Iconic Pheasant Run resort in St. Charles closes with tears, nostalgia
Pheasant Run management may have been ready Sunday morning to attach a permanent "do not disturb" sign on its doors.
But as the time for the final 11 a.m. checkout beckoned, the last guests stubbornly clung to the historic St. Charles resort, unwilling to part from a place they associated with cherished family memories.
At a table, one group played cards, while nearby, a twosome played Ping-Pong.
Plenty of signs of life remained. The waterfall at the combination indoor-outdoor pool still flowed, and the string of lights stretching above the Bourbon Street area still glowed, even as the lodgers dragged their suitcases into the parking lot and the drop-off by the front door.
As it ceases operations, the future of the resort campus at 4051 E. Main St. in St. Charles is open to speculation.
The property has been marketed for sale since November, shortly after management announced plans to restructure and reduce staff by 75%.
An online auction for the 18.3-acre site took place in February, ending with a final bid of $6 million. The resort's undisclosed reserve, or the minimum price established by the seller, had not been met, though the auction website indicated a winning bidder could still be declared and a sale negotiated.
Weeks later, city officials say they have received no official word on the resort's fate.
Built in 1963 on what was once a dairy farm, Pheasant Run continued expanding in size and scope the next couple of decades as founder Edward McArdle developed his vision for the property.
On Sunday, guests took pictures to commemorate their final journey, and one guest, West Chicago resident Barb Zumpano, left with memories dating back to childhood and a cardboard sign from the bistro for "refreshing iced tea." She said she had always walked around with a cup of iced tea.
"My eyes are watering. It's like losing my best friend," she said. "I know all the people who work here. I think they're more upset about how it was handled. They didn't recognize the employees at the end. And they didn't have a big party."
Guests, however, had one last big blowout at the pool Saturday night.
"At one time, there had to be 60 people at that pool," said Zumpano, who visited the resort with her parents when it first opened and then later took her own children.
She fondly remembered Bourbon Street and the indoor-outdoor pool where she could swim outside during the winter.
She also remembered the food: "They made the best filet mignon I ever had."
Fifteen people from three generations of one family also were among the final guests.
They included siblings Scott Fain of McHenry, Wisconsin residents Ryan Fain and Nicole Hajewski and their own parents, McHenry residents Ron Fain and Linda Fain.
"We came here for Thanksgiving weekend for 25 years straight," Ryan Fain said.
Of the closing, he said, "It's disappointing for sure. We have a lot of memories here. The resort is so unique."
He fondly recalled the champagne brunches, string quartets and visiting the dinner theater with family to see "Annie" and "West Side Story." He said the family even met Jerry Seinfeld when he was appearing at the Mega Center.
Around checkout time, Diane Lynch of Wheaton dropped by to get one last look.
"I worked here for 35 years," she said. "I just had to take some photos."
She said she started as a single mom with three children, beginning in accounting and advancing to front office manager.
"It was a wonderful place," said Lynch, who is now retired.
She said her memories include seeing longtime owner David McArdle grow up.
"He was a 7-8 year old," Lynch said. "I would bring my daughter here on a Saturday, and he was so hungry for friendship, he would take her all over. She said, 'Mom, I have seen places I bet you never knew existed.'
"It was a real family. We worked hard and we played hard. It was nothing to work 50-55 hours a week, if you were a manager."
She said it is a sad occasion, but said, "There is still hope, if the city is willing to work with any of the buyers. So it's a possibility that something might still happen."