Remembering Lee

Lee Bassett was my favorite docent to partner with at the Ruth Barn. Here he is pictured with one of the pitchforks he loved to showcase.

Lee Bassett was my favorite docent to partner with at the Ruth Barn. Here he is pictured with one of the pitchforks he loved to showcase.

Every community has those unique individuals who seem to pop up everywhere that help is needed; who simply have a heart for public service. Long Grove lost one of these treasures yesterday, with the passing of Lee Bassett. Lee was a compact dynamo, tireless in his dedication to our Village and generous with his time and passion. Lee was responsible for calling me up and asking me to serve on the Historical Society board way back in 1999. He was the kind of volunteer we all look up to as a role model of servant leadership.

One of his biggest contributions to Long Grove was serving as President of the Long Grove Park District. Lee donated countless hours as a local environmentalist and caretaker of his own heavily wooded property and various public open spaces throughout the village. I loved seeing Lee and his good friend Bob Borg out in my neighborhood every May, sporting backpacks and sprayers in their never-ending battle against invasive teasel. Lee also served for many years as our Long Grove Historical Society Vice-President, and as a docent for thousands of children who have participated in our Archer School and Ruth Barn field trip programs. Some of Lee’s favorite items to show and tell were the pitchforks in our collection, and how they each had a varied and specific use. His infectious enthusiasm would get the kids wound up, then I had the challenge of making them sit still and practice their penmanship in the schoolhouse! Lee loved to entertain as well as educate, and was a fellow castmate in our “Long Grove Lurid Legends” Halloween show a decade ago. He got such a kick out of playing a member of the real life “Newton Gang,” who robbed a train right here in Lake County. Both kids and adults delighted in his presence.

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Lee will be remembered at a “Casual Gathering of the Friends of Lee” next Wednesday, July 25th, from 1:00-4:00 in the afternoon at Reed-Turner Woodland Nature Center. He will certainly be missed by all those that he has touched during his years here in Long Grove. He was a friend and an inspiration.

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Celebrating the Illinois Bicentennial

Patty Eckert and Mike Dvorak brought "Songs of the Prairie State" to our farmhouse back porch for the July 6th performance.

Patti Ecker and Mike Dvorak brought “Songs of the Prairie” to our farmhouse back porch for the July 6th performance.

Illinois was first designated a state in 1818, and a wide variety of events have been planned to mark this special 200th anniversary year. Here in Long Grove, the Historical Society is hosting a series of “First Fridays at the Farmhouse” performances to honor our state bicentennial as well as celebrate our local history. In June we were treated to “Spoon River Anthology,” a classic portrait of life and death in a turn-of-the-century Illinois town. Last week, singer and multi-instrumentalist Patti Ecker was joined by Long Grove musicians Reed Olsen and Mike Dvorak to entertain us on the farmhouse back porch with folk songs, sing-a-longs, traditional and popular selections that reflected chapters in our Illinois history.

Did I mention that all this great, outdoor, family-friendly entertainment is free? Please plan to join in the fun at the remaining two performances on the First Fridays of August and September starting at 6:00 pm. Friday August 3rd will feature “Birth of a State.” Come and find out what was happening in culture, politics, music, theatre, and everyday life during Illinois’ first summer of statehood. On Friday, September 7th, we will hear the tales of local Civil War veteran Chris Sauer told through stories, music and song in a show entitled, “Company’s Comin’.” Mark your calendar now and enjoy an evening in our historic downtown among Long Grove neighbors and history enthusiasts. You might learn a thing or two, also!

Click on the video clip below for a sample of the July 6th show:

The Drama and the Trauma

 

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Picture of the damage to the covered bridge on June 27th, 2018, taken soon after the accident. The wooden covering has continued to slowly collapse in the days since. The long term work needed to stabilize, open the road to traffic, and repair the damage is still being evaluated.

