Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Electric (Amusement) Park Corners, Sycamore, Illinois. (1904-1931)

The name Electric Park Corners (aka Electric Park) is attached to the area about a mile southwest of Sycamore on Route 23 which began as a settlement, then was developed on land immediately north of the corner in 1904.
The name comes from the first electric amusement center that this area had. Henry Groves was the proprietor and his son, George Groves, recalls some memories.

The old settlement corner can still be seen if you turn off the highway. Take the first road to the right, Old Route 23, until it takes a sudden turn to the south. You've found the Electric Park Corner Settlement. 

The old electric trolley line, Electric Traction Company, connecting Sycamore and DeKalb encouraged the ventured to stimulate business, even though the park survived the trolley. At one time the company advertised that you could leave DeKalb on the eight o'clock car in the evening and arrive at Electric Park to attend a vaudeville and motion picture show at the theatre at 8:15 PM and the total cost including a reserved theater seat cost 25¢. The park had a huge dance pavilion, a baseball diamond, a theater, and other attractions.

It was said that the ball diamond was one of the best in the area. Even the Chicago White Sox in the first decade of the century came to play an exhibition game here. The famous Ed Walsh pitched. The baseball teams which used the diamond there had various names. The first was Grove’s Colts. Another was called the Bug Six named after a cereal factory that sponsored the team. 

Some residents may still remember one of the interesting advertising painted on the east end of one of the barns at the Park. It was painted by a man name Cheetham. Two men were in the scene. One of the men said, “Have a cigar, my dear Alphonso”. The other replied, “Certainly, if it’s Bell of Sycamore”. The latter referred to a cigar manufactured in Sycamore long ago.

Groves says he was around six or seven years old when the park was started. The American Legion used to sponsor huge picnics on Independence Day which attracted from 10,000 to 15,000 people. Labor Day was another important weekend.

Organizations used to hold big parties and picnics at the park. C.H. Palmer had his own orchestra (he also played the trumpet and violin) which provided music for dances at the pavilion at Electric Park Corner. Organizations like the "Odd Fellows" would hold picnics at Electric Park Corners as a fundraiser. 

Groves remembers one Labor Day back in 1910 or 1912 on which a man was killed when jumping from a balloon. His parachute failed to open. His falling body just missed some stacks of oat bundles which might have saved his life. That was the last of numerous balloon releases. Those were in the days before helium and hydrogen had been discovered. They used to get the balloons in the air with fire and gas. A tunnel was dug from the balloon to a fire, on which gas was poured, Groves said. The hot air and gas flowed through the tunnel and into the balloons, as a hundred men held on to the ropes until the jumper was in his basket and ready to go. The balloons would soar as high as 1,000 feet before the jumpers parachuted.

The original dance pavilion, 100 by 300-foot, at the park burned down in the 1920s. It was rebuilt with a cement floor, and then rebuilt again by a man named Murphy, but when the last one built finally burned down in the early 1930s, that was the end of the amusement center.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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