Off again on our Suburban Travels, when we take a closer look at some of the cities, towns and villages that we often drive through on our way around the Chicago area. This time we stopped in Lombard; mostly because it’s lilac time.
Every May I try to make the trip to visit Lilacia Park in Lombard. For some reason the heavenly scent of lilacs reminds me of my home back in England. It was always one of my mother’s favorite fragrances.
The garden was established by Colonel William Plum and his wife, Helen, and after the Colonel’s death in 1927 the grounds were left to the city of Lombard to be used as a public park. Apparently Col. and Mrs. Plum weren’t the only lilac fans in Lombard as the park is always busy during Lilac Festival week.
The garden is beautifully kept and in addition to the lilac bushes, which only bloom for a short period, there are plenty of other flowers to see year-round. Lilac time is usually tulip time too so the park looked especially colorful.
Not only is there a profusion of lilacs in Lombard but there are also lots of churches. I counted 16 just in the area around the park. By far the most picturesque is the Maple Street Chapel. Built in 1870, it replaced a previous church that was destroyed by fire. The building is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and although regular services are no longer held there, the church is available for weddings and concerts.
Just a little way up the road on Main Street is what is affectionately referred to as The Little Orphan Annie House. Built in 1881 by Dr. William LeRoy, a specialist in making artificial limbs for Civil War veterans, the house was eventually sold in 1927 to Harold Gray, creator of the popular Little Orphan Annie cartoon series. Gray had purchased the house for his parents and he lived there with them for two years before he remarried and moved out east. I don’t think the house is open to the public which is a pity because I would love to have taken a lot more pictures from different angles but I could only gaze at it from a distance, out on the sidewalk. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture.
In stark contrast, The Sheldon Peck homestead is definitely a no-frills abode. Built in 1839, it’s the oldest house in Lombard. Peck was a traveling portrait painter and Marino sheep farmer whose family owned the home right from its construction and into the 1990’s when the Lombard Historical Society opened it as a museum.
Just across the street from the Helen Plum Memorial Library, which is located on the southeast corner of Lilacia Park, is another building run by the Lombard Historical Society called Victorian Cottage. This museum has four rooms decorated in 1870’s style. Admission is free but although it was open for tours we decided to spend most of our time outdoors. The sun was shining!