They created small moraines broken by valleys, glens and a wandering stream, now known as the East Branch of the DuPage River. Our hilly terrain is the result.
Potawatomi settlements along the DuPage River (near what is now St. Charles Rd. to the north and Butterfield Rd. to the south) created moccasin, hoof, and canoe traffic along our eastern border.
In 1928, a public golf course was located south of Roosevelt Rd. and east of Illinois 53. The stone clubhouse of Glenbard Golf Course was about where Health Track is today. The land was sold to the Catholic Maryknoll Order of Foreign Missions in 1944. But they retained the three fairways near the DuPage River for a number of years.
Maryknoll College opened here in 1949 on a rolling, wooded 128.5-acre campus housing 120 to 150 young men. At its height, the 450,000 sq. ft. complex served more than 500 Catholic seminary students. It operated for nearly 23 years until graduating its last class of 30 in 1971 and closing its doors in 1972. But the prominent edifice remained as a stately beacon to travelers approaching Glen Ellyn on Roosevelt Road.
In 1974, Lewis University acquired the cupola-topped main building and 25 acres of land to give its new law school an imposing setting. By 1979 financial difficulties required a change of ownership, and in 1982 the College of Law was transferred to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
Elder Care Services of Boston bought the property in 1981 and proposed a 750-unit retirement community complex to be called Brandon Woods, utilizing much of the existing structure. After several years of pre-marketing efforts and alternative nursing home proposals, the dreams evaporated, and Elder Care failed in 1986.
The abandoned property attracted vandals and squatters. But it also caught the eye of film location scouts in 1985, who cast the landmark building as a hospital in the coming-of-age film Lucas. Other Glen Ellyn locations featured Glenbard West H.S. and Stadium, Lake Ellyn Park and Boathouse, and the Glen Theater, where the movie premiered in 1986. Lucas starred Corey Haim, Kerri Green, Charlie Sheen, Winona Ryder—and briefly, Maryknoll Seminary.
Except for sporadic training of local area police dogs for building searches, the deteriorating complex sat empty once again. And some old ghost stories began circulating. Parapsychologist Hans Holtzer tells of "The Seminary Ghost" in his 1993 book, Haunted America. Among the reported sightings was that of a dead priest, who had once been in charge of the darkroom. At the time he appeared, there were unexplained temperature drops in the photographic chemicals. More sightings.
No fear of ghosts could stop residential development in the adjacent 90+ acres of rolling, forested terrain. A first group of 51 luxury town homes was built by the Christian Companies, beginning in 1978.
Then came the first custom-built homes in the mid-1980s. A second group of 75 town homes followed to complete a unique and natural development along a river that included two lakes, a playground, winding streets, miles of walking paths and thick woods. Three separate homeowners associations serve the two town home complexes and neighborhood of 115 single-family homes.
Interstate 355 was opened in 1989, relieving Illinois Rt. 53 as the main north-south artery through DuPage County. A proposed widening of 53 was no longer necessary, thus preserving the western boundary of Maryknoll.
In 1997, Health Track Sports and Wellness opened on 10.5 acres at the north end of the Maryknoll property, and additional medical offices opened in 2009. In 2000 the deserted seminary buildings were demolished, marking the end of an era, but not of a name.
Holes & Knolls, a 36-hole miniature golf course and clubhouse, opened in 2005 as centerpiece of the new Maryknoll Park. The golfers were back! Lighted platform tennis courts opened in 2006 and and expanded to four courts with a permanent waming shelter in 2011. The Glen Ellyn Park District had paid $5.3 million for the 25 acres and immediately began staging special events, such as a kite-flying festival, traveling circuses, and the Discovery Channel's Animal Planet Expo.
Development was completed in 2007 on bocce ball courts, a splash pad, a playground with fort and sand diggers, new trails, a net climber, a zip line, and a picnic shelter with washrooms. Disk golf was added in 2010.
Written by Lee McFadden September 2011 and based on Glen Ellyn: A Village Remembered by Helen W. Ward and Robert W. Chambers, published in 1999 by the Glen Ellyn Historical Society.
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