"LPS 1921": An Abandoned Building at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

What appears to be some kind of stone building from early in the 20th century, today is nothing more than a creepy and haunting part of an otherwise leisurely walk along the Waterfall Glen Trail near Lemont, IL. I first encountered this structure walking with friends in 2012, at the same time that I discovered the abandoned tracks that led into Argonne National Laboratory, which began a few hundred feet east of here along the trail. My initial thought that those two finds may be connected yielded no fruit at all, which led me to the obvious question: 

What exactly is this structure, and what does "LPS 1921" mean? 

It almost resembles a mausoleum with an open-air roof, although my guess is that it once had a roof that has been lost to time. 

This is case where the truth is rather benign, as it is the site of a former nursery, or more accurately, it is a former administration building; the nursery was along the land adjacent to the structure. This is where trees and plants grew, and given the location inside of a forest, this isn't too much of a stretch.

Unlike many dilapidated places, this one is easily accessible to the trail...which can partially explain why some of it is covered with graffiti, especially on the interior.

More interesting, however, is its impact to Chicago history, as the plants and trees grown in this area were used to create Lincoln Park, which was built following Lincoln's assassination, and sat on land that was once the Chicago City Cemetery

"In 1907, in accord with many landfill projects, 107 acres of Lemont land became a nursery that provided topsoil and plants for Lincoln Park. It was located on the bluff southeast of the present location of the Rocky Glen Waterfall, on the eastern side of Waterfall Glen." (Pat Camelliere)

Thanks to one of our readers, Alain, we know that LPS stands for "Lincoln Park System", which was one of the three original Chicago park commissions, along with the South and West systems. Thanks for the wonderful research!

A closeup of the structure. You can see the work of vandals inside. (FRRandP, 2019)

It's a shame that such a structure was not preserved. But in an update, thanks once again to my readers, I'm happy to report that the DuPage County Forest Preserve has created a post nearby that shows the history of this place!

"Transplanted History", showing the history of why this structure exists in the first place.

So what does this building look like on the inside? Well, it's left side wall has largely caved in and returned to nature, and the single room structure has, to put it mildly, seen better days.

Cave in on the left. FRRandP photo, 2021.

Returning to nature, after having been a place to grow plants. At least its usage has been consistent in its afterlife phase.

I would not suggest planning a trip to Waterfall Glen just to see this structure, as the rest of the Forest Preserve has a lot of other recreation and trails that are much more interesting. And its relatively small size means there isn't a whole lot of urban exploration opportunity here either, but all that said, it's nonetheless an interesting quirk and piece of abandoned history that tells the history of this place in its own small way.

Thanks as always for reading!


  1. Intriguing...

    I would agree that the letters "L" and "P" likely stand for Lincoln Park since these ruins are part of the Lincoln Park Nursery site. But what about the letter "S"? Letters stood for the word they replaced, so one would expect a "C" if the acronym stood for the word "Commission" in Lincoln Park Commission.

    According to this very well documented thesis on the development of the park system in Chicago (https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/158314678.pdf), the letter "S" appears to stand for "System". LPS: Lincoln Park System. See page 30 of "The North Park System" (after the Map Supplement).

    Also, the National Register of Historic Places (https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NRHP/64500200_text), in the Statement of Historic Context, refers to Chicago's three initial park commissions as "the South, West and Lincoln Park systems". The use of the plural form would lead to conclude that each was individually known as a system, so the "Lincoln Park System" or LPS.

    Mystery solved?



    1. Alain,

      Thanks so much for finding these! I've updated the blog accordingly.

    2. My pleasure! I love resolving mysteries.

  2. A final piece of evidence from the horse's mouth with regards to the meaning of the letter "S"!

    In this "Report from the Commissioners of Lincoln Park 1913-1916" (https://ia800700.us.archive.org/4/items/reportofcommissi00chic/reportofcommissi00chic.pdf), on page 25, they wrote: "There are five small parks in the Lincoln Park System".



  3. Hi there, love your blog posts! I don’t know if you have revisited recently but in the last few weeks a new marker has popped up across from this ruin detailing its story. I assume it was your influence!!

    1. Jake,

      Thanks for the comment! I was unaware of this update, I will be going back to the area shortly and updating the blog in this case!

  4. I lived in Burr Ridge for 15 years and used to do the 9.5 mile hike often, I never saw this structure before...what I did see was a wall about 5 to 7 inches tall and someone told me it used to be an old cemetery....Grace Hirmer


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