grow, marvel, eat, laugh, persevere

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Garden Bloggers Geography Project: Forest Park, IL

Thank you Jodi over at Blooming Writer for providing us garden bloggers an opportunity to learn about the cities our gardens live in. Since Carolyn has already done a great job of representing the City of Chicago, I decided to focus on the Village of Forest Park, IL, the community where I live. Chicagoland area is made up of many villages each having its own style and culture, each celbrating both its indiviuality AND its commonality with the other areas making up the Chicagoland area.

The blue symbol below is plastered all over Forest Park and as you can see we boast "Big City Access with Small Town Charm." The big city access thing comes from the fact that we are the last stop on the Blue Line of the EL train. Anything past us can officially be considered the "burbs".

The first time I visited Forest Park I noticed there were tons of cemetaries so I wasnt surprised to find that it has been referred to as a City of Cemetaries with more dead residents than live ones. At one time the estimate was 30:1 - Holy Crap thats creepy! There are even some famous dead people here like Ernest Hemmingway's parents.

To me, the most interesting dead folks here are the ones at Showmens Rest. In 1918 53 circus performers were killed in a train wreck at Gary Indiana and it just so happened that the Showmen's League of America had recently purchased plots at Woodlawn cemetary, so they were all buried there. Five granite elephants mark the boundaries of their section making it harder to to debunk the old rumor that the circus animals perished and were buried along side their handlers. Supposedly, "to this day, people swear that on certain nights they can hear the cries and calls from the ghosts of elephants and lions." I've never heard them, and I hope I never do! That is freaking me out just thinking about it. When I told Mr. W about it, he cut me off in the middle of my sentence and said "I DON'T WANT TO KNOW ANY OF THAT, GINA!" We are both such big chickens.
In 2007 Forest Park turned 100 years old. Happy Belated Birthday, Forest Park! Before that, this village, along with the villages of Oak Park and River Forest were known as the City of Harlem, named that by the land owner from, you guessed it, New York. In 1907 when the areas were divided, Forest park became it's own town. This explains why these 3 villages are so often spoken of together although I'm convinced that Oak Park and River forest really don't want to claim Forest Park. On the scale from low price to high price it goes Forest Park then Oak Park then River Forest. Mr. W and I always say we're moving to River Forest when we get rich.

As far as gardens go, Forest Park doesnt knock your socks off like downtown Chicago does. We don't have our own garden club and you know the deal about me trying to join the "Garden Club of Oak Park and River Forest." (told ya they don't claim us) We do officially have an Arbor Day as of last April so maybe we're moving in the right direction.

One thing I DON'T like about Forest Park is that we've got quite a ways to go on the green-o-meter. Sure, they pick up our yard waste and offer bigger containers for our recycling but I was pretty darn disappointed to find that Forest Park does not compost and give it back to its residents nor do they mulch the branches and Christmas trees for the us. They don't offer us rain barrels or composters at a discount or any good stuff like that. However, I did stumble on something that said they offered a $150 rebate on a battery, electric or manual power mower when you turn in your yucky gas one. Rock on, Forest Park! I wish I'd know about this back in April 2007 - I sure hope they do that again this year!

So, that's my town. Compared to other places I've lived, I think it's pretty awesome.


  1. Gina: would like to help you with your quest to offer a special something to the folks of Forest Park. Aquabarrel is a manufacturer of rain barrels, rain barrel kits and offers downspout filters, diverters. Aquabarrel would like to offer a coupon code to be used by the residents of your fair township on the website - Do you think that this is something you would like to promote?

  2. Hi Gina,

    Great post on Forest Park. Do you have a downtown there? I like the slogan " Big City Access with Small Town Charm. "

  3. Gina my dear, sorry to be slow in responding. On the weekend I couldn't raise some blogs, and when I could, I couldn't comment--but I missed this completely! Sorry about that. I've got your link up now on the main page of Bloomingwriter, top lefthand corner. Thanks for doing this, and I hope you're having fun--we've missed you the past couple of months.

  4. Hey Carolyn - yes we do have a "downtown Forest Park". It's Madison street and spans a few blocks where you'll find some cute little shops and restaurants. If you like Italian food and you are ever out this way I'd recommend La Piazza on Circle Ave. They make all their own pasta and bread in the basement and the food is awesome!

    hey Jodi! I am so NOT having fun!!! I'm ready for spring. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I've been to that cemetery that has the circus graves! There's a geocache there.

  6. Those circus graves do seem kind of creepy. I'm not sure I would want to know the whole story, either.

    But it was nice to read a little more about where you are!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  7. Forest Park?! It's bar town! I went to college in River Forest so we had to do our bar hopping in Forest Park ... ahhh, good memories ;)

  8. Great post! I worked with someone from Oak Park, and, for a party, she made a short film called "Forest Park, Why Not?" All very tongue in cheek. For it, she went to the Ferrara Pan Candy Company & got a guided tour. Is It still there? Love those Lemonheads! Poor Forest Park, if it's not getting confused with Park Forest, it's being overshadowed by Oak Park & River Forest.

  9. MMG - YES, Ferrara Candy is still here! In fact, I live 2 blocks from there. I don't know why I didnt think to include that in my post about Forest Park - everybody knows what Lemon Heads are! I would love to have seen the film your friend did. Sounds great. When my neices and sister-in-law came for a visit I contacted Ferrara to ask about a tour and they said they do not do that because of the liability. We were so bummed!

  10. although, apparently you know WAY more about FP history than me...

  11. do you know if anyone in FP has any opinion on us FP residents building rain gardens (or anything for that matter) in the parkway? Cuz my parkway floods every time it rains... rain garden might help with ye-ole water reclamation, but I don't want to get myself a citation from the Village... and I know if I call them and ask them if I can do something or if I need a permit they'll say either NO you can't or Yes but you need a permit ... both of whih are a pain.