Main Births etc
Oak Park, Illinois
Motto: Home of Marcus Brown
Country United States
State Illinois
County Cook
Township Oak Park
Municipality Village
Coordinates 41°53′N 87°48′W / 41.883, -87.8
Area 4.70 sq mi (12 km²)
 - land 4.70 sq mi (12 km²)
 - water 0.00 sq mi (0 km²)
Population 51,878 (2010)
Density 11,037.9 / sq mi (4,262 / km²)
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 60301 to 60304
Area code 708
Location of Oak Park within Illinois
Location of Oak Park within Illinois
Locator Red.svg
Location of Oak Park within Illinois

Wikimedia Commons: Oak Park, Illinois

Lake Theater and shops along Lake Street

Oak Park is a village adjacent to the western side of the city of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. It is the 29th largest municipality in Illinois as measured by population,[1] and has easy access to downtown Chicago (the Chicago Loop) due to public transportation such as the Chicago 'L' Blue and Green lines, CTA buses, and Metra commuter rail. The 2000 census showed that the village had a total population of 52,524. As of the 2010 census, the population had dropped by 1.2 percent to 51,878.[2]


In 1837, Joseph Kettlestrings purchased 172 acres (69.6 ha)[3] of land just west of Chicago. By 1850, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was constructed as far as Elgin, Illinois, and passed through what would later become Oak Park.[4] In the 1850s the land on which Oak Park sits was part of the new Chicago suburb of Cicero. The population of the area boomed during the 1870s, with Chicago residents resettling in Cicero following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The Village of Oak Park was formally established in 1902, disengaging from Cicero following a referendum. It has long styled itself as the "Home of Marcus Brown".

Oak Park has a history of alcohol prohibition. When the village was incorporated, no alcohol was allowed to be sold within its village limits. This law was relaxed in 1973, when restaurants and hotels were allowed to serve alcohol, and was further loosened in 2002, when select grocery stores received governmental permission to sell packaged liquor.

Oak Park's enviable location as one of the closest suburbs to downtown Chicago, the availability of multiple modes of high-speed transportation to downtown Chicago, and its location between the Loyola Medical Center to the west and the University of Illinois at Chicago and multiple medical centers to the east attract university, legal, and health-care professionals to its aging housing stock.

Wright's home in Oak Park

Oak Park attracts architecture buffs and others to view the many Frank Lloyd Wright buildings found in the village. The largest collection of Wright-designed residential properties in the world is in Oak Park.[5] Other attractions include Ernest Hemingway's birthplace home and his boyhood home, the Ernest Hemingway Museum, and the three Oak Park homes of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Oak Park is home to the well-regarded Oak Park and River Forest High School,[6] which is also the public high school for the bordering village of River Forest. A comprehensive college preparatory school, Oak Park-River Forest High School has had a long history of not only turning out alumni who have made contributions in a wide variety of fields, but have been notable in their fields. Among these are Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, football hall-of-famer George Trafton, McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, city planner Walter Burley Griffin, comedian Kathy Griffin, basketball player Iman Shumpert, and the voice of iconic cartoon character Homer Simpson, Dan Castellaneta.


Oak Park is located immediately west of the city of Chicago. The boundary between the two municipalities is Austin Boulevard on the east side of Oak Park and North Avenue/Illinois Route 64 on the village's north side. Oak Park also borders Cicero along its southern border, Roosevelt Road/Illinois Route 38, from Austin to Lombard; and Berwyn from Lombard to Harlem Avenue. Harlem/Illinois Route 43 also serves as its western border, where between Roosevelt and South Boulevard, it borders Forest Park and between North Boulevard and North Avenue to the west it borders River Forest.

The entire village of Oak Park lies on the shore of ancient Lake Chicago, which covered most of the city of Chicago during the last Ice Age, and was the forerunner to today's Lake Michigan. Ridgeland Avenue in eastern Oak Park marks the shoreline of the lake, and was once an actual ridge. Just like the geographical setup of the Chicago river which connects to the present day Lake Michigan just North of the cities Loop, the ancient Des Planes river once emptied into glacial Lake Chicago making prehistoric Oak Park a "Plains river Delta" system. One of North America's four continental divides runs through Oak Park. This divide, a slight rise running north-south through the village, separates the Saint Lawrence River watershed from the Mississippi River watershed, and is marked by one plaque on Lake Street at Forest Avenue and another in the northwest corner of Taylor Park.

