Homewood, IL

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Homewood is a village located in Cook County, Illinois. As of the 2000 census, the village had a total population of 19,543.

Geography

Homewood is located at 41°33'29" North, 87°39'45" West (41.558034, -87.662621).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 13.6 km2 (5.3 mi2). 13.5 km2 (5.2 mi2) of it is land and 0.1 km2 (0.1 mi2) of it is water. The total area is 0.95% water.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 19,543 people, 7,552 households, and 5,256 families residing in the village. The population density was 1,451.1/km2 (3,755.5/mi2). There were 7,827 housing units at an average density of 581.2/km2 (1,504.1/mi2). The racial makeup of the village was 78.14% White, 17.51% African American, 0.10% Native American, 1.57% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.06% from other races, and 1.56% from two or more races. 3.05% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 7,552 households out of which 35.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.7% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.4% were non-families. 27.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.14.

In the village the population was spread out with 27.1% under the age of 18, 5.4% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 24.3% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 85.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.3 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $57,213, and the median income for a family was $70,941. Males had a median income of $50,689 versus $35,978 for females. The per capita income for the village was $26,074. 4.3% of the population and 3.2% of families were below the poverty line. 4.1% of those under the age of 18 and 6.5% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

History

The suburban village of Homewood is located in the south suburbs of Chicago. In 1990 it boasted a population of 19,278 people. Many of the southern suburbs have fallen victim to urban poverty and blight, but Homewood and several of its neighboring communities have withstood these pressures and remain communities for the middle class and moderately wealthy, due to the strength and excellence of its education system.

Homewood sits on the edge of the prehistoric Lake Chicago, which was formed by a retreating glacier long before Lake Michigan. The area is rich in limestone deposits, and featured excellent topsoil making it an appealing place for farmers to settle.

James and Sally Hart were the first confirmed settlers in the area in 1834. They were New Englanders, as were the families that immediately followed them; the Butterfields, the Campbells, the Clarks, and the Hoods. In 1839, German and Dutch families began to move into the area as well. The town began to use the name of Hartford.

The first store in Homewood was Hasting's General Store; Dr.William Doepp was its first doctor. Attracted by the country life after his Chicago practice was burned down, he moved to the area in 1851. His practice extended from Crown Point, Indiana to New Lenox, Illinois, and he was required to keep two teams of horses in order to make all his calls.

In 1853, the Illinois Central Railroad established a station in Hartford, calling it Thornton Station, as most of the passengers came from nearby Thornton. This began a serious period of confusion, as mail for the two separate towns was regularly mixed up. In 1869, settlers petitioned the post office to be renamed as Homewood, after the woods that the residents lived among.

The 1870s brought a new era to Homewood, ushered in by trains and by the crowded conditions of the city. Country clubs such as the Homewood Country Club (later changed to Flossmoor Country Club), Ravisloe, Idlewild and Calumet brought in trains just for golfers. The IC established the Calumet station specifically for their convenience. Wealthy families impressed by the area, and ease of getting to the city, established residences in the area, as permanent or summer homes.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was determined that the small two-room schoolhouse that had been built in the 1880s was inadequate. The Standard school was built in 1904 on Dixie Highway and Hickory for a cost of fourteen thousand dollars. It had four classrooms, two cloakrooms, a tiny office, attic and basement storage. It provided the community with a variety of entertainments in the form of spelling bees, box socials, school entertainment, and a play festival. As many of the children were expected to become farmers, garden and corn clubs were established. Nearby land was turned into gardening plots, but a dry season kept the project from being successful. However, one student, Elizabeth Szanyi made a total of fifty-nine dollars from her produce patch.

Enrollment for the schools continued to grow, and in 1914 the school was forced to convert the cloakrooms into classrooms. In 1918, a nearby residence, the Zimmer house was rented to house primary grades. In 1923, construction on Central school began. The new school had three more classrooms, an assembly hall, a teacher's room, and a room for health services. By 1928, there were enough students in the district to make a kindergarten class feasible, and extensive additions were made to the school. These renovations included eight new classrooms and a gymnasium-auditorium.

