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Walking tour to explore Oak Lawn’s history

  • Written by By Kelly White

When is the last time you walked around the Oak Lawn community and really took in all it has to offer?

Oak Lawn residents can go on a Historic Walking Tour of Oak Lawn on weekends during the month of May through the Oak Lawn Public Library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave. Kevin Korst, the Local History Coordinator at the library, is responsible for researching, developing and organizing the walking tour.

The scheduled tours will be offered from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays, May 14 and 21, and 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sundays, May 15 and 22, through the heart of Oak Lawn. Participants will be walking on uneven sidewalks and crossing several busy intersections and are encouraged to dress comfortably, wearing walking shoes. Each tour will begin promptly at 10 a.m. from the Village Green, just north of the library.

“This is the first time we are organizing a tour of this nature,” Korst said. “This tour will offer residents an opportunity to explore Oak Lawn’s history and see what remains of its early structures and buildings.”

The tour will focus on the area of Oak Lawn that surrounds the library and Village Municipal Center. The route stretches from approximately 52nd Avenue to East Shore Drive and Oak Street to 96th Street. It is 1.6 miles in length and will take around 90 minutes to complete.

Highlights of the tour will include some of the older homes, schools, churches and businesses that neighbor the library and Village Municipal Center.

“There is a common misconception that few if any older structures are left in Oak Lawn,” Korst said. “By taking people through the heart of the community and focusing on historic homes, churches, businesses and schools we hope to dispel that idea.”

There will be a number of structures featured, some still standing and others gone. These include the Keyhole House, 5400 W. 96th St., built in 1893, an example of an early home in the village; the O’Brien House, 9400 S. 53rd Court, built in 1893, an example of an early home in the village; former First Congregational Church, 9424 S. 54th Ave., built in 1892, the oldest remaining church structure in Oak Lawn; and the Johnson-Phelps VFW Hall, 9514 S. 52nd Ave., built in 1951, which was used as a temporary morgue after the 1967 Tornado.

“It is also important to discuss the people and events connected with these structures, as well as describe what buildings no longer exist, such as the former Cook Avenue School, and how dramatically Oak Lawn has changed since its founding in 1909,” Korst said.

Korst’s love for history developed at a young age.

“Since grade school history has always been my favorite area of study,” Korst said. “I followed that passion into college and graduate school and have worked at several different museums as well as the Oak Lawn Public Library. I was hired as the Local History Coordinator in early 2008 and quickly became fascinated with Oak Lawn’s history. Many aspects of the community interest me including its agricultural past, population explosion following World War II, the Round-Up Days celebration of the 1950s, 1967 Tornado and its redevelopment that began in the late 1980s.”

Phone registration is underway. More information can be obtained by calling (708) 422-4990 or visit www.olpl.org.