Historical society wheels through Forest Park

Bike ride shows off historic sites

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The Historical Society of Forest Park kicked off the first warm Sunday in May with a bicycle tour of historic spots in Forest Park May 5.

Forest Park Review columnist John Rice led the group up as it traversed the sidewalks of the village from north to south. The tour began at the Community Center, formerly the site of the Forest Park Amusement Park, which burned to the ground in the 1920s.

"Engineers excavating the Eisenhower in the 50s found part of a carnival ride that shot people through a pneumatic tube," said Rice.

Cyclists rode past the former home of Dr. Frank Orland, Historical Society founder and a local dentist who championed the fluoridation of water in the United States.

The tour got a special treat, a visit to Concordia cemetery on Madison Street. Rice and Historical Society Director Diane Hansen Grah made special arrangements to visit the cemetery, which discourages visitors and has signs forbidding bicycles.

In Concordia, Rice and Grah led tourists to the monument for siblings Erwin and Marguerite Nagel. The pair worked for the Western Electric Co. and drowned in the Chicago Eastland ship disaster in April of 1915. Erwin was 21 and Marguerite was 19. The monument, with text in German, features an etching of the ship.

The oldest homes in Forest Park, railroad cottages built by workers in the mid-1800s were visited, as were buildings constructed during the Great Depression by out-of-work German immigrants using road paver bricks. One of these buildings is the Beacon Pub at 101 Circle.

Churches, a Victorian haunted home and the "business office" of mobster Sam Giancana were also featured on the tour, which ended in Forest Home Cemetery at the Haymarket Martyrs Monument.

The tour will be a regular occurrence every 1st Sunday from May through October, as part of the society's new schedule of events. Bicycle cemetery tours will take place next Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and continue through the summer every second Saturday.

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