Hillcrest Park, 11335 South Joliet Road, Lemont, IL. (1952-2003)
Hillcrest Park on Joliet Road in Lemont sat on 60 secluded acres, so far back from view that most passersby didn't even know it existed. Since 1952, Hillcrest Park has been a full-service outdoor catering facility specializing in private picnics, primarily for corporations, promising a good time and non-stop food for all ages.
Rides included a Kiddie Whip, a Merry-Go-Round with 4 horses across instead of three (Note: near each of the Merry-Go-Round benches were two stationary horses about 1/4 scale of the regular horses for toddlers and little kids), a Helicopter ride, and a Bumper Car (16 cars) ride. The park also had a miniature golf course, a shooting gallery, basketball and volleyball courts, a swimming pool, a bingo pavilion, a Dance Pavilion and Horseshoes. In 1967 the main attraction arrived at the park, the Little Dipper wooden roller coaster holding 16 riders. This jewel of a junior coaster was purchased when Kiddy Town at Harlem & Irving Park Road in Norridge, Illinois closed.
The authentic steam locomotive that beckoned eager picnic passengers was another ride from a bygone era. The steam engine required 300 to 400 pounds of coal for a full day of use. It took an hour to build up enough steam pressure in the boiler before it could pull the train. To keep the train ride lines short for large picnics, two trains were operated. The other one was a gasoline-powered locomotive.
Richard Barrie was the owner and later, his son Rick managed the park. In the early `50s about 60 acres of the old Stuyvesant Peabody estate in Lemont was purchased. Peabody had made his fortune in coal. The acreage bought even included a lake and they immediately booked it full for the season with either private or corporate parties. The wooden roller coaster at Hillcrest Park was called a "Junior Coaster" and was manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC), and its sister version was at Kiddieland in Melrose Park. They had no idea how old it was when it was purchased for Hillcrest Park, but over the years they rebuilt it twice.
Hillcrest Park closed on September 1, 2003 after a decline in corporate picnics and increase in the value of the land. After the closure the rides, roller coaster and park equipment were auctioned off and the land was sold to a developer.
The wooden PTC Junior Coaster was bought and moved to a small amusement park in Wisconsin called Little A-Merrick-A (owned by a family named Merrick).