazzle it! I have also heard tales that fortune tellers, tarot card readers, and even an enchanted D.J. may be conjured up to add to the evening’s excitement. The spell has been cast–don’t miss this girls and ghouls gathering!

Other Spooktacular Downtown Long Grove Events in the next few weeks include:

Scarecrow Day:  Saturday, October 13th from 11-4 outside Country House on Robert Parker Coffin Road. Bring your own clothes and props and for a $5 donation you will receive the supplies and help to create an original scarecrow masterpiece.

Trick or Treating:  Friday, October 26th from 2-5. Dress your little ones in costume and trick or treat at the downtown Long Grove stores and businesses. Parents can register for a prize drawing at the Information Center.

A Scary Night at the Farmhouse:  Friday, October 26th from 7-7:45 pm at the Historical Society Farmhouse. Enjoy a family friendly Halloween themed variety show and sing-a-long outdoors on the back porch patio. Fire pits will provide some warmth and be sure to bring your folding chairs. Spooky stories and songs to delight all ages.

Halloween Pet Parade:  Sunday, October 28th from 12-4:30. Dress your furry friend in their most adorable costume–prizes will be awarded!

Pardon Our Dust

Long Grove residents Dave and Amy Gayton (on the left) join me in checking out the giant excavation at the crossroads in Long Grove during Apple Fest 2018.

Long Grove residents Dave and Amy Gayton (on the left) join me in checking out the giant excavation at the crossroads in Long Grove during Apple Fest 2018.

Anyone who has dared to venture into the Long Grove historic downtown in the past several weeks can tell you that it’s been a challenge navigating around all the various construction obstacles. Storm sewers are being installed, pavement dug out, building foundations reinforced, utilities relocated, roads temporarily closed–you name it–everything is converging into one giant mess of inconvenience. While there has been a fair amount of road work going on since April of this year, crews have recently ramped up the pace in an effort to complete as much as possible before winter sets in and puts an end to the road paving season. The Old McHenry Road reconstruction and intersection improvements project is being undertaken by Lake County DOT. Starting this coming Tuesday, October 9th, at 6 a.m. a portion of Old McHenry Road will be closed to all through traffic with reopening anticipated in November. Click here for more details and to view a map of the detour.

All stores in downtown Long Grove have remained open during the construction, but as you can imagine, with torn up streets and sidewalks it has made getting from place to place an adventure. Shopkeepers that I spoke to this week are drawing on reserves of patience and optimism, and looking forward to brighter days ahead with freshly paved roads and sidewalks, new lighting and streetscaping, and a refreshed look to our historic crossroads. One big change on the horizon is the traffic signal soon to be installed on the corner of Old McHenry Road and Robert Parker Coffin Road.

The construction this summer has been a hardship on not just the Long Grove businesses, but for all those who need to commute through the area en route to jobs and schools. In addition, the local non-profit community groups have had to alter or cancel activities and fundraisers due to the disruption. The Arts & Music Council held an abbreviated concert series this summer due to work scheduled near Towner Green. The Rotary Club was unable to hold their annual Heritage Run this September and have replaced it with an Octoberfest fundraiser at Buffalo Creek Brewing this coming Saturday, October 6th. The Historical Society has unfortunately had to cancel their popular Ghost Walk this year due to safety concerns with walking groups of families in the construction zone amidst the Halloween darkness, detours, and pedestrian restricted areas. A much smaller (but still spooky) family event is being planned at the farmhouse on the evening of October 26th.

So what can we all do to help our village during the next couple of difficult months? Make it a point to patronize the downtown restaurants, shop for gifts in the local stores, pick up your morning latte at one of our downtown coffee shops instead of cruising the drive thru just because it is more convenient. Continue to contribute to our local non-profits, even if their signature fundraisers have been temporarily sidelined. By supporting each other our community can sustain through the construction disruption. In the meantime, pardon our dust, because one day soon this construction will all be in the past and the improvements will be well worth the wait!

Women, Gathering to Make a Difference

Mary Edly-Allen, Candidate for Illinois State Representative District 51 (on the left) is pictured with several Members of VOWs (Voices of Women, strong) at a Long Grove gathering on September 28th.

Mary Edly-Allen, Candidate for Illinois State Representative District 51 (on the left) is pictured with several members of VOWs (Voices of Women, strong) at a Long Grove gathering on September 28th.

