In the 10 years since the first issues of Forest & Bluff appeared, the periodical—soon a monthly—has doubled the number of pages per issue from 34 for the September/October 2001 issue to 78 for the December 2010 issue, and ballooned out to almost 100 for its November 2009 100th issue.
But it has grown not just in scale, but also in depth and range of coverage as well. Constants have been the photo spreads of people and groups from social events and around town and also the colorful photographs and subjects on covers and in both stories and attractive advertisements by local businesses that have supported Forest & Bluff from the start. Additions include more in-depth coverage, profiles of interesting local people, and historical articles, some of them by this writer.
Looking at the increasingly thick issues of Forest & Bluff, you would not assume that this steady growth and development has spanned the period from the disaster of 9/11, with the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center, two distant wars, and two significant economic downturns. This is not to say the town and the publisher have missed these events, but the coverage has been consistent with the local and personal focus, rather than global approaches. In September 2002, for the first anniversary of 9/11, the magazine’s cover showed a group of local public guardians: Lake Forest and Lake Bluff police and fire chiefs and local postmasters (remember those envelopes with anthrax going through the mail?). Labeling these men as “unsung heroes,” the story by then editor Kathy Worthington sought to “honor those who serve and protect the citizens of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. September will always carry the stigma of 9/11, but it also affords us the opportunity to reflect upon how fortunate we are to have such dedicated safety officials and postal workers.” Generally, though, for a decade, Forest & Bluff has chronicled the seasonal passages of family and community rituals, holidays and graduations, and—early in the decade—the spectacular Historical Society polo matches and balls, regularly featured in September issue photo spreads.
It has done profiles of retiring local figures, such as third-generation Lake Forester Fred Jackson, by Elaine Slayton (January 2007, pp. 28–29). And with great sadness and in-depth appreciation, it recorded the passing of North Shore filmmaker John Hughes of Lake Forest, observed as a compelling and effective (succinct, too) personal coming-of-age memoir by Jake Jarvi (November 2009, pp. 82–83).
The advertisers have been a valiant group, investing in and demonstrating their faith in this community across this decade. Often beautifully colorful, well-designed ads have encouraged home ownership and betterment (decoration, gardening), personal attractiveness, and services for busy, economically comfortable lifestyles, combining work, school, service, travel, reading, and play. Through two nasty economic downturns, these advertisers have been solid, in-it-for-the-long-haul local business and professional people who support steady, constructive clientele cultivation through positive community values. They are indeed the true guarantors of this rare local vehicle for a community of 30,000 or so in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.
When I first arrived in Lake Forest in 1972, two summers after the end of the Onwentsia horse shows which had begun in 1900, old Lake Forest—a subset of old Chicago—was still a fixed, leading socio-economic element of the community. Some Lake Forest College professors still rented out their Howard Shaw and Stanley Anderson spacious Campus Circle houses to summer Onwentsia residents escaping the city heat. Bertha Brown still rented her father Van WegenanAlling’s cottages off Washington Road just west of campus to such summer people, the old guard from the near north side. But in the 1980s, change came in the form of a transforming reduction in income tax rates, and a new generation of economic and social leadership, the first such since the late 1920s, began to appear on the scene, through the 1990s. By the early 2000s, even after the tech stock meltdown, this new group had become a new social set, with its own benefit parties (for the Ragdale Foundation, Mothers Trust, etc.), its youngsters often reaching high or prep school age—and duly recorded on covers for Lake Forest Academy women’s basketball team (December 2003) and Lake Forest High School’s debate team (October 2009).
And with all the various turmoils of the last decade, many more new families have arrived, of all ages. In their appearances at events and in group profiles, Forest & Bluff has provided a grandstand seat for the “procession,” as Chicago author Henry Blake Fuller, in With the Procession (1895), described the changing social scenes of Chicago in the later 19th century. Our own Lake Forest-Lake Bluff era is hardly less dramatic and changeable than was that of the decade of The Devil in the White City, with its corruption and great thinking, around the 1893 World’s Fair. That grand event was followed by its own deep mid-1890s recession, it is worth recalling. So in 2120 or 2130, runs of Forest & Bluff will provide a measure of some new great families established in the 2001–11 decade, along with views of school and family life, beautiful women and children, happy couples socializing, notables celebrated, and history being recalled and, most importantly, lived.
—Arthur H. Miller