Winnebago County, Illinois
LOVES PARK NAMED FOR PIONEER FAMILY
Loves Park's municipal flag shows a pair of clasped hands surrounded by a heart. The sentiment of friendship expressed in the flag is somewhat contracted by turmoil that has gone through the history of the community both before and after it became a city in 1947. Loves Park got its name from Malcom A. Love, who owned 240 acres of farmland north of Rockford. The land was sold to a sub-divider, who named it Love's Park. This parcel of land formed the nucleus of the present city of Loves Park. Malcolm Love was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Love, one of the pioneer families of Rockford. He was born in 1859 in Rockford and attended school there. He married Rosetta Stites in 1883. Be 1886 he had formed the Love Manufacturing Co., which manufactured pumps among other things.
Love became active in Rockford civic affairs and in 1897 became alderman of Rockford's fourth ward. He divided his time between civic activities and his company for almost 30 years. In 1920 the Love Manufacturing Co. and the Ward Pump Co. merged. The merger caused quite a stir in Rockford at the time since the new Ward-Love Pump Co. was valued at over one and a half million dollars. In 1921 Love retired from the company, and although he didn't know it at the time, he started what was to become the City of Loves Park.
Love was a naturalist, a conservationist and a lover of the out-of-doors. He purchased two farms north of Rockford so he could spend his retirement in the natural surroundings he loved. The two farms totaled 240 aces, and for sometime had been used as an unofficial park and picnic area, especially the parts that faced the Rock River. Love encouraged the use of part of his land and even let the now defunct Rockford Beefsteak Club hold its meetings there. About 1925 Love noticed that the north side was expanding in population. He then decided to sell his land to a real developer. The developer subdivided it and called it Loves Park. At the same time, many Rockford residents of Swedish descend were moving to the north of Rockford and other sub-divisions sprang up. Although they all had different names, the whole area was known as Loves Park.
An unincorporated town, with no municpal government, was formed and by 1928 the town boasted two schools--Harlem Consolidated school and Love's Park school--and three churches in addition to a budding business district. About 1927 the town underwent a slight name change. Up to that time all the plat maps and official references called the place Love's Park, with the apostrophe. However the newspapers kept calling it Loves Park, in stories and headlines. Eventually the apostrophe was dropped and the name of the town became Loves Park. Getting a name for the town was the least of the community's worries. The population was near 3,000 in 1930 and elements in the town began disputing whether Loves Park should stay an unicorporated community, annex to Rockford or incorporate as a village or town. The issue came to a head in 1931 with an election. The voters emphatically decided to stay unincorporated. The question lay dorman until after World War II. Loves Park jumped in population to 4.537 by 1947 when another election to incorporating was held. Again all three possibilities were debated--incorporate, annex or maintain the status quo. The voters decided to keep things as they were.
THIRD VOTE DECISIVE
Less than a year later a third election was held, and this time the voters decided by a margin of 808 to 513 to become a city. Homer E. Brown was elected the first mayor of the new city. Malcolm Love never lived to see the city he created. He died in 1930 at the age of 71. His widow died in 1948. All that remains of the Love Manufacturing Co. in Rockford is the W.L. Davey Pump Co., a division of Ward-Love, which moved its main offices east. [Rockford Morning Star, February 12, 1967]
PICNIC GROUND OR BATTLE GROUND? TWO SIDES TO LOVES PARK HISTORY
Loves Park's atmosphere ranged from a peaceful picnic area to a Northern Ireland-type battleground in its varied history. Although Loves Park as a city is 25 years old his year, its history actually began in 1845 when Elizabeth Strawn filed a claim and purchased surrounding claims until she own 470. The widow payed the the enormous sun of $1,750 for all the land. Thirty years later she sold half of the property to Francis and Margaret Weldon for $14,000. The pair farmed the land until Weldon died of a sun stroke in 1898. His widow and daughter sold the land at the turn of the century to Malcom Love, a Rockford businessman and alderman. While Loved owned the farm, a grove along the river became a popular picnic spot and the area was known as Love's Grove and later Love's Park. Soon the whole developing area northeast of Rockford came to be known by that name.
In 1909 and 1910, Love sold the farm to subdividers, beginning the transition from farm land to residential lots. Rockford residents, however, still cruised up the Rock River of the "illinois," a paddle-wheeled steamboat for an afternoon of sandwiches, cold beer and badmitten in Love's Park. Residents from farms around the park rode into Rockford on the Interurban Raiway--paying a nickel each way. By the late 1920's the new Loves Park had grown and residents were arguing the merits of annexation to Rockford, incorporation as a town or village or retaining the status quo. Even as late as the 1930's, however, children galloped their horses to Harlem Consolidated School each morning and tied their mounts in the stable behind the school.
