Small Town Provides Home, Inspiration For Dick Tracy Creator
It is not widely known, but most of Chester Gould’s work was actually done 60 miles northwest of the Tribune Tower in his Bull Valley studio, near the rural community of Woodstock, Illinois.
The Gould’s lived on Chicago’s north shore in Wilmette for a time. However, when the Dick Tracy strip became a national phenomenon, Gould had the financial muscle to live where he chose.
In 1935, while driving home from a Wisconsin vacation, Gould and his family happened to pass through the tiny farming community of Woodstock and an area just east of town known as Bull Valley.
Bull Valley is a stunning area filled with wooded rolling hills and breathtaking vistas. It remains that way today. Chester Gould fell in love with the area and soon purchased an abandoned farm house on 60 acres. The following year, after painstakingly restoring the old farm house, Gould, his wife Edna and daughter Jean, moved to the country.
Beginning in 1936 Gould made the trek from his farm into the big city on a regular basis. Sometimes by train, but most often by car. It is almost inconceivable that any person, in 1936, would commute that distance. No expressways were in existence and in the winter the single lane highways were treacherous. In fact, most of the close in suburbs were bucolic at the time, and towns as close as Des Plaines, Glenview and Arlington Heights, only a few miles from the Chicago city limits, were still surrounded by farms. Woodstock was on the other side of the earth!
Nonetheless, Chester Gould preferred the country small town life and the 60 mile drive was a price he was more than willing to pay. Having grown up in Pawnee, Oklahoma, Gould loved the Woodstock’s rural setting and down to earth people. He was to spend his entire career living and working on that beautiful parcel of land.
In Woodstock, Chester Gould was a good neighbor as well as a celebrity. Many of his comic characters were based on local citizens. “Tiny” the long time Woodstock police chief, is one example. In warm weather, Gould could often be found setting in the beautiful Woodstock Square with his sketch pad in hand.
Gould family members were generous contributors to the Woodstock community. Over the years Chester Gould served on the hospital board, invested in local real estate, contributed his drawings to worthy causes and became a beloved figure.