Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  
 

Accountability
Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  Office phone numbers:  
   
 
 

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

   
 

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

   
  The Cook County Forest Preserve District maintains over 70 miles of bicycle trails.
   
     
     
     



Cook County poor farm to be preserved

Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Chicago Tribune
by Associated Press

Imagine strolling through a wooded acreage once called home by early 20th century occupants of a poor farm and patients of a tuberculosis infirmary.Imagine learning the rich history of that land — including its geology and ecology — during a family outing just 25 miles from Chicago. That's the plan for the Oak Forest Heritage Preserve, more than 170 acres of rolling forest and wetlands in Chicago's south suburbs. If not for the Great Recession, the land might have been turned into a business park. The site served as working farm, an infirmary and, from 1910 until 1971, the burial ground for Cook County's indigents. Planners envision an interpretive museum, trails through fields of native plants and a community garden where the county poor farm once operated. In the first $1 million phase of the Cook County Forest Preserve project, a 1.5-mile loop trail will guide visitors through the preserve's main sites, with signs recounting land's long-forgotten stories. Someday, if funding can be secured, visitors interested in genealogy may be able to search through records of the more than 90,000 people who were buried in the cemetery, perhaps finding traces of an ancestor's story. Handwritten volumes still exist that recorded the deceased's name, country of origin, cause of death and occupation. Those records eventually could be used to create a searchable database at a visitors' center. For the first phase, Paul Bluestone has the job of turning what's now a mute landscape into accessible stories. “Underneath the surface of this site lie the most incredible stories,” said Bluestone, of the Chicago-based exhibit design company from Bluestone and Associates. “It's a project that really surprises you, and I think it's going to surprise the people who walk the site. It surprised us.” Bluestone's team has compiled information on the geology left by the last retreating glaciers, the hunters who walked the land 10,000 years ago and a Native American village discovered in the 1950s by archaeologists. Fascinating to Bluestone and others working on the project has been the story of the poor farm that opened in 1910, a complex of buildings where Cook County housed the poor, elderly and disabled — and put them to work. The county bought the Oak Forest property for $33,624 in 1908 because another poor farm site, called Dunning, had become unsanitary and overcrowded. County leaders wanted a more rural location where the poor could have a healthier environment and tuberculosis patients, who would be treated there, could breathe cleaner air. With thousands of residents, the poor farm was like a small city. A rail line was extended to the property. Children who lived there had their own schoolhouse and teacher. Before the 1935 Social Security Act, counties and cities held the main responsibility for the welfare of poor people. Across the United States, counties and cities ran similar poorhouses and poor farms in the 19th century and early 20th century. The idea was thought to be progressive at the time: the poor would build character as they supported themselves in a self-sustaining community. “Reformers argued it would be cheaper to congregate the poor into institutions than give them welfare” payments, said University of Southern Maine sociology professor David Wagner, author of “The Poorhouse: America's Forgotten Institution.” “Reformers also — in a strong parallel to reforming welfare in recent years — claimed paupers were getting too much money and were not using their resources wisely,” Wagner said in an email. Anna Ashcraft works as Cook County's director of real estate management. She helped gather historical information about the Oak Forest property. She's intrigued by the poor farm's history and the lives of its residents. “They grew enough food to feed themselves. They made clothing. They made shoes,” Ashcraft said. “It's not something you learn about in school.” Ironically, the effort to preserve the forgotten history of the Oak Forest property may never have happened if not for an event in very recent history: the Great Recession that began in 2007. A buyer was interested in developing part of the property as a business park, Ashcraft said, but the deal fell through in 2009. Cook County officials, who had been eager to sell the land to a developer, changed their minds. In 2010, the site was acquired by the county's Forest Preserve District for $13.2 million in loan repayment and $1.8 million in cash. “It was a really good outcome, I have to say,” Ashcraft said. “The project may be the proudest of my career here. It worked out incredibly well.” The Forest Preserve District of Cook County has opened portions of the new Oak Forest Heritage Preserve to the public.The preserve is located on 159th Street, east of Cook County's Oak Forest Medical Center campus. Visitors can enter the Oak Forest Heritage Preserve off of 159th Street, through the Medical Center's main entrance, and follow the signs. 


Recent Headlines

Measles Exposure Reported in Chicago
Monday, May 20, 2019
WTTW News

News from the Cook County Health System
Friday, May 17, 2019
Special to suffredin.org

Cook County Health Recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Daily Herald

Skokie plans for road improvements near Edens Expressway: 'It’s desperately needed'
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Skokie Review

5 Chicago hospitals earn D grades for patient safety in new report, Northwestern slips to a B
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin: Backward Glances
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Cook County Eliminated Its Gang Database, But Advocates Say Harm Continues
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
WBEZ News

New Cook County Housing Authority Proposal Targets the 'Missing Middle'
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Evanston RoundTable

Census Citizenship Question Could Hurt Citizens, Noncitizens Alike
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

News from Friends of the Forest Preserves
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Special to suffredin.org

Cook County commissioners get earful about soon-to-be-destroyed gang database
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Detainee dies days after suicide attempt at Cook County jail
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Curious City How Chicago Women Created The World’s First Juvenile Justice System
Monday, May 13, 2019
WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

Cook County report: Sharp drop in jail population, but crime did not jump
Friday, May 10, 2019
Injustice Watch

Will Cook County be home to the next big measles outbreak? Researchers think so.
Friday, May 10, 2019
Chicago Tribune

May is Prime Time for Birding in the Forest Preserves of Cook County
Thursday, May 09, 2019
Special to suffredin.org

More Babies Are Illegally Abandoned Than Turned Over Through Illinois’ Safe Haven Law In Cook County
Thursday, May 09, 2019
CBS Chicago

Empty businesses may lose county tax incentives
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle

As new DCFS report highlights failures, Cook County guardian says 'inept' child welfare agency is ‘not doing its job ... at every level’
Tuesday, May 07, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Cook County passes bill to stop discrimination against tenant applicants
Tuesday, May 07, 2019
Chicago Crusader

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.
^ TOP