Electric Park Corners [Amusement Park], Sycamore/DeKalb, IL. (1904-1931)
aka: Electric Park, Sycamore/DeKalb, IL.
Why the Name – “Electric Park Corners”? Electric Park Corners is a name that has an interesting history. In fact, it brings back fond memories of a lot of the older residents of Sycamore. For new-comers, it is more likely a mystery.
The name is attached to the area about a mile southwest of Sycamore on Route 23. Even the new modern four-lane highway, which has more of a gradual curve than corner there, has inherited the name. The old corner can still be seen, however, if you turn off the highway the first road to the right on the old Route 23. It makes a sudden turn south into the Electric Park Corner Settlement.
The name comes from the first electric amusement center that this area had. Henry Groves, father of George Groves was the proprietor. A huge dance pavilion, baseball diamond, a theater and other attractions were developed on land immediately north of the corner in 1904.
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 and the total cost including a reserved seat in the theatre was 25¢.
It took the depression and a final fire to destroy the huge 100 by 300 foot dance pavilion, and knock out the amusement center for good in the early 1930’s.
George Groves says the ball diamond there 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 did the pitching.
Groves says he was around six or seven years old when the park was started. The American Legion used to sponsor huge picnics on Independance Day which attracted from 10,000 to 15,000 people. Labor Day was another important weekend. 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 at the corner burned down in the 1920’s. It was rebuilt with a cement floor, and then rebuilt again by a man name Murphy, but when this new one finally burned down several years later, that was the end.
Organizations used to hold big parties and picnics at the grounds. 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. We have one report that the local Aleda Young Temple building was financed through proceeds from an Odd Fellows picnic at Electric Park Corners.
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 which sponsored the team. Some may remember one of the interesting advertising paintings 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 then in Sycamore.