Few places in Elgin have seen as much change as the area now known as Festival Park. It was once full of small houses but then, in 1865, the watch factory came to town. All those factory workers needed a place to live and by 1890, the area had several large homes, apartment buildings and boarding houses. The next change began with the automobile, which meant workers did not need to live within walking distance of the factory. By the 1950s, this area was transformed into a busy strip of car dealerships, repair shops and small businesses. A passenger railroad line ran along the river where the bike path is today.
The 1970s and '80s brought more change when the automobile dealerships moved to bigger facilities on the edge of town. The city stepped in and bought up the vacant property for re-development. That led to the Grand Victoria Casino and Festival Park.
While recently developed, Festival Park pays homage to a bit of Elgin's past if you know where to look. See those little towers near the building by the fountain and playground. They were designed to resemble the huge watch factory clock tower that once stood at the end of Grove Avenue where it meets National Street. That landmark once soared 144 feet above street level and was the center piece of the huge factory. The top of the tower held four giant clock faces, one on each side. You could read time from more than a half mile away.