The Oak Park Arms celebrates its 90th anniversary during the first weekend in May at the Oak Park Arms Retirement Community, 408 S. Oak Park Ave.
A multi-event extravaganza has been planned for the public, residents, families and friends. Tours include the updated and refurbished media room as well as many other improvements throughout the retirement community. Refreshments will be served on all three days and names will be drawn for exciting raffle prizes.
Everyone is invited to any or all of the following events:
Friday, May 4:
- A Polka Party with May Fest Polka All-Stars will take place from noon – 2 p.m.
Saturday, May 5:
- An open house with optional tours will be from noon – 4:30 p.m.
- A 90th anniversary Big Band dance with the Freenotes will take place at 2 p.m.
Sunday, May 6:
- A radio show by Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear will take place at 2 p.m.
A look back
Oak Park was still a young suburb in 1920. The budding community would swell to almost twice its size by the end of the decade.
In 1921, city planners gave the go ahead to build an elegant hotel/apartment building in Oak Park at the corner of Washington Blvd. and Oak Pak Ave. The hotel was named the Oak Park Arms, and it was the epitome of style, grace and sophistication.
The grand opening took place on a Thursday evening in late April, 1922. Menus for the formal dinner were written in French on ivory parchment paper with the gold-crusted crest of The Arms.
The five-story building had elevators, 94 spacious apartments and ten community rooms in which guests could entertain. The new structure featured luxury style living with units furnished with full kitchens, dining rooms, private bathrooms and ample closet space. The accommodations included maid service, dishes, silverware and all household linens. It was a perfect place for a long, relaxing visit, or to live permanently, which many did.
It was only a year later that The Arms became a pioneer in radio. WTAY (Wireless Tunes Await You) was broadcast from the ballroom from 6:15-8:15 p.m., five days a week. The station broadcasted “nothing but high class talent.” Name bands would play everything from light classics to ‘20s jazz hits. In 1952 a transmitting tower was put on top of the Arms, and station WOPA began to broadcast as did WOPA’s sister station – WGLD-FM.
The 1950s and 1960s were the glory days of The Arms. It was the premier place for banquets, meetings, proms and wedding receptions. It was not unusual to have as many as 15 functions in the nine available rooms on a single Saturday.
The hotel changed hands in the mid-1970s when it was purchased by two friends who wanted to create active retirement living in a community that would be full of life, service and spirit. The new management recognized the value of The Arms. It was a natural step to refocus and serve the people who were permanent residents and build a community around their needs rather than serving visitors.
The vision and experience of the two men created The Arms of today, an impressive combination of exceptional senior care in an ideal setting. For 30 years, the Oak Park Arms has been the leader of senior living and the model in the development of other senior communities.
The original vision continues as the Oak Park Arms is still owned and operated by the same two men who created it. Each remains involved and committed to excellence. Together, they offer strong support to the management and staff, ensuring that The Arms continues as an industry leader with a legacy of eminence and distinction.
All anniversary events are free and open to the public. For more information, call 708-386-4040.