Grocery and drug stores, oil stations and a pickle factory had sprung up along N. 2nd Street in the 1940's and enterprising merchants decided they needed police protection for their growing business.
They hired "Fearless Al" Stevens who got $80 a month (Winnebago County paid another $80) to patrol the businesses and the homes of the 4,000 persons from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. every day in his own car.
In 1946, World War II was over, but the battle had just begun in Loves Park on whether the community would be part of Rockford, remain unincorporated or incorporated into its own city.
Between the 20's and 40's at several elections, residents voted overwhelmingly against annexation and incorporation. But on March 27, 1946, incorporation as a city in Loves Park was defeated by only 65 votes. The battle between the "status quos" and those supporting incorporation was on.
One of those supporting incorporation was long-time Loves Park resident Judge Edwin J. Kotche.
"A group of about ten of us used to meet in the basement of the old Top Hat restaurant a couple of times a week--like the undergound," Kotche recalled. "We had torchlight parades with the status quos marching in, one section of town and us in another."
Perhaps the harshest note of discord in 1946 sounded when Roman Catholics attempted to found a parish in the community.
Father Raymond Gordon first set up a tent at the corner of Riverside Boulevard and N. 2nd Street, but the guy ropes of the tent were slashed. The parish then purchased a small government chapel.
The vandals wouldn't quite and electric wires were cut, windows broken, gas jets turned on and the center isles of the chapel painted. Tacks were scattered on the road leading to the chapel.
"What more they could have done, I don't know," Fr. Gordon said. "No one was ever found and held accountable for the destruction. I never understood why anyone in a civilized community should have to face what we did."
Meanwhile, Rockford was wooing Loves Park, offering the community one police officer for an eight-hour shift and a fire truck stationed on Auburn Street. Loves Park felt this wasn't enough and on April 30, 1947, incorporation was approved 808-513.
Since that time, Loves Park has grown from its oldest area between the Rock River and the Chicago and North Western Railway tracks west of Forest Hills Road largely because the Loves Park bridge on Riverside Boulevard encouraged commerce in the city.
"The bridge was the most spectacular and most successful venture the city ever undertook. It was a very good investment and put Loves Park on its feet," Kotche said. [Rockford Morning Star, August 24, 1972]
BUY LOVE’S PARK LOTS
Eastwood & Stokburger have purchased a number of choice Love’s Park lots. The purchase is one of the may lots sold by them that have not been paid up to date. In four years a remarkable change has been made in Love’s Park and today one would hardly known the old park, with its new homes and cement sidewalks. A number of plots have been subdivided in this section which was originally purchased of Malcom A. Love and Eastwood & Stokburger have been one of the firms to derive a handsome profit as a result of their energy. [Rockford Republic, 02-19-1914]
Loves Park, Rockford's northern suburb which grew up and struck out for itself, is well launched along the path toward municipal organization. It now has a mayor and all necessary city officers, including a full city council which will soon hold its first meeting to discuss the multitude of details necessary to round out an independent municpality complete with all services and departments which its taxpayers voted for. The new city has had an auspicious start. Its first election followed a spirited contest between rival candidates. There is every indication that the elected officials will have the full support of Loves Park citizens. Forebodings in some quarters that the new city would succumb to the lure of quick and easy money and run a wide open town with Sunday operation of taverns to attract Rockford trade appear to be without foundation. Loves Park citizens elected a conservative administration. The new mayor, Homer E. Burton, 33-year-old busnessman, is the son of a clergyman and a personal dry who believes that the present five taverns in the municipality are enough and that the taverns should not operate on Sunday. All eight of the newly elected aldermen agree with him and there is every indication that Loves Park will remain the quiet, residential community it has been in the past. Rockford has lost a suburb but gained a good neighbor. [Rockford Register-Republic, June 27, 1947]
OUR SUBURBS: LOVES PARK
CITY FACES ANNEX ISSUE ONCE AGAIN
Twelve years of existence as an incorporated city have changed Loves Park from a suburban community with incoporation problems to a thriving young city with an annexation problem. Life hasn't been easy for Loves Park, Rockford's busiest and best organized suburban community. Loves Park's history can almost be told in a series of elections, which also point out the area's greatest problem. This all began years ago when Rockford industrialist Malcolm Love turned over property he owned north of Rockford to businessmen and social club, who hiked, rode, or drove in the area for weekend pleasure jaunts. The area became known as Loves park. That was long before there was any thought given to the area as a community. Late in the 1903s, after Love's death, residents began to look for something more permanent. There was talk of incorporation, and talk of annexation. Then the war came, delaying any such moves, but not halting the steady flow of families who came to settle in Loves Park. Incorporation feeling ran high when the war ended. A movement began for incorporation of Loves Park into a city. The issue came to a vote March 27, 1946, but lost 721 to 656. Hardly had the smoke cleared when oppenents of incorporation began beating the drum for annexation to Rockford. This resulted in another referendum--this time for annexation. But on June 25, 1946, Loves Park also rejected annexation as a solution to their problems.
