Thursday, August 9, 2018

Ravinia Amusement Park, Highland Park, Illinois (1904-1910)

Ravinia was originally created as an Amusement Park on land purchased by Albert C. Frost, it was conceived as a year-round amusement park with swings, a skating rink, a slide, pavilion, casino, spectator stadium, and a small hotel. 
A 1907 Postcard of the Entrance to Ravinia Park.
Railroad President Frost's goal was to stimulate business for his railroad, the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad, but unfortunately, it was unsuccessful and by 1910 the railroad failed and the property went into receivership.
When it opened in August of 1904, the 40-acre park included a stadium for baseball and football games and a few carnival-type rides. During the winter, the playing field was transformed into a hockey and ice-skating rink by flooding the field.
Described by one 1904 reviewer as a ‘majestic grandstand’ and dubbed ‘The Stadium’ by Ravinia Park owner Chicago &  Milwaukee Electric Railroad, the Ravinia Park Stadium sat 2,500 visitors and could be viewed from passing trains.
Park buildings were designed by architect Peter J. Weber and included a 24 room hotel (located west of the railroad tracks), a theater building, a casino containing a restaurant and ballroom, a dance pavilion, and a baseball stadium.
Old Sanborn Fire map of Ravinia Amusement Park, Highland Park, IL. c.1905
The theater offered “refined and high-class vaudeville” every day except Sunday. In 1907, the park was forced into receivership. Fearing that it would be purchased by a cheap amusement company, a group of prominent Chicago and North Shore residents organized to raise the $15,000 needed to save it.
In 1911, Ravinia Park once again faced financial difficulty. A group of North Shore residents, led by Frank R. McMullin of Highland Park saw the potential in Ravinia Park and started the Ravinia Company raised $75,000 to purchase the park. The park reopened on June 21, 1911, as a summer venue for classical music under the leadership of Louis Eckstein. Opera was added to the venue in 1912. Ravinia gained a reputation as "America's summer opera capital."
The prairie-style Martin Theatre (then named Ravinia Theatre) is the only building on the grounds that dates back to the original construction.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. Ravinia had a few carnival rides, ice skating rink in the winter, picnic grounds and 28 room Hotel. The stadium was used for baseball and football games. North Shore line R.R. was still promoting baseball games there in 1922. NSL had their own League, Highwood,Highland Park and Glencoe each had a team. The annual Awards dinner was held at the original Moraine Hotel on Sheridan Road in Highland Park. Ravinia Park what's to be built years earlier, but politician/land Speculator William Hogan convinced the railroad to build the park in Highwood instead. The Highwood park was not as fancy and served Wine and Beer. In 1906 it was closed because it became a public nuisance. In 1908 it burnt down. The land eventually became part of Fort Sheridan military base along with the old St John's settlement on the lakefront. Both parks were promoted as the finest family amusement park west of New York.

    1. Fort Sheridan Amusement Park, Highwood. (1898-1908)


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