Grandview Drive – The “World’s Most Beautiful Drive”

Grandview Drive – The “World’s Most Beautiful Drive”

Grandview Drive Circa 1910Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Grandview Drive is a 2.52 mile meandering pleasure driveway constructed in 1903. The “world’s most beautiful drive,” as President Theodore Roosevelt referred to it in a visit to Peoria in 1910, offers visitors numerous panoramic scenic views of the Illinois River Valley and the chance to view many historic and remarkable homes lining it. The linear park is especially beautiful in autumn, with the ever-changing colors of fall leaves. Grand View Drive has 1.75 miles of paved sidewalk for hiking.

Grandview drive stretches from Prospect Road to Illinois Route 29, and is a winding road with several sight-seeing areas. Along the road is the Peoria Country Club, which includes a golf course and tennis courts. There is also a large park, known as Grandview Park.

The residential area of Grandview Drive is on the west side of the street, opposite the river. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district in 1996. A large amount of land on the valley side of Grandview Drive is owned by the Peoria Park District and is undeveloped except for park benches.

The district’s legal name, “Pleasure Driveway and Park District of Peoria”, is a reflection of Grandview Drive’s original prominence in the Peoria park system. Of particular note, the drive is said to have been one of the first “linear parks” of its time.

Grand View Drive Peoria - the CastlePresident Theodore Roosevelt is said to have proclaimed it the “World’s Most Beautiful Drive”. The WMBD call letters were assigned in FCC sequence are said to refer to that Roosevelt proclamation.

Oscar F. Dubuis was hired as the landscape gardener and engineer for Grand View Drive. Dubuis was born in Geneva, Switzerland and served a four-year apprenticeship under Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s Central Park. Dubuis worked for the West Park Board of Chicago for twenty-three years.

Construction began on October 14, 1903. No machines were used; hand labor and horses performed all the labor on the overgrown hilly terrain. One year later, the road bed had been cut. The original base was made from gravel and sand, which became dusty and deeply rutted after cars became popular. In the mid-1930s, the road was repaved with asphalt.

A five-story observation tower began in 1905 and was completed in 1906. After roughly forty years, the tower was razed in 1942 due to corrosion and a high cost of repair. It was used as scrap metal for the World War II effort. Today the northeast corner of the site is home to the Pimiteoui marker, relocated to the site and installed by the Peoria Park District in 1975.

Grand View Drive - FallThe northern end of Grandview Drive is close to Tower Park in Peoria Heights. When North Grandview Drive meets North Prospect Road, the name changes into East Kingman Avenue near the birthplace of the first gasoline-powered car in America, the Duryea automobile, built in 1893 by Charles Duryea. The southern end of Grandview Drive is near the Peoria Waterworks building, another designation on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visit the Grandview Park Facebook page to see more images.

 

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