If you live in Riverside, Frederick Law Olmsted is an inescapable presence. He’s in every curving street, in the lush foliage. He’s even a name on a street sign.
But there was actually life before Olmsted in the area that eventually became known as Riverside, and now there’s a new map that’s been mounted on the Scout Cabin pointing out some of the early players and landmarks in what was once a trading route. The Scout Cabin is tucked in the woods at the south end of Riverside.
The map was created by Riverside graphic designer Greg Gorski (who is also chairman of the Riverside Cable Commission) and Village President Ben Sells. It is based in large part on Dr. S.S. Fuller’s hand-drawn map included in Riverside Then and Now, specially published in 1936 by the Riverside News to mark the centennial of the Forbes family’s arrival. That would be the year after Native Americans were removed from the area following the Black Hawk War.
“I wanted to do something to deepen the appreciation for the area beyond Olmsted,” said Sells. “It also fits into the larger imagination we have for the Scout Cabin and Indian Gardens, trying to accentuate them as a natural area and historic area.”
The roughly 3-by-4.5-foot map is printed directly onto a piece of bonded aluminum, according to Gorski, though the sepia tone gives the look of vintage quality old paper. Gorski combined a couple of maps in Riverside Then and Now to create the one mounted on the Scout Cabin.
“I put the maps together using Google as a reference,” Gorski said. “I built the maps on top of that.”
Like Fuller’s map, the one created by Gorski notes landmarks that existed at different times in the area’s history.
Connie Guardi, chairwoman of the Riverside Historical Commission whom Gorski consulted to verify historical information, called the map “a compilation of the historical parts of the area.”
“I think it’s a lovely commemoration of the area, and it’s all pre-Riverside,” Guardi said.
The map includes references to the Native American history of the area and to the fact that Gen. Winfield Scott’s troops camped in the area around what’s now known as Scottswood Common in 1832 during the Black Hawk War.
Through the 1950s, said Guardi arrowheads and other Native American tools would be excavated in what’s known as the village’s First Division.
In addition to pointing out where the Forbes clan built their home and the trading posts that dotted the area prior to the arrival of the railroad, it also shows the enormous influence of David Gage, who established the area as a farm and pleasure retreat for the city’s wealthy prior to selling 1,600 acres to Emery Childs, the president of the Riverside Improvement Company, in 1868.
The map idea grew out of the one produced by the Riverside Sustainability Council to mark bicycle routes through the village. Sells had also done some historical research for that project, which overlaid the bike routes on an image of Olmsted’s general plan for Riverside.
Gorski said Sells approached him about partnering on the map in August 2014 and Sells provided Gorski with copy, which is part of the completed map, about the Native American presence in the area.
Design was completed in the spring of 2015 and it was printed onto the aluminum panel last summer. According to Gorski, it wasn’t installed until recently due to work being done on the Scout Cabin during the fall by a local Eagle Scout.