The Progressive Loves Park committee, an organization formed after annexation was defeated, again pushed for incorporation. On April 30, 1947, Loves Park became an Illinois city by a vote of 808 to 513.
Prior to that election, many feared Loves Park would establish liquor regulations allowing sales on Sunday. The new city's regulations, however, were very similiar to Rockford's.
Then, the community of 4,610 persons began building a city. The city's second mayor, Frank S. Larson, spearheaded construction of a new toll bridge, a project some believed would fail, but one that turned out ot be a fantastic money makers. Then came the expensive--and still troublesome--waterworks.
Now Loves Park is again faced with an annexation problem and it may well be that the city has done as much for itself as it can.
Those favoring the most recent plan to annex point out that Loves Park is surrounded on the west, south, and most of the east by Rockford and on the north by North Park. There is no place else for the city to go. Loves Park will never be large enough to pay for the improvements the people need--good streets, a full time fire department and many other items.
This kind of talk draws sharp comment from Loves Park's "pioneeers"--business and civic leaders who have fought for the city since its incorporation.
They point to the city's volunteer fire department, it's traffic safety record, the waterworks and the coming filtration plant.
Sentiment towards Rockford in Loves Park is mixed. The city's residents are tremendously proud of Loves Park. Yet more and more are wondering what the future holds. Taxes are high--higher than Rockford's--and may increase. Annexation to Rockford as proposed by former Mayor Larson, seems attractive to a number of residents and businessmen.
Present Mayor Daniel Timmis is on the other side of the fence. Admitting that Loves Park needs more paved streets and better drainage, his administration claims it can provide them for the city. Loves Park children attend Harlem district schools, which offer educational facilities comparable to Rockford--but at a higher cost.
Loves Park's interesting 12-year history has brought the city of some 9,000 to what may be a crossroads. Unlike many suburban communities, Loves Park could probably function just as well as a city if it were miles from a larger town such as Rockford. Many Loves Park residents work in Rockford, but a substantial number of Rockford residents work in Loves Park. If Loves Park were removed from Rockford, the pressing problem of Rockford, the pressing problem of where and how can the city expand would be removed. But it isn't, and the problem is there.
Loves Park has churches, attractive Parent-Teacher organizations, and an outstanding civic group in the Harlem Music Boosters. The Loves Park Business and Professional Men's society is an influential and active group. Loves Park is, in a word, a bustling community. No longer a child in the world of cities, Loves Park had reached a level of maturity. But the growing pains are still there, and are becoming noticeable again. [Rockford Register-Republic, June 30, 1959]
Five Residents Make Select Group
THEIR ROOTS ARE DEEP IN COMMUNITY'S SOIL
"...If it hadn't for my great-grandparents, there wouldn't be any Loves Park, at least not here."--Mrs. Romona Kotche
Fred King remembers a time when he could step out the back door of his former home on Riverside Boulevard and "just about county all the houses in Loves Park." If he ever did, he undoubtedly numbered the homes of Dwight Holdridge, Charles Nelson, Carlotta Burden and Romona Kotche among those comprising the then unincorporated area known at Loves Park.
The five are among the select group of Park residents who have lived in the city since it was incorporated 25 years ago. In fact, all five date back much farther than 1947, as far back as 1905 when Holdridge said he first arrived from his former home on Kishwaukee Street in Rockford. They all have ties that run deep into the history of Loves Park. It was Mrs. Kotche's great-grandmother, Mrs. Francis Weldon, for example, who sold the land of the future city to Malcolm Love in 1901.
"I always like to say that if it hadn't been for my great-grandparents there wouldn't be a Loves Park, at least not here," Mrs. Kotche said. Her husband, Edwin, an associate judge of the circuit court, was an unsuccessful candidate in the city's first mayoral race, but was later elected police magistrate. They live at 6302 Park Ridge Road.
Nelson, 60, 416 River Park Road, helped his father open the city's first floral shop at 6232 2nd St. when the family arrived in 1917 from Rockford.
"The Army used to march right by the shop on 2nd St. on their way to Camp McCoy (Wis.)," he recalled. "The wagons were all horse drawn."
Mrs. Burden, 64, 404 Peachtree Circle, helped organize the Woman's Club when she arrived in Loves Park in 1923 from Lake Geneva. Her husband, Robert, later became on of the city's first aldermen. "I came to Harlem High School in my sophomore year," she said. "There were 12 people in the class."