Shock, sadness and disbelief only begin to describe the emotions felt by those of us in the Long Grove community, Chicago area, and other parts of the country as the news of the severe damage to our covered bridge spreads, coming less than two weeks after the Historical Society was informed of the bridge’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. For those of you who have not yet heard the details of the accident, the following report from WBBM CBS Chicago, which aired on Thursday, June 28th gives a good synopsis:

The day before the accident, the Village Board had approved plans to temporarily close the bridge on July 12th so that the community at large could celebrate the new federal listing. Plans were already underway by several community groups to participate in the party, and excitement among residents was high. Just look at these smiles below…

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Former Trustee John Marshall (left) and downtown businessman Ryan Messner are shown installing the National Register marker on the bridge exactly one week before it was severely damaged.

The recent news of the National Register status had seen major media attention in the Chicago area, and it was picked up by the Associated Press last weekend. Many individuals had reached out to the Long Grove Historical Society following the National Register news with congratulations and elation over this story. The feeling in the community had been one of pride and happiness.

Which makes the turn of events this week so incredibly dramatic. At the scene of the accident just an hour after it occurred, I talked with a woman from California who was a history buff and had heard the news of the National Register listing. She flew across the country specifically to see our iconic bridge, only to arrive minutes after it was severely damaged. I met a resident from a neighboring community who works nearby and purposely goes out of his way to and from work to drive over the bridge because he loves it. He was devastated. Again, our inbox has been full of emails from bridge aficionados near and far, expressing sadness and anger at what has happened. I heard today from a gentleman who is the Vice President of the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania, with, “support for your efforts to see that the bridge is repaired.” He also stated that, “this is a bridge that I now have on my list to visit.”

As disheartening as the past few days have been, I know without a doubt that this community is resilient, and that we will rally and come together once again to save our bridge and restore it. Many, many passionate people have worked very hard to get the bridge on the National Register, and we will work just as hard to have that long-awaited celebration when the repairs are completed. I am looking forward to it! In parting, be heartened by the lovely image below, recently taken and sent to me by someone who grew up loving this bridge and loves it still today. Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words.

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A beautiful picture of local boys searching for crayfish in Buffalo Creek under the bridge, taken and sent to me a few days before the tragic accident.

On The National Register!!!

The iconic covered bridge in historic downtown Long Grove is a symbol of our village around the globe.

The iconic covered bridge in historic downtown Long Grove is a symbol of our village around the globe.  As of today, it is officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s Official! Our covered bridge in downtown Long Grove has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places! I’m so excited to be able to finally post this happy news! Please see the press release below for more details:

Long Grove’s Iconic Covered Bridge listed in National Register of Historic Places

The National Park Service has announced today that the Buffalo Creek Bridge, more commonly known as the Long Grove Covered Bridge, is being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the first property in Long Grove to receive this prestigious designation.

Originally constructed in 1906 by the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company, the bridge is one of only two remaining of its kind in the greater Chicagoland area. Grass roots efforts for historic preservation and national recognition were rekindled early in 2017 when some local officials questioned the historic value of the one-lane bridge and favored a plan that would require removal of the current structure and increase truck and auto traffic through the pedestrian friendly downtown. In April of 2017, Landmarks Illinois, named the bridge to their annual “List of Endangered Historic Places.” A change.org petition urging local officials to save the historic bridge gathered over 4,900 signatures/testimonials and a fund-raising campaign has raised over $50,000 in monetary donations and pledges. Despite these efforts, local officials remain undecided on a long term course of action to restore or replace the bridge.

“For many years, the Long Grove Historical Society has been at the forefront of efforts to receive this designation, and we are thrilled to hear the news. Achieving National Register status confirms our belief in the bridge’s historical value as well as the sentimental value we know it holds for our community. This is a source of pride for all of Long Grove and we will continue to advocate for preservation of our beloved covered bridge,” noted Historical Society President Angie Underwood.

Ryan Messner, Vice-President of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association added, “It’s our icon and our brand. For decades, Long Grove was a destination, and now the general feeling is that with the recent new business openings we’ve turned the corner and are solidly on our way back. It’d be foolish to destroy this treasure that has now been recognized with national historical status, and open up the quaint downtown to cut through traffic.”

