Skip to main content

I live in Glenview, a little south of an area called the Glen. Thirty years ago, the Glen was known as the Glenview Naval Air Station. But before that it was the Curtis Reynolds Airfield, created in the 1920s as an alternative to Midway Airport.

by Dick Clark, CAC docent, class of 2008

Unfortunately, Curtis Reynolds Airfield opened nine days before Black Friday, the onset of the Great Depression, and never took off. It did, however, sport a control tower designed by Art Deco architect Andrew Rebori. 

World War II changed everything. The Navy took over the airfield and poured 1.3 million square yards of concrete for new runways and aprons, creating one of the largest training facilities in the country. More than 9,000 aviation cadets trained there and 17,000 carrier pilots (including a 19-year-old George H.W. Bush) practiced landings on mock aircraft carriers—known as the Corn Belt Fleet—in Lake Michigan. Their flight plan was simple: head east and take a right at the Wilmette Baháʼí House of Worship.

The base closed in 1995 and the 1,121-acre property was redeveloped by the Village of Glenview, after removing all that concrete from miles of runways. The master plan included residential areas, shopping districts, schools, a golf course and my favorite place to walk these past few weeks—Gallery Park.

The highlight of the park is Lake Glenview, which was created from scratch. It covers 45 acres and is fed by storm runoff from the surrounding areas. The lake is surrounded by wetlands, which filter the water before it drains into the north branch of the Chicago River.

The wetlands, lake and prairie landscaping also provide habitat for bullfrogs, snapping turtles, migratory birds and the remarkable great blue heron. The lake is stocked with walleye, largemouth bass, channel catfish, green sunfish, and bluegills. For the non-fisherman there are miles of walking and bicycling trails and yoga by the lake. And in a clever bit of recycling, discarded Christmas trees provide fish habitats in the lake.