It has been a difficult week for anyone following the news headlines or televised senate hearings relating to the current supreme court nominee. I belong to a group of Long Grove ladies who gather on a weekly basis to discuss state, national and local politics. This week I was particularly grateful to have this caring, strong and smart huddle of female powerhouses to process together the events of the moment. But rather than wallow in the unpleasantness being created on the national political scene, this week we also focused on making a positive difference in the state of Illinois.

Long Grove is represented in the Illinois 51st District. Last month, our former State Representative suddenly resigned from office due to a girlfriend’s allegations of misconduct. Running for this seat in November is candidate Mary Edly-Allen of Grayslake, and our group of women has been eager to hear more about her. Mary graciously accepted the invitation to join our coffee on September 28th, and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her, what motivated her to run for office, and her stand on the issues. Kudos to Mary for stepping up to run for office and giving us all hope for a better tomorrow. One thing that our opinionated group of individuals can all agree on is that having more women on the ballot, in elected office at all levels, is a step in the right direction. Instead of just getting frustrated by the current state of affairs, we can all do what we can to work towards positive changes. It starts by asking questions and seeking to become better educated, so that your informed choice is counted at the polls in November.

Here’s to Strong Women:

May we know them, May we be them, May we vote for them!

Small Town Sweetness

Pictured above are the awesome local kids who volunteered to help run the games for the younger kids at the Historical Society Penny Carnival.

Pictured above are many of the awesome local kids who volunteered to help run the games for the younger kids at the Historical Society Penny Carnival.

I grew up in small town America. The Central Illinois farming community where I was born has a population of only 2,000 and a Main Street lined with historic buildings and a vintage train depot. Even though Long Grove is a suburb of Chicago, and with it’s 8,000 residents is quadruple the size of my hometown, there are times when it truly feels like a close-knit village. Case in point–our recent Vintage Days weekend. The Historical Society sponsored two family events run by kids, for kids, and it was heartwarming to be part of the festivities.

What's a Penny Carnival without a penny pitch game?

What’s a Penny Carnival without a penny pitch game?

The Penny Carnival

Older kids readily volunteered to organize old-fashioned games for younger children on the lawn of our 1860’s farmhouse. Costing only 1 cent per game, kids could have fun playing pirate ring toss, duck pond, ring the bell, and the ever-popular frog launch. It was incredibly sweet to see the teens and tweens patiently helping the little ones pitch pennies and redeem tickets for prizes, and generating happy smiles all around. Everything needed to man and run this event was donated, highlighting genuine community spirit. Here is a quote overheard at the event:

“This Penny Carnival epitomizes small town ambiance at its best–children laughing, adults chatting, frogs flying. Kudos to the organizers!” 

Local kids also showcased their talent by performing an original play about our town's history entitled, "Good Times with the Gridleys." The cast is shown here crossing "Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal."

Local kids also showcased their talent by performing an original play about our town’s history entitled, “Good Times with the Gridleys.” The cast is shown here crossing “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal.”

The Back Porch Players

Twelve talented local middle and elementary school students, with assistance by Narrator and Musician Mike Dvorak and professional Puppeteer Krist Neumann, performed an original show on the farmhouse back porch. “Good Times with the Gridleys,” told the story of the founding of Long Grove in the mid-1800’s and featured historical songs and real-life historical characters. My personal favorite was an original song involving the entire cast called, “The Long Grove Bridge.”  

Click this link below to watch a five minute video of highlights from the show:

 

The Inner Beauty

The demolition crew started bright and early this morning on removal of the damaged wooden canopy of the Long Grove bridge.

The demolition crew started bright and early this morning on removal of the damaged wooden canopy over the Long Grove bridge.

It was a bittersweet moment today watching the remains of the covered bridge being dismantled. Feeling sad as I gathered early this morning with members of the Historical Society, Arts & Music Council, and downtown merchants, it was a comfort to see the care being taken by the demolition crew to salvage as much of the original boards as possible. Village staff has arranged for storage of the old wood and the local non-profits are hopeful that they will be allowed to re-purpose it to benefit our Village and commemorate the bridge’s historical significance.

The demolition is expected to be completed this coming Monday, September 10th. Temporary clearance bars are planned to be installed on both sides of the bridge in addition to jersey barriers. This is to keep overweight and over-height vehicles and trucks from using the bridge and causing damage to the historic metal supports and foundations. Once these measures are in place IDOT engineers will inspect the bridge and if all goes well it could be opened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic as early as next week. In the months ahead the Village Board will be considering bids for the reconstruction of the wooden covering, which is likely to occur in the spring of 2019.

