Hillcrest Amusement Park - A Picnic Grove Turned Logistics Park
Hillcrest Park, in unincorporated Lemont, IL was a small picnic grove with a few small amusement park rides, similar to many other tiny parks that operated early in the 20th century. By the time it stopped operating in 2003, it was one of the few remaining relics of a bygone era of amusements. It was far smaller than even Kiddieland, its nearest theme park equivalent, which also closed down early in the 21st century.
Despite its very small size at less than 60 acres in size (and most of that was just picnic grounds), it actually housed a roller coaster recognized as an ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts) Coaster Classic. The requirements for this distinction can be found in the link.
The park operated from 1952 to 2003, and was most famous for its Little Dipper wooden coaster (which is now at Little Amerricka in Marshall, WI). But it also had a small railroad running within it as well. Paul Drabek noted the Little Dipper, railroad, and a carousel among the amusement rides, but was only open for private picnics for most of the later years of its existence.
Chicago Tribune said of the place in 1992, "Hillcrest Park on Joliet Road in Lemont sits on 60 secluded acres, so far back from view that most passersby don`t even know it exists. 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. With miniature golf and a shooting gallery, amusement rides such as bumper cars and a small roller coaster, basketball, volleyball, swimming and bingo, there`s no way anyone could possibly say, ''I`m bored.''
The Little Dipper was formerly at another tiny amusement park known as Kiddytown that existed in Norridge, IL in the 1950's. It was moved to Hillcrest Park in 1967, ostensibly upon the closure of Kiddytown.
|Little Dipper in the final year of operation - 2003. Similar if not exactly the same as many other tiny figure-8 wooden dipper coasters. Eric Sakowski photo via RCDB.|
Unfortunately, very little reliable information exists about Hillcrest Park, namely because some of those who have compiled information about it simply refuse to properly credit sources, or even leave a simple link, and thus it's hard, if not impossible to verify their information. You'd think a "PhD" wouldn't have this problem, but I guess that's something they don't teach you at the London Institute for Applied Research. Thankfully, NewsPlusNotes shines a little light on this place.
|Map of Hillcrest Park|
Today, the land is simply a lake on the west side of the park, and a warehouse on what was the eastern side. The land was clearly more valuable as industrial zoned property than a tiny amusement park, but it's still a sad sight to see. Isn't progress great?
|Google Maps. You'd be unable to tell a theme park ever existed here, let alone less than twenty years ago.|
After the land was sold, the Village of Woodridge annexed the parcel, and it is now located adjacent to the Argonne Industrial District. Joliet Road divides the villages of Woodridge and Bolingbrook.
|The entrance to the park off of Joliet Rd. The traffic light is a recent installment (2018 or so)|
While I never got the chance to visit there, this was another interesting thing to learn existed after the fact, especially considering when compared to nearby Old Chicago, it's a fairly recent closure.
Even more interesting for me is that this is a place where a forgotten railroad (the Santa Fe Argonne Industrial District), a historic US Highway (former US 66, today simply Joliet Rd), and the forgotten Hillcrest Park all existed. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, don't let anyone tell you Bolingbrook and the surrounding area don't have any history.
Thanks as always for reading!