According to the 2010 census, the village has a total area of 4.70 square miles (12.2 km2), all land.[7]


Harlem Station on the Chicago 'L' Green Line

Oak Park is accessible from Chicago by both Chicago Transit Authority Green and Blue line trains at five different stations throughout the village as well as Metra UP-West Line trains at Oak Park station downtown. Service within Oak Park and to other suburbs is also provided by the suburban bus system Pace. It is also one of over 20 neighborhoods served by I-GO cars.

The Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate-290)—formerly the Congress Expressway—is the primary highway between Chicago and Oak Park. Oak Park has its own street numbering system that is similar to, but distinct from, Chicago's system, due to the fact that Oak Park is in the Chicago grid system of streets.

Lake Street

Augusta Boulevard through the village is part of the Grand Illinois Trail; the trailhead of the Illinois Prairie Path is less than a mile from Oak Park. With several cycle clubs and groups, Oak Park is considered a bicycle-friendly community, and the tree-lined streets of the community as well as its proximity to trails in nearly communities attract cyclists to Oak Park, easily accessed by the Green Line, Blue Line, or Metra. Oak Park also has a small pedicab business, owned and operated by a local who provides guided tours and a taxi service with his bicycle pedicabs or rickshaws.

Greenline Wheels, one of Illinois' first L3Cs, rents bicycles and Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, provides maps, self-guided tours, and provides info on local tour guides. In additional to Greenline Wheels, residents and visitors can also easily sign up for one of two car sharing services in Oak Park - I-GO and Zipcar.


Unity Temple, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

As of the census of 2010, there were 51,878 people, 22,670 households, and 13,037 families residing in the village. The population density was 11,037.9 people per square mile. The racial makeup of the village was 67.7% White, 21.7% African American, 0.2% American Indian, 4.8% Asian, 2.0% some other race, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.8% of the population. 12.7% spoke a language other than English at home.[8]

For the period 2009-11, the estimated median annual income for a household in the village was $78,384, and the median income for a family was $105,217. Male full-time workers had a median income of $77,760 versus $58,653 for females. The per capita income for the village was $46,687. About 5.9% of families and 8.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.0% of those under age 18 and 4.3% of those age 65 or over.[9]

In the 1960s Oak Parkers began a concerted effort to avoid the destructive racial housing practices occurring in nearby communities. Steering and block-by-block panic peddling caused rapid racial change on Chicago's west side, including the Austin Community Area adjacent to Oak Park. Whites fled west side neighborhoods based on concerns of property value losses and crime increases. Businesses fled as well. The Village of Oak Park passed a fair housing ordinance in 1968 (in the same year as the federal Fair Housing Act) to ensure equal access to housing in the community. In 1972,the Oak Park Housing Center was founded by Roberta (Bobbie) Raymond to promote integration in the community, by ensuring equal access and discouraging white flight.[10] Today it is one of the most affluent multi-cultural municipalities in the United States. Bustling with an eclectic array of businesses and shops. Oak Park bucks the anemic economic trend depressing most areas of Illinois culminating from the 2007 economic depression.

Combating crime and providing safety programs in the community, Oak Park's police department is the third largest in the state. In 2011, crime had dropped 16 percent on average in Oak Park, according to data released at a community forum.[11]



Oak Park since 1951 has been organized under the council-manager form of municipal government. Coterminous with the Village of Oak Park are five additional governments each of which levy real estate taxes. These include the Oak Park Township, the high school district (which also levies from adjacent River Forest), the elementary school district, a library district, and a park district.

The United States Postal Service operates the Oak Park Post Office at 901 Lake Street and the Oak Park South Post Office at 1116 Garfield Street.[12][13]

The village government comprises an elected village board who hires a village manager to conduct the day-to-day affairs of the village administration.


