NEW BUSINESSES AND OLD STANDBYS SPARK REVIVAL
If you’ve driven through historic downtown Long Grove recently you may have noticed an uptick in activity, as this irresistibly quaint little burg once again shakes off the dust to break new ground.
First settled in the 1840’s, this intersection of two Indian trails became a commerce center for area farmers. By 1900 it featured two corner stores, a creamery, a hotel, a tavern, and even a town hall. As automobiles replaced the horse and wagon, the AAA was formed in Chicago to advocate for road improvements. Long Grove’s old wooden bridge was replaced in 1906 with the classic iron truss structure known today as the town’s iconic landmark, and the town became a popular destination for early auto enthusiasts.
Ironically, this burgeoning mobility prompted early Long Grove’s downfall (and, much later, its revival). Long Grove lost its strategic, crossroads-location advantage; area residents could drive to larger towns for weekly shopping. Some local shops closed; others tried to adapt. The Smithy put in an auto garage and gas pump. The hotel converted to a private residence. A chance for commercial redemption literally passed them by in 1930, when the state routed Highways 53 and 83 around Long Grove. The rationing and economics of World War II pretty much finished off what was left; by 1945, Long Grove was all but a ghost town.
As the post-war economy improved, so did the roads, as well as Long Grove’s prospects. Wives of two local farmers acquired the main intersection’s corner stores and began selling antiques, handmade dresses, ice cream, and homemade pies. Long Grove again became a fun drive on a nice afternoon, attracting the attention of other antique dealers who bought and repurposed nearby residences as additional shops. Recognizing that uncontrolled expansion could impact the village’s charm, the Long Grove Village Board in its foresight passed the “Historic Landmark Ordinance” in 1962, one of the first of its kind in the country, requiring that new construction and remodeling conform to their established “Long Grove Style.”
Imagine: it’s 1967. Your wife has a toothache; how might you help take her mind off the pain? If you’re John Mangel, you offer to take her for a drive to this interesting little crossroads-town called Long Grove. Upon arrival, this entrepreneur was amazed by how many shoppers there were compared to how few stores: these people needed more things to buy, thought John. He immediately began acquiring additional buildings and residences and converting them into additional stores. As fortune would have it, Long Grove’s Village President at the time was Robert Parker Coffin – an engineer and builder by trade. Many new shops were built, including what became two long-time downtown anchor shops: Long Grove Confectionery and Apple Haus.
The new millennium saw many property and shop owners from earlier years retire, and in their place continuing their legacy now blooms a new crop of restaurants, taverns, wine bars, upscale modern retail shops, dance studios, and a new brewery to further enhance the town’s longstanding draws. Now more than ever, a leisurely drive to historic downtown Long Grove may well be worth your trip!