Category Archives: Sports and recreation

Brainerd Hill (West Lawrence Avenue)

Brainerd Hill, now Springfield’s favorite sledding spot, once was the ultimate challenge for the city’s competitive bicycle community. Springfield “wheelmen” organized the Capital City Cycling Club in the fall of 1887 to sponsor a variety of bicycling events, foster competition … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Parks, Prominent figures, Social life, Sports and recreation, Transportation, Women | 3 Comments

‘The rink,’ 1868-71

This entry has been revised — ed. Springfield’s first ice rink hosted skating contests, floral exhibits, masked balls and the “Knights of the Skate” during its brief existence at Walnut and Monroe streets. “The rink,” as it was simply known, … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Buildings, Social life, Sports and recreation, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Springfield park names

Parks in the Springfield Park District have taken their names from U.S. presidents, local pioneers, subdivisions, donors and others. Here is a list of parks and their name derivations as of summer 2017. Bergen. 2900 Clear Lake Ave. The Springfield … Continue reading

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‘The Bunion Derby’ (1928)

Football star Red Grange received an unfriendly welcome when he accompanied the 1928 Trans-Continental Foot Race to Springfield in 1928. The race, better known as the “Bunion Derby,” was the brainchild of Grange’s agent, C.C. “Cash and Carry” Pyle (1882-1939). … Continue reading

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Zoo Park

Zoo Park was an ambitious, but short-lived amusement park set on nearly 200 acres of land off Eighth Street Road north of the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Early ideas for the park included not only a zoo, but also a mile-long … Continue reading

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Olympics gold-medal winners from Sangamon County  

Olympics gold-medal winners from Sangamon County through 2016, as listed on Wikpedia, were: Ryan Held, Springfield: Men’s 4×100 freestyle relay (swimming), 2016. Graduate of Sacred Heart-Griffin High School. Andre Iguodala, Springfield: Basketball, 2012. Graduate of Lanphier High School, MVP of … Continue reading

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Johnny Connors (boxer, saloon-keeper)

Johnny Connors – boxer, saloon-keeper and sportsman – was small in stature, but he played an outsize role in Springfield for nearly 80 years. Connors (1867-1966) was born John O’Connor in Ireland, but boxed as Johnny Connors. He never legally changed … Continue reading

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Jack Johnson (boxing champion)

“Battle royals” in Springfield were a springboard to fame for boxer Jack Johnson, who went on to become the first African-American heavyweight champion. Johnson (1878-1946) was tutored in Springfield by Johnny Connors (1867-1966), a  boxer himself as well as a … Continue reading

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Irwin’s Park (‘Irwin’s Grove’)

Irwin’s Park, two miles north of Auburn off Illinois 4, is probably the oldest public meeting place in Sangamon County. For many years, it was also one of the most popular. Today, the property, operated by Auburn Township and the … Continue reading

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New Berlin rodeo

The Stapleton Rodeo drew thousands of spectators weekly to an arena west of New Berlin from 1927 until the eve of World War II. Competitors ranged from local cowboys to some of the top nationwide riders. The rodeo’s impresario was … Continue reading

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