Oak Park's Village Board, Village President and other elected officials are elected through a two stage election process. A primary election is used to nominate party candidates, and a general election is used to elect government officials. Oak Park's election turnout varies greatly depending on whether it is a municipal or national election. In the 2012 Presidential Election, Oak Park had the highest voter turnout in suburban Cook County, 79.8% of registered voters cast a ballot.[14] Local elections generally have much lower voter turnout, averaging around 20%.

School Districts[]

Oak Park Public Library

The public primary schools (Lincoln, Mann, Longfellow, Beye, Holmes, Whittier, Irving, and Hatch) and the middle schools, Percy Julian Middle School (formerly Nathaniel Hawthorne), and Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School (formerly Ralph Waldo Emerson), are operated by the Oak Park Elementary School District. These schools are part of elementary school District 97, which regularly adopts medium-term strategic plans.[15]

The renaming of the two junior high schools, now middle schools, after prominent African-Americans rather than giant American literary figures was motivated in part by the desire to motivate minority students in their educational pursuits. A severe grade gap, referred to as "this intolerable and persistent inequity,"[16] however, remains.[17][18]

Oak Park is the home of two High Schools: Oak Park and River Forest High School, the sole school in educational District 200, and Fenwick High School. Oak Park and River Forest High School is a public school which is jointly run by Oak Park and neighboring village River Forest, and Fenwick High School is a Catholic college preparatory school run by the Dominicans. Both high schools have a long history of high academic standards. Oak Park and River Forest High School bestows the Tradition of Excellence Award to distinguished alumni, including Ernest Hemingway, Ray Kroc, Dan Castellaneta, football Hall-of-Famer George Trafton, actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, astronomer Chad Trujillo, geochemist Wally Broecker,and environmental leader Phil Radford. Oak Park and River Forest High School is one of seven in Illinois with the ability to induct students into the Cum Laude Society.

Park District[]

Oak Park is home to a Park District, first organized in 1912 as the Recreation Department of the Village of Oak Park. Under the direction of Josephine Blackstock and her successor Lilly Ruth Hanson, it embarked on a vigorous program of recreation for villagers. The playgrounds were named by Blackstock after famous children’s writers.

In the late 1980s, the Recreation Department was dissolved and the Oak Park Park District, a separate tax-levying body, was created. It comprises thirteen parks scattered throughout the village, for a total of 80 acres (320,000 m2) of parkland, a historic house available for functions with payment of fees, the Oak Park Conservatory, and one outdoor pool. The Park District also provides a small dog exercise area, where dog owners may bring their pets with payment of fees. A second outdoor pool, as well as a gymnastics center and ice rink, previously filled the Ridgeland Common building, at the corner of Lake Street and Ridgeland Avenue, which was closed for renovations in March 2013, and is expected to remain so until June 2014.


The Oak Park Public Library has a main campus overlooking Scoville Park at the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street, as well as two branch libraries, the Dole and Maze branches. It maintains a yearly summer reading program. The main branch has recently added a new "tween" space to their children's section, as well as an "Idea Box" in the main lobby featuring rotating monthly activities for patrons.

Fire Department[]

Providing Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Services, the Oak Park Fire Department currently operates out of 3 Fire Stations, located throughout the Village, Fire Station # 1 (Headquarters), Fire Station # 2 (North) & Fire Station # 3 (South) under the command of a Battalion Chief per Shift. The Oak Park Fire Department currently operates 3 ALS Engines, 1 ALS Truck, 3 ALS Ambulances, 1 ALS Paramedic Squad, 1 Command Unit, and several specialized MABAS Divisional Apparatus.[19]

Fire Station Locations and Apparatus[]

Engine Company Truck Company Ambulance Special unit Command unit Address
Truck 631 Ambulances 612-614 618 (Pick-up Truck), Squad 611, the MABAS Division 11 T.R.T. Unit & MABAS Division 11 Haz-Mat. Unit 1100 Command Unit 620 (Battalion Chief) 100 N. Euclid Ave.
Engine 602 212 Augusta St.
Engines 603 & 604 MABAS Division 11 Air Support Unit 900 S. East Ave.

