Saturday Marked 60 Years Since First Park Forest Rental Move-Ins

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Saturday marked 60 years since the first residents moved into rental units in Park Forest. (Photo: Jane Nicoll)

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– This past Saturday marked the 60th Anniversary date of the first three families moving into the rental units in Park Forest. The first three families to move in were Ross and Leona DeLue with their five year-old daughter, Mary, William and Jane Heckman, and Manuel and Madeleine Kanter. Each family was received by a different ACB employee, so at different times, each was recognized as the First Family. The ones who stayed the longest were Ross and Leona DeLue, who were often recognized as the First Family of Park Forest. They were honored along with the first 100 families on the plaque the Village of Park Forest dedicated in the Downtown on July 30, 2008, located at Founder’s Way and Main Street.

Leona, at 94 years young, still lives in the area, at The Park in Olympia Fields. She helped cut the ribbon for the mural dedication on July 30. Ross DeLue, William Heckman and Manuel Kanter have all passed away. When we did a public relations photograph event of the earliest residents watching the furniture being moved into the original 50th Anniversary House Museum unit, ten years ago, The DeLues and Mr. Kanter were among the people we had there. Photographs of that event are on the dining room wall in the new building for the 1950s Park Forest House Museum at 141 Forest Blvd, open from 1-3 p.m. on Saturdays, including Saturday August 30. There is also a copy of the DeLues lease. In binders in the dining room, visitors can read rental brochures and see typed memos from American Community Builders. In the living room of the museum is a binder with the list of the families who lived in the first six courts occupied. A scrapbook in the classroom contains an article listing the first 100 families to sign leases for rental units. Also in the classroom are news stories about the November 27, 1948 tent meeting where residents and those who had signed leases voted to incorporate as a Village.

On a bookcase in the living room is a copy of Leona DeLue’s interview about what it was like to come to Park Forest and what life was like here. Transcripts from OH! Park Forest are available for checkout from the Adult Services Department of the library. There are 26 of the 77 transcripts, fully-edited, online on the Illinois Digital Archive, in “Park Forest: An Illinois Planned Community.” They can be directly accessed through the Park Forest Historical Society web site at www.parkforesthistory.org. A tour of the museum and the history and programs of the society can be viewed on that site, as well. The society urges people interested in the unique history of Park Forest to check out transcripts from the library and hear about the village from those who made it the special place it is today.

Three thousand and ten rental units were built between October 1947 and October 1949, and all are still standing today. All of the first couples moved in to Court B-1, the same court that Philip Klutznick and his family lived in. Klutznick was the President of American Community Builders. Mr. Klutznick said later, that he actually had partially moved his family’s things into their unit, and could have claimed to be the first move-in, but his wife, Ethel, gave birth to their fifth child, preventing them from moving down that day. He was happy to give the honor to his tenants.

If you have not yet, visited the 1950s Park Forest House Museum, this is the perfect Saturday to do it. Help commemorate the beginning of the 60th Anniversary of the village by learning more about its history, and by taking a step into the 1950s with us! The 1950s Park Forest House Museum, at the corner of Forest and Fir, is open Saturdays 1-3 p.m. Donation is $5 for adults; children 12 and under are free with a paying adult.

The museum is in an original rental unit, furnished as it might have been in the first five years of the village, 1948-1953. Guides are available to tell how the village came to be built, and to describe social and fashion trends of the era. One room depicts Forest Boulevard School the first of several rental area schools built as the school buildings were being constructed.

For more information on the museum, contact Jane Nicoll at 708-481-4252, or by email at [email protected]

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