Historic to its Core

Appears in the September 2022 issue.

Hop on I-290 and head north past the retail stretch of Schaumburg, make a few quick turns, and you’ll find yourself in historic downtown Long Grove in just under an hour. This picturesque pocket of cobblestone streets and colorful storefronts dates back to the early 1800s, when the community was settled by German farmers. “I like to tell people it’s the smallest city in the big city ,” says Ryan Messner, president of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association. “It’s so quaint—when you come here, you feel like you’ve gone back in time.” 

For all its historic appeal, Long Grove has made some moves to modernize its infrastructure to make it more appealing to visitors and business owners. “We have gone through a major transformation in the last five years,” Messner says. “We have city water, streetlights, [new] sidewalks, and new streets.” 

If you prefer to wander with a purpose, pick up a map of shops and restaurants at the Long Grove Visitors Center (145 Old McHenry Rd.). Newer additions include the Sock Monkey Museum (210 Robert Parker Coffin Rd.), an ode to the Depression-era DIY doll, and Corked Wine Bar (132 Old McHenry Rd.), where you can slurp oysters and sip bubbly from the comfort of an Adirondack chair on the front lawn. Of course, there’s still plenty of love for the landmark businesses, such as Long Grove Confectionery Co. (114 Old Henry Rd.) and the Village Tavern (135 Old McHenry Rd.), which celebrated its 175th anniversary in July and claims the title of the oldest Illinois restaurant in continuous operation.

Historic Downtown Long Grove Apple Fest runs September 23 to 25 ($5 admission, longgrove.org). “All the restaurants that participate have a menu item that features apples, whether it’s a sauce or a dish or what have you,” says Duff Rice, president of Duff Entertainment, which produces the annual event. “The merchants all participate by theming out decor and other things that are all apple-centric.” The live music lineup will include performances from Sixteen Candles, while Fantasy Amusements will provide carnival games and rides. 

A New Park for Long Grove

Long Grove’s iconic landmark, the single-lane covered bridge over Buffalo Creek, is recognized in the National Register of Historic Places and periodically makes the news when too-tall trucks fail to heed the posted height restriction and get stuck. Visitors can now enjoy Covered Bridge Park, a new green space next to the bridge that recently wrapped its first phase of development. “We are starting to utilize it as a relaxing chill zone for our festivals,” says Ryan Messner, who served as lead project manager for the park’s development. During Apple Fest, the park will be set with lawn games. “It has some shade, and you need a place to take a break and relax,” he says. Proceeds from the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association’s annual events, including Apple Fest, have helped fund the park. Future additions include a covered pedestrian walkway and signage about the bridge’s history.