Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kolze's Electric (Amusement) Park, Chicago, Illinois

Kolze's Electric Park was located along the south side of Irving Park Boulevard just east of Northwest 64th Street (now Narragansett Avenue) in the sparsely developed Dunning neighborhood of Chicago.
Looking east on Irving Park Boulevard at 64th Street (now Narragansett) in the Dunning neighborhood of Chicago. (circa 1905). The structure with the arches was the entrance to Kolze's Electric Park, which dates back to 1896 when hotel, restaurant and tavern (seen in the foreground) owner Henry James Kolze decided to create an attraction for riders of newly-reaching streetcar lines. Purchasing wooded land near his inn, Kolze strung large gas lamps to offer a nightly orchestra. It was one of the first parks in Chicago to be illuminated by electric lighting.

Newspaper Advertisement from September 10, 1904
It was operated by Henry James Kolze, who owned a two-story roadside Inn, Restaurant and Tavern on the site to serve visitors to nearby cemeteries and the Cook County Mental Hospital. The extension of streetcar service to the area in 1896 boosted traffic along Irving Park Boulevard and enhanced the commercial possibilities of the site.

Kolze responded by developing a picnic grove in the wooded area behind his restaurant. By 1905, the park featured a dancing pavilion, a shooting gallery, various concession stands, and bright night-time illumination, hence the name "Electric Park." 
Attendance at the park steadily increased during the 1910s and 1920s, leading Kolze to undertake additional park expansion. 
Grand  Picnic Newspaper Advertisement from 1918.
By 1924, several new booths and refreshment stands had been added. Records also indicate that Kolze acquired additional property south of the original park, pushing its southern boundary to present Byron Avenue. The picnic grove remained in operation until the late 1940s. 

In 1950, the Chicago Park District acquired the property and announced plans to convert the picnic grove into a public park. In subsequent years, the park district demolished 19 of 20 buildings. The only one left standing was the original clapboard tavern as the park's new field house until a new brick facility was erected in 1969. These structures were replaced with athletic fields, tennis courts, and a children's playground. The new park became known as Merrimac Park.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. I arrived there as an eight year old in 1953 and until today I thought it was Cozy's Electric Park...

  2. My grandmother worked there as a waitress around 1911-17. She met my grandfather there while working in the restaurant.

  3. Hi. I live on Merrimac Avenue, east of Merrimac Park. I am looking for information and photos of these homes in this little area. Can you point me in any helpful direction? I loved reading this history about the neighborhood. Thank you!

  4. As a little girl, I remember the “big” building on the corner and then it was gone. My Girl Scout troop, under the leadership of “Pinky” Zander ( the best Leader ever) met in the clapboard building. I also spent many hours in park activities there. In 1954, the Strasheim family sponsored a party for our St. Pascal 8th grade graduation in the tavern. I believe Strasheim Lumber was west of Narragansett on the south side of Irving.

  5. Kolze's was a big deal to an 11 yr. old kid. The swing cars with the rope pulls. Used to sneak in thru the back fence..

  6. I’m from that area.the Forties.I remember the area well. Watched as the Building & park was torn down.


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