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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vidvard Point, Grass Lake

One of the most colorful residents of Lake County's past was Colonel John P. Vidvard (1852-1918) of Grass Lake. 

Now Vidvard's story can be more fully told thanks to a significant donation of photographs, postcards, and related ephemera made to the museum by his descendants earlier this year. Vidvard was born in Utica, New York and came to Chicago in 1884. 

From 1899 to 1913, he was one of the owners of the Sans Souci amusement park in Chicago. This was one of the city's first amusement parks and was located on the western side of Cottage Grove Avenue, just across 60th Street from the southern end of Washington Park. The park's main entrance resembled the exterior of a German beer hall. The park featured large shade trees, a Japanese tea garden, ornamental shrubbery, electric fountains, nighttime lighting, and a casino. Like many Chicagoans, Vidvard sought the fresh air and open space of country life and became captivated by the Chain o’ Lakes region north of the city. About 1897, he bought property on Grass Lake and built a home which he named, Lotus Cottage at Vidvard Point. As you might expect from a wealthy man who had operated an amusement park, Vidvard liked to entertain. He invited his large circle of friends to his home for monstrous clambakes where he expounded on the beauty and significance of the lotus, and where he sometimes hosted Native American ceremonies. His invitations stated, “The fire starts at 4 a.m., and I wish my friends could be here in time to see me cover the red-hot bowlers and watch the lid come off the steamed seafood.” Clam bake, August 28, 1897. Colonel Vidvard is standing behind his wife and cooks. Note the clam pit mound at left - LCDM 2010.8 The bakes included: 125 spring chickens, 135 lobsters, 2,000 clams, 100 pounds of bluefish, 18 dozen ears of sweet corn, two barrels of seaweed and 40 gallons of chowder. When Vidvard wasn't entertaining guests, he went to his favorite clubhouse on Grass Lake, the Lotus Inn, which was only 350 feet down the beach from his home. The inn also carried the name of something very dear to Vidvard, the lotus. Vidvard used his 200-acre home to entertain hundreds of friends, and subsequently educated them on the importance of conserving the lotus and their habitat.

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