A Beverly Hills mystery

The broad oak and tiny honey locust leaves on the streets of Beverly flew into the air as bikers wheeled around between 91st and 111st. These riders–some young enough to wear Barbie helmets and others old enough to have bought their bikes before they became vintage–were on the hunt for clues at the Beverly History Mystery Bike Tour, held every October by the Beverly Area Planning Association.

At the Driscoll House, home of the Ridge Historical Society, riders were given a small map marked with 25 X’s–each accompanied by a clue. Riding from X to X, the participants followed a  meandering eight-mile loop through the neighborhood.  Some clues, such as the one leading to architectural standouts like Givin’s Irish Castle, weren’t too surprising. Yet others pointed the way to hidden sites of tragedy and intrigue, such as an unassuming house that once bore the first fingerprints to be used to convict a man of murder. Each clue was written as a charming couplet, with appropriate wit exhibited through pun and rhyme. Clue #25 directed riders back to the start, reading “High on the hill since 1922–Not in Rome, San Francisco or Paris–Sits the _______ House, So splendid with its Terrace!”

A number of community organizations teamed up with the planning association to put together the hunt. Beverly Bike and Ski offered free tune-ups to participants, and even awarded the winner with a bicycle. Other local institutions joined in at the finish line, where riders enjoyed alcoholic drinks, pumpkin painting, and snacks, including homemade potato chips from the neighborhood favorite Calabria Imports.

Whether lifetime residents or visitors from across Chicagoland, participants on this scavenger hunt discovered minutia throughout the neighborhood they never would have encountered otherwise. “I’ve been a resident for 10 years and I’m finding things I don’t know, like how many dragons are on our neighbor’s house,” said one mom, chasing a group of girls on the hunt.

Matt Walsh, a longtime Beverly resident and head of the planning association, agreed. “I think that’s one of the beauties of Beverly Hills–it’s always a surprise,” he said, referring to the neighborhood by its former name.

One of the biggest mysteries for him and the other community organizers, he says, is why Beverly remains such a “well kept secret” in the city.

But perhaps Beverly is hidden from city life by design: though less conspicuous than porch dragons, the neighborhood’s street system is notorious for bottlenecking any incoming traffic. Is this the result of segregation era zoning, or a half-hearted and innocent attempt at garden city planning? Maybe next year’s historical tour will offer a clue.