Your Great American Places


When, last October, the editors announced the First Annual Great American Place Award —and chose Saratoga Springs, New York, as its recipient—we invited our readers to send us their own suggestions for Great American Place. The responses have been impressive, both in the wide variety of choices they recommend and for the eloquence with which they are described. Here is a sampling.

The Village in the City

My entry for Great American Place is Beverly/Morgan Park, two sister communities on the far southwest side of Chicago. Founded in the late 180Os, they retain much of the charm of their early days, including winding tree-lined streets and a wealth of historic homes that run the gamut of architectural styles. Many great architects left their imprint here, among them Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Burley Griffin. We have a strong sense of community and an active neighborhood group, the Beverly Area Planning Association, that sponsors a wide ^ ranee of events. Known as the Village the City, we are comfortably integrated, a great place to visit, and a wonderful place to live.

David Daruszka Chicago, Ill.

No ordinary Park

I recommend my favorite American place—Oglebay Park, Wheeling, West Virginia. It was a personal gift to the city but has today become a beautiful gift for all to share. When the Cleveland capitalist Earl W. Oglebay, whose hobby was agriculture, died in 1926, he willed his 754 acre estate to the city of Wheeling. With the property came an obligation to create a “people’s park” out of it. The result is no ordinary park. Set on fifteen hundred acres in the magnificently wooded rolling hills of the Ohio Valley (visitors may well believe they have been transported into a Grant Wood painting), the park contains three golf courses, a zoo, shops, nature programs, cabins, a Winter Festival of Lights that draws tour buses from across the United States and Canada, a resort and conference center, Olympic swimming pools, playgrounds, riding stables, music and plays under the stars, the excellent Oglebay Institute Mansion Museum, and more. But I, like most visitors, simply enjoy walking through the beautiful gardens and forest areas. The park is a beacon to the citizens of the Ohio Valley, where unemployment is stubbornly high. Families can escape the worries of everyday life and feel that they’ve been transported to another world at Oglebay Park.

Karen Silverthorn South Lancaster, Mass.

Marine Life

In the glory days of American sail, fully 90 percent of the masters of full-rigged ships hailed from the little village of Searsport, Maine, on Penobscot Bay. Dozens of deep-water vessels were launched from its shipyards. You can savor those exhilarating seafaring days at Penobscot Marine Museum, the oldest maritime museum m Maine, founded in 1936. A complex of twelve buildings houses a vast collection of artifacts, ship models, and paintings by such noted marine artists as Thomas and James Buttersworth. A sea captain’s entire house is authentically furnished throughout. These buildings were not brought in: Captains’ houses, the converted early town hall, and the schoolhouse all stand on their original foundations, and a contemporary gallery for special exhibitions and an extensive reference library have been added. Around the town a number of stately old captains’ houses have become pleasant bed-and-breakfast inns, so you can even sleep in the world of beautiful Penobscot Bay.

Dorothy Black Hilton Head, S.C.

Touched by History

I nominate the area around Rock Island, Illinois, because, among many other reasons, it was the home of pre-historic Mound Builders; the westernmost battle of the Revolutionary War was fought here (the Indian village of Saukenuk was burned on orders from George Rogers Clark); it was the home of Black Hawk, who fought with the British against the United States in the War of 1812; it was the site of a great prison for Confederate prisoners during the Civil War; the first railroad bridge to span the Mississippi went up here in 1856; Abraham Lincoln was sworn in nearby as a captain during the Black Hawk War; and it was home to the Civil War general John Buford, while Dred Scott lived in neighboring Davenport. Living there —with history—was an experience I shall never forget.

Henry L. Hoist The Sea Ranch, Calif.