The Lost City in a forest preserve (in or near La Grange Park)

At the northwest corner of La Grange Road and 31st Street there is a forest preserve. I think it’s in La Grange Park, or it could possibly be La Grange, Brookfield or Westchester there, but no matter…

In this forest preserve there is what looks like a “lost city”… There are partially built sidewalks and sewers in among the trees. You can tell where the roads were meant to be, and you can tell where they would have built a bridge across the river that flows through the forest preserve there.

Can anyone provide any information at all about this? Was it some kind of planned community? When was it started? When and why was it abandoned? Are there any public records I can read to learn more about it?


Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester was an ordinary 1920s subdivision where, for some reason, they built the sidewalks before the streets. It was caught by the Depression and never completed, and the Cook County Forest Preserve District eventually purchased it in the 1980s, spurred by a private organization called Save the Prairie.

Premature subdivision—20 or 30 years in advance of actual demand—was common in the real estate frenzy of Chicago’s growth years. Much of Skokie lay fallow, with only one “seed” building on each block, from the end of the 1920s until the 1950s. Northbrook had so many unneeded streets during the Depression that the founder of Culligan rented them to spread out and dry the mineral salts used in his water softeners.

Here’s Wolf Road Prairie on Google Maps. Kind of eerie. It’s not at 31st and Lagrange, though, but rather 31st and Wolf — is this what you meant, guysmiley?

Thanks for the replies. That’s not actually the location I’m talking about, but it certainly could be related, since it’s only about 1/2 mile or so due west.

At the corner of 31st Street and La Grange Road (pan East a bit on the satellite map in the previous post) there is a forest. Unfortunately, the trees completely obscure the “lost city” feature’s I’m talking about.

I’ve never been to Wolf Road Prairie- I’ll have to check it out. While I’m sure it looks eerie, the one I’m talking about probably seems doubly so, being hidden as it is “deep in a forest”. :slight_smile:

Looking at that map, there are plenty of forested areas nearby to the south of 31st Street (Salt Creek Woods Nature Preserve), so I wonder if the abandoned development is evident in any of those, as well.

One other interesting (to me anyway!) thing about the forest I’m talking about, on that satellite map, you can notice a forest preserve road winding north into the forest. At the north end of the road is a large clearing. This clearing was used many years ago to store a big hill of gravel for use when they were working on La Grange Road. There is a gravel/dirt path leading from the clearing due east to La Grange Road, that was used to get the material in and out, and even has a chain across the path, blocking off vehicle access now. The path is obscured by the trees in that satellite image.

Thanks again!

You might be able to see more on Their aerial shots get closer and are more clear than Google.

Here’s the area in question, based on guysmiley’s description. It’s on the border between LGP and Westchester; as it’s in Forest Preserve land, I’m not sure if either municipality lays claim to it:

Even on maximum zoom, the only man-made stuff I can see is the access road leading north from 31st Street, towards the meadow, what look like some power lines running from the NW corner of the preserve, and some small park structures on the south edge (along 31st).

Looks like the same story for that stretch of forest preserve: a never-finished subdivision. Here’s a 1939 aerial photo where you can see the sidewalks.

Great find!

Said forest preserve is just down the street from me (I live on 31st Street in Brookfield). It has the prosaic name of “Possum Hollow Woods”, and also has a sign which indicates “Reforested in 1958”.

As well as sidewalks for the subdivision on the eastern side of La Grange that did get finished.

Heh. I put “Possum Hollow Woods” in Google and found this:

Apparently, there are bears in the woods!! :smiley:

In the 1920s, it was common to build sidewalks before the street when land was platted for a subdivision. Why that was the practice, I don’t know. A few examples from suburban Buffalo in the 1920s:

A photo from a pre-Depression ghost subdivision near my old house in east suburban Cleveland.

Originally Posted by kenobi 65
Great find!

Said forest preserve is just down the street from me (I live on 31st Street in Brookfield). It has the prosaic name of “Possum Hollow Woods”, and also has a sign which indicates “Reforested in 1958”.

Hi My name is Robin Battiste, my mother lived in Brookfield until she was 12 years old. She was born in 1924, she use to mention to me that she use to play in the forest near her house, and that was something very special to her. I was wondering if you are still living on 31st street in Brookfield? If so, I would like to ask you to send to me a link of the forest, I will have to dig for her address where she and my grandparents lived. I will cut to the chase and tell you why I am asking you this. My mothers last wishes is to have her ashes spread in the forest near her home in Brookfield. I am doing research to find what part she is talking about.
If you care to assist me please reply, I would be forever greatfull.