Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Blast From The Past - Hillcrest Park's Little Dipper

The closure of Kiddieland in Melrose Park, Illinois got me to thinking of the other Herb Schmeck/PTC Little Dipper formerly located in the Chicago area.

Back in 2003 there was a small park, located on Joliet Road in Lemont, IL called Hillcrest. The park was a 58.8 acre private picnic park catering to outings from 200 guests on weekdays to 2500 guests on weekends. Hillcrest operated for 51 years before a decline in corporate outings and a huge increase in value of the land caused its demise.

Hillcrest was a perfect park for company picnics, there was nice softball field for the annual management vs. labor showdown, complete with bleachers for lots of spectators. Miniature golf, volleyball, basketball, horseshoes ensured there was fun for all age levels. There was a DJ booth, with a park wide PA system, pavilions for both the preparing and eating of food, complete with bar and restrooms. And there were lots of big trees, providing plenty of shade on those hot summer days.

Many of the of the parks rides were added between 1960 and 1970. There was a 1.5 mile train ride, with both gasoline and steam engines. The other rides included a Mangels Kiddie Whip, Arrow Developments only four across Carousel, a Herschell Helicopter, and 16 Duce Bumper cars.

In 1967 the main attraction arrived at the park, a PTC Little Dipper wooden roller coaster. This jewel of a junior coaster was purchased when Kiddy Town, also in the Chicago area, closed. Originally built by PTC and designed by Herbert Schmeck in 1952, this flanged wheel design was a delight for children of all ages.

Hillcrest's gates closed on September 1st, 2003. The park's rides and equipment were auctioned off on October 25th. And, the land was sold to developers to build several large warehouses.

However, this story does have a happy ending for the Little Dipper. It was purchased by the folks at Little Amerricka in Marshall, Wisconsin. And, after a total overhaul opened as the Meteor on August 8th, 2007.


Unknown said...

What a great little park - no fish in the lake as me and my friend Scott found out

Unknown said...

Nice little park Corporate outings were legendary in the 1970's The lake did not have any fish as me and my friend Scott found out as we sneaked into the "forbidden" land by the lake underneath the train tussles.