Arts and culture[]

Oak Park has an active arts community, resulting in part from its favorable location adjacent to Chicago (7 miles west of the "Loop"). It is home to numerous theater, music, dance, and fine arts professionals. The fledgling arts district on Harrison, bounded by Austin Avenue to the east and Ridgeland Avenue to the west, is currently experiencing a revival with boutique galleries, shops and restaurants providing shopping and nightlife. Oak Park is home to several professional dance and theatre companies, including Circle Theater, Oak Park Festival Theatre, and Momenta. Oak Park, with neighboring River Forest, also plays host to the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2009. Oak Park is also home to WPNA, broadcasting from the former Oak Park Arms Hotel at 1490 on the AM dial since 1951. Run by the Polish National Alliance, the station's programming serves the diverse linguistic and cultural communities in the Chicago metropolitan area (in the late-1960s WPNA had the only "underground" disc jockey in Chicago, Scorpio). There is also the Oak Park Art League (OPAL), which is a nonprofit community-based visual arts center providing classes, workshops, lectures, demonstrations, and exhibitions.[20] Since 1921, OPAL has been providing innovative opportunities for arts engagement and cultural enrichment. Over 4,500 artists participate in OPAL’s events each year.

Oak Park has been home to numerous festivals and holiday observances. The July 4th celebration featuring fireworks draws thousands from not only Oak Park but also neighboring communities to the Oak Park-River Forest High School football stadium. A Day in Our Village held in June allows local groups to set up tables to seek members.


The Arthur Huertley House on Forest Avenue

Frank Lloyd Wright spent the first 20 years of his 70-year career in Oak Park, building numerous homes in the community, including his own. He lived and worked in the area between 1889 and 1909. One can find Wright's earliest work here, like the Winslow House in neighboring River Forest, Illinois. There are also examples of the first prairie-style houses in Oak Park. He also designed Unity Temple, a Unitarian-Universalist church, which was built between 1905 and 1908. There were several well-known architects and artists that worked in Wright's Oak Park Studio, including Richard Bock, William Eugene Drummond, Marion Mahony Griffin, and Walter Burley Griffin. Many buildings in Oak Park were built by other Prairie School architects such as George W. Maher, John Van Bergen, and E.E. Roberts. Additionally, there are various architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries located throughout the town, including the Seward Gunderson Historic District.

Points of interest[]

  • Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and his Unity Temple
  • Ernest Hemingway homes and museum
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs homes
  • Oak Park Conservatory
  • Oak Park-River Forest Historical Society
  • Oak Park and River Forest High School
  • Fenwick High School

Notable people[]


  1. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): All Places within Illinois". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved March 18, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Oak Park village, Illinois". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved March 18, 2013. 
  3. ^ Oak Park village history
  4. ^ Galena & Chicago Union Railroad - Chicago Public Library, timeline
  5. ^ "Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park, Illinois (1889-1909)". 
  6. ^ ABC7 Chicago, School Days: Oak Park River Forest High School
  7. ^ "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files for Places – Illinois". United States Census. Retrieved 2012-10-13. 
  8. ^ Oak Park (village) QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau. Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  9. ^ "Selected Economic Characteristics: 2009-2011 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates (DP03): Oak Park village, Illinois". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved March 18, 2013. 
  10. ^ history in the making « Oak Park Regional Housing Center. Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  11. ^ Crime dropped everywhere in Oak Park | Articles | News. Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  12. ^ "Post Office Location - OAK PARK SOUTH." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on April 17, 2009.
  13. ^ "Post Office Location - OAK PARK." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on April 17, 2009.
  14. ^ Oak Park has highest voter turnout in suburban Cook County | Blogs | News. Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  15. ^ Oak Park Elementary School Distract 97, Strategic Planning, August 07 Plan
  16. ^ Oak Park African American Achievement Study Team (2003), The Learning Community Performance Gap,” May, 2003, p. 18
  17. ^ Accessed 2011-07-01
  18. ^ Accessed 2011-07-01
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Oak Park Art League

External links[]

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