On Friday, August 20, Park Ridge Park District staff and board members gathered together with the Paul Adlaf from the Park Ridge History Center and Illinois State Senator Laura Murphy to celebrate the restoration of the historic Sunny Playground Gate located in front of Wohlers Hall at Prospect Park.
The Sunny Playground Gate is an impressive wrought iron arch and gate originally installed in 1936 on the former Illinois Industrial School for Girls property, which is now Prospect Park. The gate was installed as memorial to Ellen C. Sunny. From 1911 through 1920, Mrs. Sunny was a member of the influential Chicago Woman’s Club which provided strong support to the School Board President, Hannah Solomon, in arranging for the move of the School from Evanston to Park Ridge in 1908. The Sunny estate also made generous donations to the School for Girls. The gate was originally located behind Wohlers Hall and the swimming pool and playground which once stood there. When the swimming pool was closed, the gate was altered and moved to an open area on the school grounds. The Park District acquired the 11-acre property after the voters favorably approved a referendum in 2013, to acquire and develop this property now known as Prospect Park. This property is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and has a deep, rich history in the community and Chicagoland area. The Park District commissioned restoration of the gate in 2019, and this historic work now stands near the flagpole in front of Wohlers Hall.
Restoration of the gate was made possible by $20,500 in funding secured by Senator Murphy through the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s infrastructure plan.
Park District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle remarked, “On behalf of the Park District Board and Staff and the Park Ridge History Center, thank you, Senator Murphy, for your support of the Park District and assistance in preserving this piece of Park Ridge history.” Additionally, she publicly thanked Senator Murphy for her sponsorship of House Bill 1760. Mountcastle explained, “This new law has a large effect on park districts. Previously, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which administers the OSLAD grant program, provided an advance payment of 50% of the grant up front. State law requires grantees to complete projects within two years of receiving grant funds, meaning that park districts had just two years after this advance payment to complete projects. This new law allows park districts to opt out of advance payments on OSLAD grants, delaying the start of the two-year grant timeline and giving them more authority over when to begin projects. In addition to allowing park districts more freedom on future projects, Senator Murphy’s initiative also provides more flexibility on active grant projects by directing IDNR to consider recipients’ requests to extend deadlines.”