Like every year that passes, 2018 was filled with little ups and downs as well as moments of great joy and sadness. One particular happy memory for me this past year is captured above in the photo taken just hours after receiving the news that our covered bridge in Long Grove had been officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The joy that I felt in that moment is something I will never forget. As we move into the new year I am looking forward to seeing progress on the restoration of our iconic bridge, so that it will last for generations to come.
In May of this year, the Historical Society organized and sponsored a children’s art contest for entries featuring our covered bridge. Many of the local public and private schools participated, with students from the Montessori School of Long Grove shown below taking in some up-close inspiration.
Judges from the Long Grove Arts & Music Council awarded prizes in various age categories, with winners receiving gifts donated by our generous historic downtown merchants. The winning entries were showcased at the Covered Bridge Creamery in late May and June.
Pictured below is a lovely winter view of the bridge created by one of the students, a scene that now lives in memory but will hopefully be realized again in holiday seasons yet to come. Best wishes to Long Grove in 2019, and may the joyous memories continue!
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!
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…
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.
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.
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!
Lori and Mike Lyman took to the dance floor in support of the Long Grove Arts and Music Council at the March 10th Jazz & Dance Fundraiser.
The transition from winter to spring is a long and drawn-out process in our part of the Midwest. Each day we are gifted with a few more minutes of sunshine to enjoy, but our gardens and open spaces remain brown, drab, and lackluster. One week we are seduced to leave the heavy coats behind as the promise of warmer weather beckons, only to have another round of sub-freezing temps and snow flurries slap us with a reminder that, in fact, winter is still in charge. Setting our clocks ahead one hour this morning is another positive indication that a new season is on the horizon. The Long Grove Arts and Music Council provided a great opportunity last night to enliven yet one more cold and dreary winter night in the best possible way–with a Jazzy array of food, music, dancing, friends and philanthropy.
To raise funds and excitement for the 2018 Summer Concert Series, a benefit was held at the newly opened Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Long Grove. It was heartwarming to see the many donations local merchants and residents provided for the silent auction. A live jazz band was on hand to provide upbeat entertainment, as supporters and council volunteers mixed and mingled and generally enjoyed the congenial atmosphere. To me, it was another encouraging example of the revitalization efforts in our historic downtown these past several years paying off. Long Grove residents now have many options to come together and socialize locally, and in the case of last night, to also support a group that provides free summer concerts benefiting the broader community at large. And despite the current reluctance of winter to give way, it’s enough to put a little spring in my step!
Ethel Robey-Berger, Arts and Music Council Artistic Director (on the left) and Mary Prekop of the Long Grove Confectionery check out the bidding competition on the silent auction items.
Long Grove residents (L to R): Miles Tyer, Kristen Wojicik, Pam Pasminski, and Katie Tyer are all smiles after completing the Cocoa Crawl held in downtown Long Grove on February 3rd.
Like most of Long Grove, I’m taking a “snow day” today by staying inside and off the roads so that the snowplows can dig us out before the next predicted wave of snow hits later this evening. And while a herd of deer are obviously having fun cavorting through the snow drifts in my back yard, I’m choosing to stay indoors and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate while blogging and reading. It’s the perfect opportunity to tell you about the Cocoa Crawl.
Held last Saturday, February 3rd, the Cocoa Crawl was a new idea initiated by the Historic Long Grove Downtown Business Association. On a typically slow winter weekend, residents and visitors were encouraged to come to our village crossroads and explore all the unique shops, restaurants and businesses with the enticement of free chocolate flavored samples at each location. Who does not love free chocolate? Apparently no one, because the event was a hit and downtown Long Grove was literally crawling with hundreds of families out to enjoy the treats, snacks and hometown ambiance. My friend Pam and I had a great time catching up with friends and neighbors that we haven’t seen for months as we hibernate our way through the winter season.
Here are just a few of the goodies we enjoyed: Chocolate Macroons at Within Reach,Hot Chocolate Popcorn at Signature Popcorn, Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar atThe Olive Tap, Chocolate Pudding cups topped with Baileys Irish Cream at Unwined,and Hot Chocolate Bark at the Long Grove Confectionery. We would have had more but mercifully (for our diets) some of the locations had run out of samples by the time we got there due to the large number of attendees to this inaugural event. At the end of our afternoon we stopped back to register for the raffle prize drawing, with 20 of the local businesses donating gift baskets or gift certificates to the festivities. It was great to see so many people enjoying our downtown and becoming acquainted with the newly renovated and opened shops. A tip of my snowman shaped cocoa mug to you, downtown merchants, for an inspired idea!
Taking a break from our crawling, Pam and I enjoyed a short rest under the “chocolate hot tub” outside of theLong Grove Coffee Company.
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 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!
Two of the friendly faces that will greet you at the new Long Grove Coffee Company are (L to R) Ethel Berger and Ellee Leva.
Ever since my favorite Long Grove coffee shop, the former Beans & Leaves closed this summer, our weekly women’s huddle has been forced to meet elsewhere for caffeine fortification while we solve all of the world’s problems. Well, life in Long Grove just got a whole lot better for those of us who have been missing our favorite gathering spot with the recent opening of the Long Grove Coffee Company. Located at 126 Old McHenry Road, the new business is part of the renovations being undertaken by the Long Grove Confectionery with their expanded properties near Towner Green. The Confectionery has officially reopened as of last Friday, and is chock full of treats for those Christmas stockings as well as sweet gifts for the holidays.
