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The Friday Flashback: Old Chicago Amusement Park

By Chuck Sudo in Miscellaneous on Jul 25, 2008 1:00PM

File this under "good ideas, bad execution." Designer Robert Brindle conceived the idea of an indoor amusement park and shopping mall after a visit to Knott's Berry Farm. Brindle's concept was a turn of the century design inside the park, with mom-and-pop stores anchoring the shopping mall instead of the brand name stores normally found in shopping malls.

From the moment Old Chicago opened in Bolingbrook in June 1975 it was plagued by problems. A pre-opening party was held before construction was done and with electrical wiring exposed to the public. A month after opening the mall's sprinkler system malfunctioned, causing a six-hour shutdown. A trapeze artist performing in the amusement park fell to his death. Small fires routinely broke out.

Old Chicago stayed open until 1980, when Illinois Central Railroad (one of the original investors who took over operations after Brindle was removed as general manager) decided to cut their losses. After years of trying to find uses for the space, including a casino, a movie soundstage and a discount outlet mall, the building was eventually demolished. The soundstage might have made a good concept. The YouTube clip above is from a 1978 Brian De Palma film called "The Fury" and provides the best video footage we've seen of Old Chicago. You can also read more about Old Chicago at these two websites dedicated to the place.