Arcola is a city in Douglas County, Illinois, United States. The population was 2,916 at the 2010 census. The city was founded in 1855, when the Illinois Central Railroad was built through the county. The railroad itself was responsible for surveying, platting and founding the town. Arcola was the birthplace in 1880 of John Barton Gruelle, or “Johnny” Gruelle, who created Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, the loveable American dolls and storybook characters. He used artistic skills learned from his painter father, Richard Buckner Gruelle, combined with his self-taught writing skills to create stories expressing regional values and aesthetic images. His artistic granddaughter, Joni Gruelle Wannamaker, manages the Raggedy Ann Museum in Arcola.
A nationally known tourist attraction, Rockome Gardens, which features large formal gardens, concrete fencing and architecture, buggy rides, and many special events from May through October, is located just outside of Arcola. Arcola is also known for housing the world’s only Hippie Memorial, created by Bob Moomaw, who died in 1998. He worked as a railroad clerk and tax assessor, but did not like either job. As an eccentric, independent artist with strong beliefs, he was able to give voice to his feelings, passions and opinions through his art and the writing on the sides of his buildings. He created the 62-foot-long artwork starting in 1992 to say something about his life and the era during which he lived. A nearby marker gives an interpretation of his work.
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