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.

We all scream for…Ice Cream!

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This weekend’s Strawberry Fest featured a pop-up appearance of the Scout & Forge vintage ice cream truck.

Summer has officially arrived in Long Grove and it’s gonna be a hot one. I just checked the forecast for this upcoming weekend and we are looking at several days in a row of temps in the upper 90’s with heat indexes well in the 100’s. And of course we all know, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!  If you have access to a pool or lake, that will be the place to be. For the rest of us, I recommend ice cream.

Enjoying one of my favorite flavors at Covered Bridge Creamery, "Exhausted Parent."

Enjoying one of my favorite flavors at Covered Bridge Creamery, “Exhausted Parent” with Manager Nicholas Modlin.

Fortunately, we have a new ice cream shop in town to make it easy to keep cool on these lazy, hazy days of summer. Covered Bridge Creamery is located right across from Fred Astaire dance studio, making it an ideal spot to unwind after a dance lesson.  The outdoor patio and gazebo also features live music on weekends and occasional summer nights. It was one of several places to relax and enjoy Strawberry Fest this past weekend in Long Grove. With our extra hours of daylight in the summer, it is great to have the Creamery open in the evenings now as a post-dinner dessert destination. Based on all the happy smiles I have seen every time I enter, this has quickly become a popular spot with the locals!

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Long Grove residents Aaron Underwood and Meghan Potempa indulge in a sweet treat from the vintage ice cream truck at Strawberry Fest.

Another fun and unique ice cream option at the festivals is the authentic 1940’s ice cream truck owned by Matt and Meghan Potempa, who run the downtown vintage store, Scout and Forge. I guess it is just the kid in me, or happy memories of hearing the siren call of the calliope music, but somehow ice cream just tastes better when acquiring it street-side from a truck. And not just any truck, but a cool, restored, vintage one! The ice cream truck will be back for the Vintage Days festival on August 18th and 19th in historic downtown Long Grove. Plan to check it out along with the open air street market, live music, children’s Penny Carnival, and more. Whether it involves ice cream or not (and I hope it does), keep cool this weekend!

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!

Chocolate Fest 2018

Enjoying the talents of professional  Puppeteer Krist Neumann is part of the fun to be had this weekend at Chocolate Fest in Long Grove!

Enjoying the talents of professional Puppeteer Krist Neumann is part of the fun to be had this weekend at Chocolate Fest in Long Grove!

Festival season has returned to downtown Long Grove, with this weekend’s Chocolate Fest kicking off the fun and entertainment. Yesterday’s comfortable temperatures and calm skies made it a pleasure for those attending, and for the merchants who enjoyed the healthy crowds. It was the perfect evening to relax in the outdoor seating at Broken Earth Winery, share a bottle of merlot and a pizza from Joanie’s, and enjoy the festival people-watching.

With Jodi Smith on the porch of Broken Earth Winery, soaking in the festival ambiance.

With Jodi Smith on the porch of Broken Earth Winery, soaking in the festival ambiance.

Of course, you can’t attend Chocolate Fest and not sample a bit (or a bunch) of chocolate! Among the many tempting options were classics like fresh chocolate dipped strawberries, and clever new combinations like chocolate bourbon espresso ice cream. Yep, I can verify that both are worth the indulgence. And who can resist a signature Long Grove specialty, the apple cider donut, covered in chocolate and placed on a stick for maximum enjoyment and festival portability? Not me!

As far as entertainment goes, there are carnival rides for the kids as well as free children’s activities on Towner Green. The Historical Society once again hosted a show on the back porch of our farmhouse featuring local youths and adults (and puppets!) in the family friendly production, “Chocolate, Chronicled.” Headlining bands round out the festival evenings and the street in front of the main stage at the covered bridge was packed last night with music lovers. Click below to view a snippet. Chocolate Fest continues today, May 20th until 5:00 pm in the historic downtown.

 

Mother’s Day Fashionistas

Long Grove boutique owners (L to R) Lynne Jankovec of Olivia's and Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna at the May 10, 2018 Fashion Show.

Long Grove boutique owners (L to R) Lynne Jankovec of Olivia’s and Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna looking stylish at the May 10, 2018 Fashion Show.

Now that Spring weather has finally arrived in Long Grove, it’s time to shift those boots and heavy sweaters to the back of the closet and make way for sandals and sundresses. To help you with that, we have two stylish boutiques in Long Grove chock full of beautiful things to wear in the warm months ahead. And I know this for a fact, because I attended the recent Mother’s Day Fashion Show at the Grove Country Club put on by Lynne Jankovec of Olivia’s and Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna.  This annual event has been held for the last five years and is always a really fun night out with the ladies while enjoying a preview of both the fashion forward and classic looks for the season. In addition, there was a bit of on-site shopping to enjoy and raffle prizes to bid on, with the proceeds going to support the fight against breast cancer. I was excited to find the perfect summery dress to take with me on vacation next month–and I’m still contemplating that matching hat!

No matter where this summer takes you, be it afternoons in the park, lunch in the garden with your girlfriends, or a romantic sunset dinner on Santorini, Lynne and Mira can dress you in the perfect attire. This weekend is a great time to stop by, as Chocolate Fest returns to Long Grove on Friday, Saturday and Sunday May 18-20. Now that is a winning combination if there ever was one–new clothes AND chocolate!

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.

How Sweet It Is

Ethel Berger (on the left) and I offered our congratulations to owner Craig Leva on the Grand Opening of the new location of the Long Grove Confectionery.

Ethel Berger (on the right) and I offered our congratulations to owner Craig Leva at the Grand Opening of the newly located Long Grove Confectionery.

Smiles abounded on a perfect springtime evening last Friday for the Grand Opening celebration at the newly renovated Long Grove Confectionery. A year in the making, our town’s namesake sweet spot has happily settled in their new location alongside Towner Green, now offering much more than delicious chocolate creations. Besides locally famous Myrtles (recently named one of “Chicago’s Best” by WGN Channel 9!) you can now also purchase Long Grove Apple Haus favorites like apple cider donuts and Uncle Johnny’s brown bag apple pies. A demonstration kitchen is part of the new retail shop, where customers can watch strawberries and other treats being created and coated in luscious chocolate. The Confectionery expanded to include the next-door Long Grove Coffee Company, which opened this past December. Already a favorite gathering spot with the locals, it features occasional weekend live music and a patio for relaxing in the warmer months to come. A chef is now on staff to create soups and fresh bakery items and coming soon, signature sandwiches.

The party was a lovely celebration of the culmination of 12 months worth of remodeling. It featured a live band, beautiful spread of appetizers, a chocolate fountain (of course!) and my favorite new discovery, apple pie pops. Several hundred people stopped by to offer Confectionery owner Craig Leva and his staff kudos on the beautiful new spaces.

As a former elected official and resident who cares deeply about our Village, it warms my heart to see the investment being made by the Long Grove Confectionery in the future of our downtown. New stores and renovated spaces bring excitement and positive energy to all. And for this chocoholic, having our hometown Confectionery up and running bigger and better than ever makes me very, very happy!

Maureen introduced me to a new  indulgence--apple pie pops. Simply Scrumptious!

Maureen introduced me to a new indulgence–apple pie pops. Simply Scrumptious!