An impromptu public celebration will be held in the coming weeks. Please check the Long Grove Historical Society website at longgrovehistory.org for updated details. More information about the bridge and the efforts to save it can be found online at SaveTheBridge.net

Members of the Long Grove Historical Society giving thumbs-up to the good news!

Members of the Long Grove Historical Society giving thumbs-up to the good news!

Why History Matters

Members of the 2018-2019 Long Grove Historical Society Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting on  April 25, 2018.

Members of the 2018-2019 Long Grove Historical Society Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting on April 25, 2018.

The Long Grove Historical Society has a website, and we are contacted fairly often by people all over the country with inquiries relating to our Village, past and present. I would like to share with you an email that we recently received, because it underscores the importance of remembering and honoring our history. I read this correspondence at our Board meeting last month so that all those who work so hard to preserve our past know that their efforts really do matter. Last week I paid a visit to Barbara Turner who will turn 99 next month, and had the pleasure of sharing these fond remembrances with her:

“We raised our three sons on Old McHenry Road in Long Grove until the 1970’s. When they went off to college, my husband John and I moved to Oregon in 1976.

Looking back, those were the years where we really matured. I worked closely with Barbara Turner to turn the local school library at Kildeer Countryside into a vibrant and relevant school library. My husband John was one of the first volunteer firemen who took the paramedic training. We really became contributing adults there. It was a wonderful learning experience.

Now I am living in a high rise retirement home in Portland, Oregon. I had dinner tonight with a couple who I knew but had no idea her family was originally from Buffalo Grove. We had a nice time exchanging reminiscences, so I came up after dinner and reread Virginia Park’s book on the area, Long Grove Lore and Legend. I had kept it all these years–I am so glad I did! For some reason, it made more sense tonight than when I was active living among the people mentioned in the book.

These days I am pretty ancient. I suspect Barbara and Virginia are long gone. But I wanted to make sure that their descendants, and you who are working to ensure that history is not forgotten realize that your work is SO worthwhile. I will now share this material with my Buffalo Grove friend. Who would have imagined?

If any of you are still in contact with the Turner and Park descendants, let them know. Even after all of these years, they will never be forgotten. If it had not been for Barbara, she and I would never have decided to pursue our advanced degrees in library science–and I would never have received a lifetime achievement award in the field. She was an amazing leader and loved Long Grove.”

Sincerely,

Sybilla Cook

On May 29th, while vacationing Greece, I got a personal tour of the local history museum in Kaloxylos, on the island of Naxos. I'm pictured here with museum founder Flourios Horianopoulos who gave me a personal tour and some awesome lemonade he makes from his lemon trees. Hats off to local historians world wide. Opa!

On May 29th, 2018 while vacationing in Greece, I got a personal tour of the local history museum in Kaloxylos, on the island of Naxos. I’m pictured here with museum founder Flourios Horianopoulos who gave me a personal tour and some awesome homemade lemonade he makes from his trees. Hats off to all of us world-wide with a passion for saving local history. Opa!

Gridley Pioneer Cemetery

Sharon Gridley paid a recent visit to see the spot where her pioneer ancestors are buried.

Sharon Gridley (left) paid an April 21st visit to see the spot where her pioneer ancestors are buried.

Long Grove has two cemeteries, one well-known and one a bit off the beaten path. The cemetery next to the Long Grove Community Church, with it’s distinctive iron work fence and gate, has graves dating back to the 1800’s. Many prominent early citizens of our Village are eternally resting in this historic spot. But perhaps Long Grove’s oldest pioneer settlers, the Gridley family, are buried amongst the oaks in a small, private cemetery on land that was part of their homestead back in the mid-1830’s. The Long Grove Historical Society maintains this cemetery, and we were recently paid a visit by Sharon Gridley of Atlanta, a direct descendant of original pioneers John and Nancy Gridley.

