Underground Railroad site discovered in Glenwood

The Underground Railroad Memorial Park in Glenwood
The Underground Railroad Memorial Park in Glenwood

In a village we all know, a significant piece of history has been hidden right beneath our feet for centuries. The Underground Railroad Memorial Park opened in Glenwood this September, honoring the history of those who fought against slavery. 

Village officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Main Street, just south of the infamous cafe Gabe’s Place. Adults, teens and children from the community attended the ceremony. 

Chairman of the Underground Railroad Memorial Park, Leon Fields, stated to ABC 7 Chicago that it was at this site where enslaved people would get off the train and retreat to an inn across the street.

This inn was constructed in 1847; one of the first buildings in what was then called Hickory Bend. After years of use, the building became Hottinger’s Garden and later Fireside Chalet Restaurant. 

According to the Southland Journal, the inn was an important stop for Harriet Tubman and other passengers because the train from the south ran behind it. According to the Village of Glenwood’s website, “Escaped slaves and their conductors could stop at the inn before moving on, often by the way of the nearby railroad.”

The memorial site contains three large boulders with a plaque on top of each. One reads, “Glenwood joins its neighboring towns in the South Suburbs in honoring and recognizing those who displayed courage, wisdom, and determination in the movement to freedom. Free Blacks and Whites worked together in aiding those enslaved to escape where slavery was illegal.” 

The railway system began service in 1869, by which Hickory Bend had changed its name to Glenwood. The system ran further south in Dolton, IL, through Momence, Glenwood, and Chicago. 

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