Kolze’s Grove, with its outdoor lights, offered multiple recreational activities near the Narragansett-Irving intersection prior to Merrimac Park being constructed there – Nadig Newspapers

Brian Nadig

The nine-acre recreation site at the southeast corner of Irving Park Road and Narragansett Avenue has been known as Merrimack Park since the 1950s, but before that, before such technology became commonplace, It was a privately owned picnic grove with outdoor lighting.

“The Picnic Grove was the first place in the Chicago area to boast these new lights, so we didn’t have to go home at sunset. Ralph, a longtime local business owner who died in 2012 Frese speaks in a video about Merrimac Park produced by the Northwest Chicago Historical Society.

Named after Henry Coltze, who inherited the land in the 1890s, the grove was also called “Coltze Electric Park” for its light.

For decades, Freese operated the former Chicagoland Canoe Base Shop about a block north of the park, and his complex included structures moved there from Coltze’s Grove, according to history. Social researcher Frank Seuss says:

The orchard included recreational facilities such as a restaurant, bar, hotel, beer garden, shooting gallery, dance pavilion and ping-pong tables, Suerth said.

“I remember my mother going there and listening to German music,” Seuss said.

An 1896 extension of the Irving Park Road tramway made it easier for Chicagoans to reach the woods, Suerth said.

According to the Historical Society, companies and churches rented out the grove for private events, and it was also a comfortable place for visitors to stop on their way to the nearby cemetery and Dunning State Psychiatric Hospital.

According to a video resident, the grove served as “St. Pascal’s playground,” and chicken dinners in the grove were popular on Sundays.

After World War II, the Chicago Park District acquired the grove and turned it into a park in the 1950s with playgrounds, a children’s playground, basketball and tennis courts.

The wooded clapboard dining hall and saloon structure was converted for use as a field house, but in 1969 the park district replaced the structure with a modern brick field house, the Historical Society said. says.

According to Society, the name “Merrimack” is derived from the Confederate ironclad ship Merrimack. The street of the same name runs near the park.

The Union’s nemesis, the Monitor, has its namesake to the east of the park.

The video can be viewed on YouTube.com by searching for “Merrimac Park”.

The late Cardinal Francis George grew up in the area and said in a video that the grove has playground equipment and rides. They had guard dogs, so they didn’t sneak in too often.”

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