Right now, the buildings look a bit naked as the old siding was removed this week in anticipation of a new upgraded exterior coming very soon. As I was getting my latte today, I asked barista Ellee Leva what happened to their “skin,” and she told me her Dad (Confectionery owner Craig Leva) wanted the outside to look just as beautiful as the newly renovated interiors of the buildings. The coffee shop features large tables for groups (one of which is a cool vintage treasure from local shop Scout and Forge), smaller tables for meet-ups, and a comfy couch and chairs for casual conversation. I happened to be there when the new couch was delivered so I can vouch for the coziness! Long Grove resident Ethel Berger, who ran Beans & Leaves, has returned to head up the operations at Long Grove Coffee Company and her regulars have already started to settle in to the new location. Plans are underway to add some additional food offerings in the months ahead and to continue the tradition of live music that the community enjoyed at the former location.
As you finish your holiday shopping in our historic downtown, stop by for a warm beverage and piece of chocolate and get acquainted with one of the many new businesses that have opened this year in Long Grove. The new couch awaits you!!
Testing out the brand new couch on December 8th (L to R): Angie Underwood, Marie Roth, and Ethel Berger.
Pictured above is the owner of the newly relocated gift store Within Reach, Marian Ward, with her daughter Julia.
Join me in congratulating Marian Ward, owner of the retail shop Within Reach, on her successful move to a beautiful new location in downtown Long Grove! Now located in the yellow building at 128 Old McHenry Road, Marian’s new space is part of the exciting renovations being done to the entire complex of buildings owned by Craig Leva of the Long Grove Confectionery. Coming soon will be the expanded Confectionery, Long Grove Coffee Company and Cafe, but for now we can enjoy a new spot to shop for gifts and treasures. In business since 1982, this is the third Long Grove location for Within Reach, which started in the basement of the old Stempel general store (now the downtown Visitor’s Center). For the past 35 years Marian’s kindness and love for the community has cultivated a loyal customer base, plus her knack for picking out great finds for home decor. The second floor of her new building is now exclusively devoted to baby clothes and gifts–it’s a pink and blue paradise where cuteness abounds! I stopped in on opening day two weeks ago to check out the new digs but I will be back shortly, Christmas gift list in-hand.
Within Reach and many of the other stores will be open until 7:00 pm every Thursday and Friday night thru Christmas starting tomorrow, November 16th. Shop into the evening and afterwards enjoy dinner at one of our four downtown restaurants or a glass of wine or craft beer at one of our three tasting rooms. Save your receipts and for every batch totaling $150, you will receive a gift at the Visitor’s Center. This Friday, November 17th, the downtown merchants are hosting a “Progress with Us” evening of treats and holiday specials throughout the historic business district. The fun kicks-off at 5:00 pm till 9:00. Carriage Rides, Carolers, and Santa will again be visiting on Saturdays & Sundays for a very “Vintage Holiday” season this year in Long Grove.
The fundraising campaign to save the covered bridge now exceeds $50,000 in donations and pledges.
The Village of Long Grove was featured recently in two Chicago Tribune stories (see links below) and both articles spoke of the current efforts by the community to get our covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, several fundraising efforts are underway to generate private donations to help offset the public funds that must be allocated to pay for preservation of our iconic bridge. More and more concerned community members are becoming involved with efforts to keep our one-lane bridge by signing the online petition, purchasing raffle tickets, making donations to the covered bridge fund, and speaking up in support of preservation at community events and gatherings. The gauge at the downtown crossroads will be updated soon to show that private efforts have now surpassed the halfway mark of the goal of raising $100K in donations and pledges to save our historic bridge. More information on ways to help can be found by visiting SaveTheBridge.net.
After the bridge was ultimately recommended by the historians on the State of Illinois review committee, the Historical Society was expecting to hear earlier this month from the National Park Service regarding the application to be placed on the National Register. A request came for more documentation pertaining to the scarcity of this type of bridge in our area of Illinois and it’s local significance. The listing process is iterative, with each draft of the application being reviewed by a new historian who brings individual interests and experiences into what is significant and worthy of elaboration. The federal application itself plays a role in documenting our national history, so all involved in the process want to take their time and get it right. With this being the last level of review, the end is now in sight even if it takes a bit longer than desired to get there. More information on this topic can be found at LongGroveHistory.org.
This past weekend my husband and I took a drive up to Michigan to enjoy the fall colors, and we purposefully visited the town of Allegan, Michigan to see their one-lane iron truss bridge over the Kalamazoo River. Built in 1886, this bridge was almost lost in 1979 when rehabilitation was deemed more costly than replacement with a two-lane federally funded structure. The local community rallied and got the Second Street Bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Because the bridge was not a critical transportation corridor, Allegan city officials were able to persuade the federal government in 1981 to fund rehabilitation, even though the project would not meet the federal standards. The bridge is beautiful, with a pedestrian walkway decorated with iron latticework and end post finials. It is a centerpiece and source of pride for the small town and is featured in the logo for the city of Allegan.
This story and it’s positive outcome and correlations to Long Grove make me hopeful. But we all know that for every historic bridge that has been saved, many, many more have perished. I truly hope that the story history writes years from now about our Long Grove covered bridge will be a happy one.