Peat Bogs

Peat Bogs in historical Clarendon Hills

Historical peat bogs in Clarendon Hills

In 1922, Arthur McIntosh bought some property north of the railroad tracks from Clarendon Hills pioneer Henry Middaugh. McIntosh immediately set about making the land his own by making the roads part of the grid system – as opposed to the Olmsted winding roads found in the rest of Clarendon Hills – and he even went so far as to name three of the streets after himself: Arthur, Tuttle, and McIntosh. As development of the property proceeded, McIntosh made a terrible discovery – the land that he had purchased for residential purposes was composed primarily of peat bogs.

Peat bogs are wetlands with poor drainage and take thousands of years to form. Fed by rainwater, the soil builds up its own water table and acidity and allows sphagnum moss to grow – which eventually form layers of peat. While peat bogs might conjure images of misty, swampy wastelands they are also rich in social and biological history because they contain irreplaceable materials. One of the most important components of peat is a high carbon content. When coupled with the depth of peat bogs – as deep as 20 yards – the carbon can ignite, even under low moisture conditions. This can cause fires that are difficult to extinguish and smolder for long periods of time. Unfortunately, this happened quite frequently in the McIntosh bogs.

After frequent fires in the McIntosh bogs and residential property beginning to sink (supposedly a tractor was even “eaten” by the bogs), McIntosh did the right thing and bought the land back from the residents.

Another view of Clarendon Hill's former peat bogs.

Smoke caused by peat bog fires in Clarendon Hills

Records do not detail how or when the fires in the McIntosh bogs died out, but eventually they were turned into a gathering place for picnics, fishing, fireworks, and playing that is now known as Prospect Park.

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