"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.

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, or at the very least, that the DuPage County Forest Preserve has not provided a marker detailing the history of this building and the land surrounding it. It's certainly atypical to see such a dilapidated structure so easily accessible to hikers, without having some explanation as to its history; and the ease of access has led the interior of the structure to have numerous signs of vandalism and graffiti. 


  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!!


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