Losing a small slice of village history

Opinion: Columns

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

It's been called the "pool house," the "party house" and the "country club house."  That's because the home on the 1000 block of Beloit was the only one in Forest Park with an in-ground pool. In February, Frank and Alyssa, a young couple from Oak Park, bought the spacious three-bedroom house, and in April they emptied the pool to check its condition. They called it "draining the swamp."

That's because the concrete pool had algae and insects growing in its dark waters. There were even pool toys hidden in its depths. Frank didn't know how deep the pool was, until they reached bottom. It was over 10 feet deep at one end! He saw the concrete was cracked and crumbling and called local pool companies to come out and assess it.

One of them said it was the second-largest residential pool he had ever seen. He also said it was in the worst condition of any pool he had encountered. The contractors gave Frank "astronomical estimates" to fix the pool. So he had it demolished, which was also costly. The operation included taking down the backyard fence and several overgrown trees.

They left the pool house standing, but it's only a matter of time before that crumbling structure comes down. Still, the pool house reflects the former glory of the yard. Like the pool, it dates back to the 1950s. It features décor from that era and it boasted a bar and an outdoor theater. There are hooks on an exterior wall where they hung the screen, flanked by speakers. 

Frank and Alyssa are the second young couple to purchase the 114-year-old house. In 1992, Linda Wagner and her husband, Art bought the "pool house." Like Frank, Art was a general contractor who was eager to renovate the house and restore the pool. The Wagners drained it, patched it and painted it. When they refilled it, the pool was in pristine condition. 

The cabana room was also a gem. It was screened and they hosted many parties there. When visitors arrived, they were blown away, wondering "where did this house come from?" Linda felt like the Beverly Hillbillies — down-to-earth people living on an estate. Their three little girls squealed and played in the pool, along with kids from the neighborhood.

She said it was the "favorite house she ever lived in," not only for the pool but its proximity to Ed's Way and The Park. Linda and her family moved out in 1997 but she still has "tons of good memories" from her years on Beloit. 

Frank and Allyssa also enjoy living on Beloit. They love the layout of the house and look forward to landscaping the yard. Frank first had to tear down the rusty leaning flagpole in the front yard and replace it with sod.

He also plans to sod the former site of the pool. After the pool house is demolished, he intends to build a garage. Frank and Alyssa may be the perfect couple to bring the property back to its former glory. He works on large-scale construction projects in the Loop. She is an accountant who can keep the renovations within their budget.

Demolishing the pool was necessary, but another part of Forest Park history was lost. It reminds me of how the original Forest Park Pool met its end. It was the fifth largest pool in the state of Illinois but was leaking thousands of gallons of water. Now our little slice of Beverly Hills is gone and all that remains are memories of golden days swimming at the "country club house." 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com

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Amy Hart Tomaso from River Forest  

Posted: August 15th, 2018 11:12 AM

We lived there from 2000 to 2005, great house, wonderful memories & parties!

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