As we look back on the events of the 2017-2018 club year, I believe it will be remembered as one of continued growth and success for the Long Grove Historical Society.
Installation of new officers was held at the Village Tavern on April 12, and retiring President Aaron Underwood was thanked for his years of service. Advocating for the preservation of our covered bridge was a main topic, with the establishment of a Covered Bridge Fund to receive donations from the community at large. A Covered Bridge Preservation Committee was formed, to meet and manage activities in the coming year.
In May, Mike Dvorak undertook two outdoor projects: the renovation of the path and drainage in front of Archer School, and the installation of a patio at the base of the farmhouse back porch to be used for future performances. In addition to the patio, Mike also re-seeded parts of the yard and planted perennials around the new patio area. Students from Mechanics Grove School attended our Archer School program, and items in the Ruth Barn were reorganized and cleaned. We received donations from the former owner of the Country Smoke House (part of Ferry Hill Farms) including photos, documents, a cream separator and the famous “pig signs” that hung outside the restaurant.
Many activities involving covered bridge advocacy kept our members busy in the months of June and July. Aaron Underwood spent many hours researching and preparing the application to the National Park Service to get the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Angie and Aaron met with Village President Bill Jacob and Trustee Rita O’Conner to provide information about the National Register and the process of approval. A dozen Historical Society members attended the June 26th Village Board Meeting to persuade the Board not to oppose the efforts by the State to get the application to the National Register approved. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency met on June 30th in Springfield, with Angie, Aaron and Ryan Messner in attendance. Aaron presented our application to the committee and it was unanimously approved to be submitted to the National Park Service. It was sent back in October for some additional details, resubmitted early in 2018 and we are currently awaiting word later this spring or summer.
In addition, a great deal of work was done with Save the Bridge fundraising efforts. Long Grove artist Tony Stencel donated an original watercolor painting of the bridge to the Society, and raffle tickets were sold through the summer and fall with the winner drawn at the Ghost Walk. Aaron Underwood established a “Go Fund Me” site for online donations, and a fundraising gauge sign was created and erected at the downtown crossroads due to the creative efforts of Meghan Potempa. Our website was redesigned and the first of our new online newsletters was published by our Webmaster, Aaron.
The month of August saw our Society focus on the Long Grove Vintage Days weekend. Our Penny Carnival returned for a second year and was a great success, with help from Jane Primack and her Girl Scouts running games and selecting prizes. Programs chair Mike Dvorak partnered with the Long Grove Performing Arts Academy to present “Polly Pureheart Prevails” on our new back porch stage & patio. Marie Roth also did a presentation on “Old Glory” with assistance from Mike. We had great help from all Board members in manning our “Save the Bridge” booth all day Saturday and Sunday during the fest. It was very good public outreach and many raffle tickets were sold and donations received.
Mike Dvorak and his student performers from the Performing Arts Academy returned in September to do a lively and entertaining “Celebration of the Apple” performance during Apple Fest at our farmhouse back porch. The show even featured “Ma and Pa Gridley” as performed by a professional puppeteer. Angie hosted Girl Scout Troop #40436 from Country Meadows at the farmhouse for tours, a history badge, and bridging ceremony. Angie and Aaron participated in Craft Beer Days (held conveniently in the parking lot in front of the farmhouse) with the “Save the Bridge” tent accepting donations and raffle ticket sales.
Our 2017 Ghost Walk event was our biggest, best, and most successful one yet. Hours were expanded to accommodate more people and despite cold weather and a raise in ticket price the tours were sold out. Proceeds were double of the previous year. We received media coverage and very positive feedback from the community. Every Board member participated in this event. Some memorable characters included: Moanna Mower as the Ghost of Cuba Road, John Kopecky as Mrs. Bigfoot, and Greg Abshire as the Headless Horseman, on an actual horse!
To round out the year, an inventory of our vintage clothing and accessories was undertaken at the farmhouse, headed up by Curator Tina Mall and a committee. The annual membership drive kicked off with outreach done by Membership chairman Aaron Underwood. Additional letters were sent to bridge supporters resulting in an increase in donations this year to over $7,500. total. Our Covered Bridge Fund had grown to $23,000, partly due to a donation of $15,000. from the downtown merchants out of proceeds from the Strawberry Fest. Amy Gayton headed up efforts to decorate a live evergreen tree outside the farmhouse to liven up the holiday cheer. On December 9th a Holiday Sing event was held on the farmhouse back porch, featuring songs and carols of the season organized by Mike Dvorak, with hot chocolate donated and served by Girl Scout Troop #40436.
2018 started with a surprise call from our security system with a low temperature reading in the farmhouse on a bitterly cold New Years Day. Thanks to Buildings & Maintenance chairman Chris Campbell for quickly rectifying the situation, and undertaking a review and recommendations for a new system to be installed this Spring at the farmhouse. The Nominating committee headed up by Diane Trickey, Meghan Potempa, and Tina Mall met numerous times in early 2018 and after much outreach and communication to members, secured a slate of officers for the upcoming year. At their suggestion, the Board has been expanded to include more committees and members at large, to better spread the workload and responsibilities. The Board discussed and decided to have the new officers serve only one year terms, and to spend the upcoming year with a focus on recruitment of members, leadership development, and possibly cutting back on activities if committee chairman are not secured.
In March, Angie and Aaron gave a presentation at the new Harbor Chase community in Long Grove on “The History and Architecture of Long Grove.” It was well received and attended by several of our Board members. An Archer School Task Force of Angela Searcy, Amy Gayton, Mike Dvorak and Angie Underwood met to discuss ideas for revitalizing the school field trip program. Mike met with a teacher at Kildeer School for further input and suggestions. Under the leadership of Diane Trickey, a Covered Bridge Art Contest was launched aimed at Kindergarten through 8th Graders. This was publicized through the District #96 schools and open to all area children. Entries are due at the end of April with the winners set to be displayed at the upcoming Chocolate Fest.
As is apparent, it has been a busy year for the Long Grove Historical Society, full of accomplishments that we can all take satisfaction in helping to achieve. It has been very personally rewarding to work with the current board this past year in an atmosphere of mutual respect and support to engage with our community so thoroughly. With an incoming Board full of ideas and enthusiasm, news of the National Register on the horizon, and much positive energy, I can’t wait to see what the next year holds!
Long Grove Historical Society President