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posted: 6/28/2012 8:07 AM

125th: Arlington Hts. cools down at Meyer's Pond

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  • Meyer's Pond in old Arlington Heights, which was filled in when State Road (now Arlington Heights Road) was widened in 1934.

      Meyer's Pond in old Arlington Heights, which was filled in when State Road (now Arlington Heights Road) was widened in 1934.
    Courtesy, Arlington Heights Historical Society

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  • Meyer's Park and pond, with a few picnickers. Once a hot spot for activity, the park is now the site of the village hall.

      Meyer's Park and pond, with a few picnickers. Once a hot spot for activity, the park is now the site of the village hall.

 
By Gerry Souter
Special to the Daily Herald

During the hot summers of the late 19th century, chores and business in the village and on the farms struggled through workdays stretching to 12 hours beneath the slow arc of the sun. Residents cherished what leisure time they could set aside each week and that often meant a stroll or buggy ride down to Meyer's Pond and the adjoining park.

In 1883, Henry Meyer, along with Chris Geils and J.A. Kennicott bought the property at State Road (Arlington Heights Road) and the railroad tracks where the village hall is located today. A natural pond was deepened and enlarged for harvesting ice and a dance pavilion constructed that became a center of village social life.

Available 12 months of the year, Meyer's Park was a summer refuge from the heat and an ideal location for picnics, dances, club events and weddings.

Special trains from Chicago brought city dwellers out here to enjoy this bucolic retreat in the country. Henry Meyer, a distributor for Blatz beer, had a rail siding laid from the main line so ice-filled reefers could unload kegs directly to his cold storage and from there by horse and wagon to the pavilion and his saloon customers. Beer sales enhanced the menu at the pavilion's lunch counter where hot dogs, hamburgers and in the winter, Mrs. Meyer's famous chili kept customers fed.

@$ID/NormalParagraphStyle:1 Barbara Castagna, "Life is More than Work -- Socializing in the Village," Chronicle of a Prairie Town -- Arlington Heights, Illinois; AHHS, 1997

The park was the perfect setting for political rallies and Chautauqua lectures by traveling guest speakers. A popular patent medicine show featured Indians in full regalia who danced, sang and played their instruments, while self-certificated "doctors" and "professors" peddled their bottled cure-alls (80 percent alcohol) and herbal pain relievers. When the Indians put away their drums, the German band tuned up in the pavilion and residents pounded out a high-stepping polka.

Fire department musters always drew a crowd as the proud volunteers wore their red shirt uniforms. The engines, ladder trucks, hose carts and polished brass hardware were paraded in the park with demonstrations of ladder climbing, ax chopping and hose work.

The pavilion even hosted the 1911 Wheeling Basketball Championship between the Arlington Heights High School and the Athletic Club. Often, the events concluded with large tubs of Meyer's handmade ice cream fresh from the ice shed.

The big event of the summer was the Meyer's Park Fourth of July celebration, filling the park grounds with events, contests and music until the night sky exploded with fireworks. Tall Charles Paddock, publisher of the Daily Herald, was persuaded to portray Abraham Lincoln. In 1924, the village and Meyer's Park won a flag award from the Chicago Daily news for having the best July Fourth celebration in Cook County.

Prohibition followed World War I, bringing an end to the beer business. When State Road was widened in 1934, Meyer's Pond and Park were sacrificed to the needs of commerce, but the tradition of parks and green spaces remained as the village grew.

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