From a tract of land that once was the site of a farm house and race track, the area which now is home to the North Riverside Park Mall and other shopping centers has seen many changes since it was first purchased by David Gage in 1864.

In a slide presentation to the North Riverside Historical Society at their January meeting, society member Jim Bigham gave the first of what is to be a series of presentations on North Riverside history.

The timeline began with the 1864 purchase of the land by David Gage, a 1,600-acre tract, which would be home to Gage’s estate and a cattle and horse-breeding farm. Gage was the treasurer of the city of Chicago.

But in 1873, after Gage left the treasurer’s office, officials found that there was a cash shortfall. In 1881, the city of Chicago acquired Gage’s land as restitution. The land was then used as a tree nursery until 1916, when the Cook County School for Boys opened. It remained there until 1932, when it relocated to St. Charles. The school then became the Cook County Tuberculosis Sanitarium and, in 1963, became Concordia Teachers College’s North Riverside campus. It remained there until 1974.

The opening of the North Riverside Park Mall and the commercialization of the property took place in 1974 and 1975. The large mall became home to several large anchor stores and numerous specialty stores that have changed over the years.

Bringing the old Gage Farm tract up to today, we may see a Costco store replacing Edward Don Company, but if you want to see an actual piece of history related to the Gage farm, you need only to drive past the corner of Selborne and Longcommon roads in Riverside, where the Gage farm house still proudly stands.

Future historical presentations will include topics like streetcars, the Melody Mill Ballroom, the Czech Lodge and the early settlers, who were onion farmers and members of the Riverside Holiness Association.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 6:45 p.m. in the B/C Room at the North Riverside Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave. All are welcome to attend and learn more about the village of North Riverside, which was incorporated in 1923.

The historical society also is planning a rummage sale on March 16, with proceeds going to help with the restoration of the Melody Mill sign.

Start your spring cleaning early and donate your items. Tomorrow’s history depends on what we do today.

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