Holdridge and his family owned a farm in the middle of what is now the Park and he still has extensive holdings along 2nd. St. "I'm quite positive I'm the one who's been here the longest," Holdridge said.
Though 78-years-old and retired from his job as a railroad mail clerk since 1954, Holdridge still lives alone at 418 Sheridan Drive where he has since 1923, occasionally feeding crackers to a squirrel that frequents his porch.
All five have fond memories of the interurban streetcar that ran down 2nd St., the steamboat "Illinois" which carried picnickers up the Rock River, the unpaved streets and the street lighting problems.
"A lot of people decided we ought to have street lights," said King, 76, 406 Sheridan Drive. "But it wasn't that easy to get citizens to pay for them." He said they had to collect door-to--door to finance the lighting.
Mrs. Burden recalled the vote for incorporation in 1947. "People figured we could go just as well on our own," she said. "Rockford made a serious mistake when we incorporated in not pushing to annex us."
King said people in the area argued about incorporation for a year. "They were either for it or against it in a very strong way," he said. Holdridge admitted he voted against making Loves Park a city and Mrs. Kotche said she had her doubts, but both are pleased with the outcome. "I'm glad we didn't join Rockford," Holdridge said. "the way it worked out I think it was all right."
The five said they sometimes miss the old days.
"You don't know near as many people as you did back in those days," Mrs. Burden said.
Nelson said he knew everyone in the city until the Depression.
"People moved out then and it upset the whole applecart," he said. "New people moved in but I don't know half the people anymore."
Mrs. Burden, King and Mrs. Kotche said they are often bothered by the traffic and congestion along 2nd St.
"Too many changes had to be made in a short time," Mrs. Kotche said. "Sometimes we worry that it might become too big."
But Nelson said he enjoys the growth the city has shown. "The more stores and businesses we get in here the better," he said. "Business and industry make the city."
"They don't realize that it's as nice to live out here as it is," she said.
King said the city is ideal to live in because "everything is handy here. If you lived anywhere else it wouldn't be that way," he said.
Despite any problems they may see, all five share a great love for their hometown.
"I wouldn't have it changed," Holdridge said. "I don't know of anywhere that has such law-abiding citizens."
"I like the way it used to be but I like it now too," Mrs. Kotche said. "We've tried hard."
"If you once have a friend here you'll always have a friend," he said. "The best years I could ever spend were in Loves Park." [Rockford Morning Star, August 24, 1972]
'LOVE'S FARM' SITE OF TODAY’S FESTIVAL
Loves Park celebrates its 27th year as a city this year. But its history dates back to 1845 when Elizabeth Strawn filed a claim and purchased surrounding claims until she owned 470. Mrs. Strawn, a widow, paid $1,750 for the land, and 30 years later sold half the property to Francis and Margaret Weldon for $14,000. Weldon farmed the land until 1898 when he died of a sun stroke. His widow and daughter sold the land at the turn of the century to Malcom Love, a Rockford businessman and alderman. While Love owned the farm, a grove along the river became a popular picnic spot and was known as “Love’s Grove,” and later “Love’s Park”. Malcom Love was a naturalist, a conservationist and lover of the out-of-doors. He purchased farms north of Rockford so he could spend his retirement in the natural surroundings he loved. Two farms totaled 240 acres. Love as the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Love, one of the pioneer families of Rockford. He was born in 1859 in Rockford and attended schools here. He married Rosetta Stites in 1883. By 1886 he had formed his own company, the Love Manufacturing Co., which manufactured pumps among other things. Love became active in Rockford civic affairs and in 1879 became alderman of Rockford’s fourth ward. He divided his time between civic activities and his company for almost 30 years. In 1920 the Love Manufacturing Co. and the Ward Pump Co. merged and was valued at over $1 ½ million. In 1921 Love retired from the company and although he didn’t known it at the time, he started what was to become the city of Loves Park. Malcom Love never lived to see the city he created. He died in 1930 at the age of 71. Love sold the farm to subdividers in 1909 and 1910, beginning the transition from farm land to residential lots. By the late 1920s the new Loves Park had grown the residents were arguing the merits of annexation to Rockford or remaining an independent community. An apostrophe continued to drift in and out of Loves Park’s history throughout the 1900’s until the city was incorporated. Mrs. Edward Kotche, 6302 Park Ridge Road, wife of Winnebago County judge, and long time park resident said it was first called "Mr. Love’s Park" in honor of Malcom Love. She added that the lack of governmental agencies and official documents added to the confusion of spelling until 1947 when the city was officially called Loves Park upon incorporation. Incorporation was finally approved on April 30, 1947 by a vote of 808-513. [Rockford Morning Star, 08-22-1974]
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