Local historian Ada Douglas Harmon once described the early wooden sidewalks in Glen Ellyn as a “…first-class rendezvous for snakes. When we walked along at night, the snakes would stick their heads up through the cracks and wiggle under our feet.”
The wooden sidewalks along Main Street in the downtown area were much higher than elsewhere in town–as much as three to four feet above the street level–allowing shoppers to step directly to them from their horse-drawn carriages and high-wheeled buggies.
Unfortunately, these sidewalks weren’t always kept in the best repair by the village. In 1893, a man from another town came to Glen Ellyn to transact some business. He fell through the sidewalk, broke his leg and sued the village for $500. He won, and village officials were forced to pay, which was quite the joke at the time because they were notorious for being cautious in money matters. It was reported that after this incident, the sidewalks were kept in better repair.
Clarence Curtis, grandson of Amos Churchill (one of the original settlers here), told the following story involving these high sidewalks: “One Sunday we were out for a ride when a heavy rain came up. Grandpa Churchill had a lumber business on Crescent just west of Main Street. We stopped in his barn, waiting for the rain to stop. Northeast of the barn was the William Wagner store facing on Main. The wooden sidewalk in front of the store was level with the entrance and was set on posts several feet high.
“My dad noticed some boys going under the walk in front of the store, so he sent for Uncle Joe Clark [the town constable]. Dad knew there had been thefts from the store. Mr. Wagner and Uncle Joe and my dad went into the store. They found one boy hiding under a counter. Mother and I saw another boy come out and run away. I knew who he was, and when he was caught he confessed. There were quite a few boys involved. They had a cave in Honeysuckle Hill, where they were taking their loot and having a good time.”
Today, the building that housed the William Wagner Grocery Store on Main is long gone, while Glenbard West High School sits atop Honeysuckle Hill. Concrete sidewalks replaced the wooden ones in 1906.