The Forest Park Amusement Park operated from circa 1905 to 1923, approximately 17 acres west of DesPlaines Avenue, where the Eisenhower Expressway is located today. Although funeral directors and cemetery people objected to the park, and lodged complaints, the general public opinion found that it was a beautiful and fun place to visit.
Landscaped neatly with trees and hedges, visitors had many options to amuse the day (or night) away. There were exciting rides like the Leap the Dip, Grand Canyon and the provocative Giant Safety Coaster. It also had a carousel, a dance / theater stage (that even Charlie Chaplin performed at), a natatorium, roller rink, gambling opportunities, a Fun House, a Hall of Mirrors and plenty of carnival games.
There were seasonal novelties shows and attractions like the goat races, alligator lesson with “Alligator Joe,” demonstration of submarine warfare in the “Terror of the Ocean” exhibit, displays of all varieties of chicken to name a few.
The Amusement Park had popular freak show, with “authentic Hootchie-Koochie dancers;” Zita, the bearded Lady, a six-legged calf; Bo-Bo the “rubberman;” and a “Hindu snake charmer.”
Ice cream, cotton candy and caramel corn were available and the hot dog stand was a popular place for teenagers. Eventually the park closed, the combination of prohibition, depression and a fire were too much for the Park to bear. The Natatorium was reopened as a refreshing place for locals to swim in 1927, as the Des Plaines River was too polluted.
Spirits of controversy abundnant in Forest Park in 1921. Click here for the gambling debate that struck town a century ago.