I had not been to the cemetery for a few years, and it was a pleasure to guide Sharon back to this hidden spot. While paying her respects and snapping photos of the weathered grave markers, I got the chance to think about how different it must have been when the Gridleys first arrived. No paved roads, no traffic, just woods and prairie as far as the eye could see. I am always struck by the young ages on many of the tombstones, children who only lived a few short years or months, and the mothers who died way too early. Pioneers enjoyed the peaceful untouched natural beauty and resources that we find scarce today, but it was sure a hard life. Several curious deer emerged from the woods as we concluded our visit, bridging the past and present with their quiet watchfulness.

Sharon and I spent some time that afternoon in our Historical Society archives, where we have many photos and documents relating to her family history. It was glad for the opportunity to meet her and help with researching her ancestors. Life in Long Grove today has much more meaning when we step back to appreciate what Life in Long Grove meant for those that came before us.

Harbor Chase of Long Grove

Members of the community, Historical Society, and downtown Merchants Association gathered to hear a presentation on local history and welcome Harbor Chase to Long Grove.

Members of the community, Historical Society, and downtown Merchants Association gathered to hear a presentation on local history and welcome Harbor Chase to Long Grove.

Earlier this year Long Grove’s newest Senior living community, Harbor Chase of Long Grove, held their grand opening celebration. While I was unable to attend the big party, it was great to be invited for a personal tour and to speak at a luncheon this past week at the newly built assisted living and memory care facility. Enlisting the help of my husband Aaron (who writes for Long Grove Living magazine and loves to tell a story or two…) we gave an educational program on “The History and Architecture of Long Grove.” The Historical Society enjoyed partnering with our new neighbors at Harbor Chase to provide some community enrichment, and I hope this will be the first of many opportunities to work together.

Everyone who attended the free luncheon was also given a full tour of the beautifully decorated facility. During my years on the Village Board I dealt with the many plans, renderings, approvals and resolutions needed to get this development underway. The end result is very elegant, with attention to detail and amenities like live music, beautiful flower arrangements, and homemade macaroons, not just on special occasions but as part of the everyday lifestyle. There is even a resident puppy to bring smiles and lively energy!

Having this new business in downtown Long Grove is a key piece of the redevelopment efforts that are funding current infrastructure improvements, such as extending the water system. Just one more reason for us all to say, “Welcome, Harbor Chase!”

 

Aaron Underwood stands next to the "Covered Bridge Room" at Harbor Chase. The "Crackerjack" lounge/bar area also pays homage to local history--it's the name of Long Grove's 1906 baseball team.

Aaron Underwood stands next to the “Covered Bridge Room” at Harbor Chase. The “Crackerjack” lounge/bar area also pays homage to local history–it’s the name of Long Grove’s 1906 baseball team.

 

St. Paddy’s Day at the Brewery

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day at Buffalo Creek Brewing with owner Mike Marr (left) and local historian Aaron Underwood.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Buffalo Creek Brewing with owner Mike Marr (left) and local historian Aaron Underwood.

Long Grove is a great place to celebrate your Irish heritage on St. Patrick’s Day. Whether it’s a trip to Paddy’s on the Square for beautiful Ireland-inspired gifts, green beer at the Village Tavern, Corned Beef at the Chatterbox, or a mint chocolate chip cone at the new Covered Bridge Creamery, our Village is a festive spot to gather for the holiday. This year features another new option as Buffalo Creek Brewing hosts a day-long St. Patrick’s Day Party, featuring free Green Eggs and Hash, a special price on their “Burning Red” craft beer, and evening entertainment.

My husband Aaron and I stopped by the party this afternoon to congratulate Mike Marr, owner of Buffalo Creek Brewing and the newly installed President of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association. In appreciation of his commitment of time and leadership to the downtown, (and being that he is a next-door neighbor to the farmhouse museum) the Historical Society presented Mike with a gift of a framed historical print of his choice. His selection, shown in the photo above, is of the Long Grove Crackerjacks baseball team, circa 1908. This was one of several “town ball” baseball teams that existed a century ago, with games played against other local teams such as Palatine and Lake Zurich. Mike likes to distinguish his craft beers with clever names, often a play on words or with a local significance. His newest creation is called “Muttersholtz,” the name originally given to Long Grove in the 1840’s by the early settlers who came here from the Alsace-Lorraine region in Germany. Maybe the picture will inspire a future craft beer that pairs well with baseball games and caramel corn?

