The Des Plaines Methodist Camp Ground opened for its 153rd season on June 3, including its historic pool.
Many residents do not realize it, but the campground, 1900 Algonquin Road in Des Plaines, is open to the public, and the public is especially welcome at the pool.
But all the cool summertime dips might have never been, had a group of guys not decided to wheel a piano around the countryside collecting donations for its construction 90 years ago.
Fundraising for the $30,000 pool was handled led by a group of young men at the campground in 1922. They decided a pool would be just the thing to make the hot summers at the camp more comfortable.
To raise the money, they hoisted an upright piano onto a wagon, wheeled it around to various places on the campground, and played. They passed a hat around for donations, and, eventually, formed the Aquatic Club.
It is unlikely the full cost of the pool was covered that way, but their efforts did ultimately lead to a pool. The pool's dedication in 1928, predating Rand Park by 12 years, brought with it changes to the campground.
The campground was modernized in the 1920s. Cement sidewalks, modern toilets and a new dining hall was built.
The design for the dining hall was completed by the prominent Chicago firm of Thielbar & Fugard. A Methodist himself, Frederick J. Thielbar also designed Wesley Memorial Hospital, Moody Bible Institute, and the Chicago Temple skyscraper on Jacksonville, as well as the Methodist Camp Ground pool.
Some of the more conservative longtime elders at the campground frowned on what they saw as a shift in focus from religious meetings and worship to a resort atmosphere.
A particular point of contention was whether swimming should be allowed on Sundays. One point of view held that it was necessary to stay open, despite the designation as a day of rest, because otherwise youngsters with automobiles would flee to the beaches.
The other side held that if it were open on Sundays the grounds would be overrun by picnickers from the forest preserve, and the grounds could not be allowed to become an amusement park.
Such attractions resulted in some of the campground’s its most-attended years throughout the 1930s. Croquet, tennis, baseball and horseshoes also became popular activities.
The pool was rehabilitated with some alterations in the 1960s, but otherwise appears much as it always has.
Des Plaines Methodist Camp Ground is used extensively by both cottagers and the day-campers that meet at the campground.
The "No Trespassing" signs at the entrances are intended to discourage unauthorized events, such as picnics, which must be arranged with management. However, residents are welcome to visit, walk or bike around, and enjoy one of the oldest parts of Des Plaines and one of the most unique sites in the Northwest Suburbs.
Weekday hours for the pool begin June 11. For more information on pool hours visit the campground’s website.