To those of us that worked so hard towards getting the bridge on the National Register, it was certainly melancholy to witness our icon coming down. But when I stopped back late this afternoon to check on the progress, I began to notice something more:

With the bridge covering two-thirds removed, the historic iron truss and walkway begin to emerge and become more visible.

With the bridge covering two-thirds removed, the historic iron truss and walkway begin to emerge and become more visible.

With the covering gone on the majority of the bridge, the original 1906 Pratt Pony truss and walkway is now fully visible and no longer partially hidden by the wooden “hat” it was given in 1972. The historical elements that qualified our bridge for federal recognition are now on glorious display. As I snapped a few additional photos I chatted with shop owners, Montessori school moms, neighbors, friends, and the Village Engineer who all joined in with me to admire the beautiful ironwork from a century past. The real treasure of our covered bridge is still intact. The wooden covering will be rebuilt in a matter of months. The demolition this morning is really just the first step towards another century in the life of our iconic covered bridge, with a special inner beauty shining most vividly today.

Muttersholtz Around the World

Notice a picture of our Long Grove Village Hall on the upper right of the cover of the Muttersholtz municipal newsletter.

Notice a picture of our Long Grove Village Hall on the upper right of the cover of the Muttersholtz municipal newsletter.

Earlier this summer I was contacted by Martine Kilcher, the Deputy Mayor of the town of Muttersholtz, France. She was putting together a feature for their September, 2018 municipal newsletter on places around the world that have a special connection or “twinning” with their village. Long Grove was founded in part by descendants of settlers from Muttersholtz in the mid-1800’s, and went by that name for several years before officially becoming the Village of Long Grove. I was glad to be able to write a short piece about our history and current events, and provide a few pictures for our friends in Europe to see what our village in America, inspired by Muttersholtz, looks like today. From Martine I learned that Muttersholtz is also very ecology minded, even receiving a special designation for this. Our villages both share a historic downtown crossroads with vintage buildings, and have had local craft breweries open in the past few years. It was a delightful experience to connect with Martine and we have even kept up with each other’s organizations through Facebook. When our covered bridge was listed on the National Register our Historical Society received congratulations from France, and when it was damaged a few weeks later they shared in our sorrow. To learn more about Muttersholtz, France click on this link.

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Here is the English translation for the article (above) that appears in the September, 2018 issue of the Muttersholtz municipal newsletter:

“Long Grove is an American city, located at about 50 km from Chicago, Illinois. It has about 8,500 inhabitants. It is not twinned with our commune, but part of its population is made up of descendants of Muttersholtzois who founded a village after having migrated to the United States. The name was Muttersholtz firstly. These are also our faraway cousins ​​who erected the parish church at the end of the 19th century. The people of Long Grove have been able to preserve their environment, which is composed of grasslands, forests and wet areas. The inhabitants are particularly proud of their covered bridge, which spans the Buffalo Creek and which has just been registered in the American Heritage. As with us, they like to party there. Each year a Strawberry Festival, an Apple Festival, a Festival of the chocolate and Saint Nicolas is honored. A brewery opened last year. To honor the story of the village, one of the first beers brewed was named Muttersholtz and, on July 21, the brewery organized a Muttersholtz Fest to celebrate the first year opening.”

King for a Day

Long Grove resident Gracie Mower shows her award-winning pooch, "Willie" who captured the title of King in the dog beauty contest at Irish Days this weekend.

Long Grove resident Gracie Mower shows her award-winning pooch, “Willie” who captured the title of King in the dog beauty contest at Irish Days this weekend.

I am always a little sad to see summer come to a close on Labor Day. Fortunately, in Long Grove we have a celebration to take my mind off the changing season with the annual Irish Days festivities.  Even though the weather was a bit touch and go as we dodged the occasional raindrops, fun was had with a slate of Irish music and dancing featured in Fountain Square over the holiday weekend. Wacky events like “Best Men’s Legs in a Kilt,” and the “Dog Beauty Contest” kept the crowds entertained. I know of at least two Long Grove friends who entered their furry family members in the competition, and one of them even won top-dog bragging rights as “King” for the day! And even though the summer festivals are winding down now, we still have plenty of fun fall events to anticipate in the months ahead. My personal favorite, the Historical Society Ghost Walk, will be back for a sixth straight year of spine-tingling and scary mischief on Friday, October 26th. Watch this blog and the website longgrovehistory.org for more details as the season unfolds.