Mike also mentioned that he is starting his canning operation in the downstairs of the Brewery starting this coming Tuesday. Compared to bottles, cans have many advantages for beer, two of which are keeping out unnecessary light and oxygen. So not only will your favorite beers be crafted right here in downtown Long Grove, but they will soon be canned locally as well.

However you choose to treat yourself, have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Covered Bridge Creamery

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The namesake mural at the new Covered Bridge Creamery provided the perfect backdrop for our Historical Society committee meeting this week.

After spending the first several weeks of 2018 in a warmer climate, it was a pleasant surprise for me to return to Long Grove and find two new businesses in our historic downtown. I’m very excited to be able to feature one of them today, Covered Bridge Creamery.

Located in the former location of Beans & Leaves (on Old McHenry Road next to the Chatterbox), this new shop offers a variety of premium ice cream flavors as well as coffee, tea and assorted pastries. New counters and seating complement the classic wood paneling with the addition of a giant mural showcasing our beloved and iconic covered bridge. It provided the perfect spot and perfect inspiration for our recent Covered Bridge Preservation Committee meeting. Our group enjoyed the ambiance and the delicious lattes while also getting some advocacy work underway. Business owner Eric Wallor was gracious enough to sit with us and tell us a bit about his new venture.

Manager Nicholas Modlin and crew member Rachel Temple are two of several friendly faces  waiting to greet you at Covered Bridge Creamery.

Manager Nicholas Modlin and crew member Rachel Temple are two of several employees waiting to make your experience great at Covered Bridge Creamery.

Eric, along with his sister, brother in law and another partner first came to Long Grove this past summer to open Signature Popcorn, which is located next door to the new Creamery. Signature Popcorn started as an online business three years ago, and when the opportunity for a storefront in Long Grove became available they jumped at the chance to add a brick and mortar store to the expanding business. They were very attracted to the history and potential Long Grove provided, so much so that they now own two businesses and are very optimistic about the future of our town. Excited to, “bring our passion for ice cream, coffee and tea and our concept for Covered Bridge Creamery,” to Long Grove, Eric is definitely filling a need. One request that I repeatedly heard from residents during my term as Village President was to bring back a spot to get ice cream treats in our downtown. Thanks to Eric and his team, your wish is now reality. While I can vouch for the tasty hot beverages, I will be returning soon to sample the sweet stuff.

Covered Bridge Creamery is open currently, M-F 6:30 am to 4:30 pm, Saturdays 8:00 am to 4:30 pm and Sundays 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, they will eventually be open later into the evening hours. Stop by and check it out!

The Headless Horseman of Long Grove

The Headless Horseman (Greg Abshire) joins Aaron and Angie Underwood at the Ghost Walk after-party on October 27th.

The Headless Horseman (Greg Abshire) joins Aaron and Angie Underwood at the Ghost Walk after-party on October 27th.

One of the three people pictured above is actually a sheriff, but it isn’t the one wearing the badge. Yes, strange things happen in Long Grove on Halloween, as witnessed during the Fifth Annual Ghost Walk last Friday night, sponsored by the Long Grove Historical Society. The event was a great success and one featured highlight was a menacing visit to the farmhouse by the Headless Horseman, aka Lake County Sheriff’s officer Greg Abshire.

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Many other community volunteers pitched in on this cold night to bring thrills and chills to over 330 residents and visitors to our historic downtown. One survivor of my 6:00 pm tour group just happened to be a journalism student who was so taken with the experience that she wrote a fantastic story of her journey through haunted Long Grove. Click here to read Natalie Bober’s article published today on the Chicago Tribune website:    Ghost Walk/Chicago Tribune Website  Natalie says it better than I ever could!

Happy Halloween!!

A few of the many Long Grove spooks and spirits who volunteered to make the Ghost Walk come alive!

A few of the many Long Grove spooks and spirits who volunteered to make the Ghost Walk come alive!