It was a milestone year for the Long Grove Historical Society as our group saw a long term goal achieved—placement of the Covered Bridge on the National Register of Historic Places. Becoming the first property in our Village to receive this notable designation, it was a joyous high point amidst a year of success for our organization.
Installation of new officers was held at Enzo and Lucia’s on April 25, 2018. Our Covered Bridge Children’s Art Contest was well underway with entries from several area schools. Under the leadership of Diane Trickey, a group of Long Grove artists selected the winning drawings which were displayed at Covered Bridge Creamery in the month of May, and featured in Long Grove Living magazine. Candy prizes for the participants were generously donated by our downtown merchants.
Spring and summer saw several improvements to our Farmhouse property under the direction of Chris Campbell. A new security system was installed, and work was done to repair several windows with rotting wood trim. Repairs were made to the sump pump drain at Archer School, and later in the season tree removal and trimming was done at the farmhouse property. Many thanks to Angela Searcy and Jesse Visocnik for their donations towards getting the new security system installed at a lower cost to the society.
To celebrate the Illinois Bicentennial, a series of four musical programs was held on the Farmhouse Back Porch under the direction of Mike Dvorak. Held on the first Fridays of the month in June, July, August, and September, they featured guest performers doing “Spoon River Anthology” and “Songs of the Prairie State,” among others. John Kopecky was instrumental in organizing informal potluck gatherings on the lawn prior to the evening shows, for fun and fellowship within the community. Mike produced additional programs for Chocolate, Strawberry, and Apple Fests for the back porch stage, featuring local students acting and singing.
On June 15, the Historical Society was informed by the National Park Service that the covered bridge had been officially placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A press release was sent and the happy news was widely covered in papers locally and even nationally as it was picked up by the Associated Press. A community celebration for later in July was being planned. In late June, just two weeks after the National Register announcement, tragically the bridge was struck by an oversized truck and severely damaged. Shock, sadness and disbelief was felt not only in Long Grove, but from across the country. Our Historical Society received several emails from history buffs in places such as California and Pennsylvania, sharing in our sorrow. Angie and Aaron Underwood and Ryan Messner appeared on two separate television news features in the aftermath of the accident. Fortunately, the most historic parts of the bridge were not damaged in the accident, but the wooden cover had to be completely removed. The Long Grove Village Board is in the process of securing engineering specifications and restoration work bids, in the hopes that work can be completed in 2019 to fully restore the covered bridge. Our Covered Bridge Fund received several additional donations from individuals and one very large donation of $25,000 from a single donor this year, and we look forward to transferring these funds to the Village when the restoration work is finally approved and contracted.
In other sad news, two former officers and long time members of the Historical Society passed away this summer, Betty Coffin and Lee Bassett. Society members assisted with the memorial service held for Lee at Reed-Turner, and many members donated food items to be shared.
Vintage Days in August were a time for fun and frolic. Angie and Aaron assisted with historical narration on the tractor & hay wagon rides throughout the downtown. Our Penny Carnival was a rousing success entertaining loads of young kids and their families, with the help of an enthusiastic crew of teen volunteers. Many thanks go to Jane Primack and Marie Roth for heading up this activity. A highlight of the weekend was the performance of an original show written and produced by Mike Dvorak entitled “Good Times with the Gridleys.” Local students entertained us through drama and song with a synopsis of the history of Long Grove, told through the personas of the early pioneer citizens. This lively back porch performance was a hit!
In September we hosted a class of senior citizens from National Louis University for a tour of our barn and schoolhouse, and talk about our local history. Board members took a field trip to Gridley Cemetery on October 10th, for some light maintenance and so that many of our group could see it for the first time. This was followed by a surprise baby shower for our curator, Meghan Potempa. Plans for our annual Ghost Walk event had to be cancelled due to the construction and road closures in the downtown historical district. An alternate event, “A Spooky Night at the Farmhouse” was held on the back porch stage, featuring songs and scary stories. In December, Mike Dvorak held his final production of the year with a “Yuletide Sing” at the farmhouse.
A gathering in late fall was held at Buffalo Creek Brewery to say farewell to long time Historical Society members Georgia Cawley and Joe Barry who have moved to Hawaii. Volunteer labor was recruited at the event to stuff envelopes for a larger-than-usual outreach for our annual membership drive. Under the direction of Aaron Underwood, we were able to raise $10,000 in donations to the Society this year, a huge increase from recent years past. This is especially helpful as our major fundraiser, the Ghost Walk, had to be cancelled.
The winter months were slow for our Society as everyone either hibernated away from the severe weather and “Polar Vortex” or escaped to a warmer climate. However, one big and notable project was accomplished with the cleaning, purging, and organizing of our farmhouse basement and closets, thanks to the efficient efforts of Jane Primack and her crew of volunteers. Old appliances, chairs, and a rusted out hot water heater were removed and new storage space opened up so that our meeting room is now void of clutter. Thanks to all who helped with this needed spruce-up! Several members of the Society also assisted in organizing and helping with the Candidates Night in March, sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
It was a year for the history books, and one that I will never forget. This coming year will be one focused on working with the community to see the covered bridge repaired. We will all look forward to the upcoming celebration when the bridge is once again restored, maybe a year later than we had planned but perhaps all the more joyous for the wait.
Long Grove Historical Society President