All directions point to a good time during Irish Days!

All directions lead to a good time during Irish Days!

Covered Bridge Update

News reporter Mark Rivera stands next to Aaron Underwood (holding the bridge poster) after spending the morning in Long Grove on August 22nd.

News reporter Mark Rivera stands next to Aaron Underwood (holding the bridge poster) after spending the morning in Long Grove on August 22nd.

Last week, Mark Rivera of ABC Channel 7 came to Long Grove to interview members of the Historical Society, merchants, and residents about our covered bridge. To view the story that aired on the evening news on Friday, August 24th, click on the picture link below:

All summer long, it seems that everyone I interact with is curious about the covered bridge. At a gathering this morning in Long Grove with Brad Schneider, even the Congressman asked me for an update on the topic. Here are where the repairs stand currently, according to the Village of Long Grove’s 8-23-18 newsletter:

  • Having Robert Parker Coffin Road closed to traffic at the bridge for two months now has caused inconvenience to residents and hardship to the downtown businesses. Everyone agrees that it is a priority to get the road opened again.
  • The most historic parts of the bridge, the metal truss and walkway and the foundations, are in the same condition as prior to the accident.
  • The damaged wooden cover needs to be either demolished and rebuilt or repaired. The Village engineers have recommended demolition and reconstruction, and the insurance company has proposed repairs to what is currently left. The Village Board will be weighing these options at their next meeting this coming Tuesday, August 28th.
  • If the cover is removed, the Village Board is also considering making other long-term needed repairs such as repairing or replacing the limestone abutments.
  • Because the bridge is a historic structure, the Village has recently become aware of potential federal funding that could help with the costs of restoration up to 80%. However, details and availability of this funding option have not yet been confirmed.

Stay tuned to see how the decisions unfold in the months to come.

Lining up the camera shot and getting miked for my interview with ABC Channel 7's Mark Rivera inside the Covered Bridge Creamery.

Lining up the camera shot and getting miked for my interview with ABC Channel 7’s Mark Rivera inside the Covered Bridge Creamery.

Vintage Days 2018

Long Grove merchant and event organizer Meghan Potempa (on the left) and Angie Underwood are photo-bombed in a very cool way at Vintage Days!

Long Grove merchant and event organizer Meghan Potempa (on the left) and Angie Underwood are photo-bombed in a very cool way at Vintage Days!

Three years ago the merchants in historic downtown Long Grove hatched an idea for a new special event, christened “Vintage Days.” Each summer this weekend celebration of all things antique, vintage, upcycled and reclaimed has grown bigger and better, but it was a perfect fit for Long Grove right from the very start. Held on August 18 & 19 this year, Vintage Days is without a doubt my personal favorite festival. Apparently I’m not unique. Vintage Days has become special to many of us in the village and according to Matt Potempa, owner of Scout and Forge and one of the organizers, that’s because, “It absolutely captures the spirit of Long Grove.” I couldn’t agree more. Steve “the Greek” Besbeas, owner of the Chatterbox told me he loves Vintage Days because, “This festival is familiar and cozy in Long Grove. Like the difference you feel between wearing a sweater from JCPenney and one made by your yia-yia.”

One of the most pleasant things about Vintage Days is the crowd that it attracts. Many more locals make their way to this smaller fest as opposed to the big Chocolate, Strawberry and Apple festivals. And those who visit are generally interested in history and eager to learn about our Long Grove crossroads and the buildings that have been preserved. My husband Aaron and I spent Saturday afternoon narrating the vintage tractor and wagon rides throughout the downtown, telling stories and answering questions about our town’s history. It was really enjoyable getting to interact with the adults and kids who were visiting for the day to soak in the old-fashioned charm of the past that our village offers. I met quite a few new residents to Long Grove as well! Sunday featured a Penny Carnival for kids at the Historical Society Farmhouse, followed by an original show on the back porch stage highlighting some very talented local youths. (More on this in a future blog post!)

I will leave you with one more quote that perfectly sums up Vintage Days, this one from Historical Society board member Mike Dvorak, who said:

“Closing the weekend relaxing near Scout and Forge, eating ice cream and talking with neighbors, friends and family while music drifted through the air from the nearby stage made for a delightful close to a beautiful day and a magical weekend.”

Some of the many booths in the open air market at Vintage Days.

Some of the many booths in the open air market at Vintage Days.