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Know Your Oak Park History 101

imgres-2One of the reasons people are drawn to Oak Park is it has history.  From the Kettlestrings to Philander Barclay, Frank Lloyd Wright to Ernest Hemingway, Oak Park has stories to tell.  For those new or just unfamiliar with Oak Park’s historical timeline here are a few points to help know your community.

    • Joseph Kettlestrings, Oak Park’s first settler purchased land in 1837 from the federal government
    • Oak Park’s original name was Oak Ridge
    • Joseph Kettlestrings paid $215 for 172 acres of land.
    • Kettlesrings subdivided & sold portions of his 172 acres and Oak Ridge started to grow.
    • In the 1850’s the land where Oak Park now sits was a part of the Chicago suburb of Cicero.
    • Another Illinois post office had already been assigned the name of Oak Ridge so, in 1872, the Oak Ridge name was officially changed to Oak Park.
    • In 1873 Oak Park became a “dry” community – and stayed that way for 100 years.
    • The Chicago Fire (1871) created a boom of development in Oak Park – population was about 500 before the fire and by 1890 was 4,589.
    • Oak Park’s first graduating high school class was in 1877 and had 3 graduates.
    • In 1889 Frank Lloyd Wright settles in Oak Park and begins building such notable works of architecture, like the Unity Temple.
    • The first Oak Park high school building was built in 1891.
    • The Village of Oak Park was formally established in 1902, disengaging from Cicero following a referendum. 
    • Philander Barclay, known as Oak Park’s unofficial historian chronicled Oak Park’s through the early 1900’s.T18
    • Marshall Fields opened on Lake Street and Harlem Avenue in September of 1929.
    • By the 1930’s Oak Park’s population was over 64,000.
    • The Lake Theater opened in 1936 – and is still thriving 80 years later.
    • Oak Park issues it’s Open Housing Ordinance in 1968 which was a statement in support of integrated housing.
    • In 1973 Oak Park relaxes it’s liquor prohibition laws and the first liquor license goes to Ascension Catholic Church.
    • 1973 Village trustees put out policy statement in favor of diversity which reads: “The people of Oak Park have chosen this community, not so much as a place to live, but as a way of life. A key ingredient is the diversity of these same people a broad representation of various occupations, professions, ages and income levels. Such diversity is Oak Park’s strength.”
    • And though we are sure there are other notable historical facts, OPA would like skip to 2012, where Oak Park is ranked as number 5 in Family Circle’s top ten best towns for families – a true testament to Oak Park’s commitment to it’s mission of diversity and community, we are certain!350f015ea3e5c874b2b4c8f06c0ed1f7


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35 Chicago Avenue
Oak Park, IL 60302

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