In the 1920s, Homewood became an important railroad depot, and many IC workers and their families moved to the area. Automobiles became a common sight on the streets of downtown. This period marks the change from Homewood as a farming community to Homewood as a suburb, as families began to use stores and businesses to supply their needs. The population of town increased from seven hundred and thirteen to fifteen hundred and ninety-three. Thirteen housing developments were recorded in Homewood from 1905 to 1930.

With the crash of the stock market, life in Homewood changed dramatically. People who worked in factories in Harvey and Chicago Heights lost their jobs, and many almost lost their homes. The Homewood State Bank was closed in the spring of 1932. Optimistic residents who had invested money in the bank until the day before it closed lost everything they had. The flood of trains to and from the city trickled down to three or four trains daily. Those people trying to make an income by bootlegging were raided, and shut down. Transients were common, and the police officers gave them a place to stay at night, a cup of coffee and a donut before they left in the morning. In 1932 alone, the jail housed twelve hundred and twenty-four people. The schools, which had already been operating in the red, scraped through by cutting programs and by the determined efforts of the PTA, which opened a thrift shop as a fundraiser. The village was reduced to issuing script notes to its employees that could not be honored by local business; however, a rental of a large parcel of land by the Illinois Jockey Association ended this problem.

As the factories slowly began to reopen, the city began to tear down old buildings and replace them with new businesses. The most important of these was the Homewood Theater. At its "typical Hollywood opening" it was said, "bright lights will flood the sky, bands will blare, and the theatre will be officially presented to Mayor Fred Borgwordt of the town of Homewood." The opening picture was "Double or Nothing" with Bing Crosby and Martha Raye. The theater seemed to symbolize the return of hope to the city, and remained an important landmark for many years. In 1983, Richard Haas painted a mural on the backs of several buildings in the business district, matching their fronts to their backs. Most famous among these was on the back of the Homewood Theater, depicting it with three young women waiting to view "It's a Wonderful Life." It was demolished in 1992, despite the comparison made by a local student of "throwing away the Mona Lisa just because the frame is broken."

World War 2 brought a time of great change to the area, although life in the village during the war was about the same as life anywhere. The number of Homewood men who entered the service is unknown, but the village maintains a complete list of the men who died and the circumstances of their death. After the war, the veterans returned home to a rapidly growing Homewood. The desire of young couples to own a home of their own provided for a phenomenal growth and development of suburbs everywhere. To reflect these changes, the school board expanded the schools once again. In 1948, ground was broken for the new Ridge school, which was located immediately south of the Central school. It was immediately followed by the construction of Willow school, in 1953. In 1958, a junior high school was built and named after the area's first settler James Hart.

At the same time as the grade school expansion, residents worked to bring about a long time dream of having a local high school, instead of sending students to Thornton, Bloom, or Bremen High Schools. Homewood-Flossmoor High School opened its doors in 1959. Almost immediately, in1962 and 1966, large additions were added to the school. The student body grew to be so large that students were taught on half-day schedules until a second building to house them could be built.

The businesses of the area boomed, with the building of Westgate shopping center, Ridge-Mar shopping center, Northgate shopping center, Cherry Creek, Washington Square Plaza, and the West Homewood Commons. While they enjoyed success for a brief time, the West Homewood Commons is filled with empty buildings, and Washington Square Plaza was torn down in the nineties. Businesses often find it difficult to meet operating costs in these outlying areas, although recently a number of large chain stores have opened branches in the area, providing the South Suburbs with increased shopping convenience, revenue and jobs. Those business centers in the heart of town, have done much better, receiving a much-needed face-lift.

In 1993, Homewood celebrated its centennial. Summer saw scores of festivals, parades, and plays celebrating the history of Homewood. These events often focused on colorful stories, and ignored the development of the village as a whole, but citizens enjoyed them, and community spirit was very high.

It is the excellence of the schools in the area, along with the numerous services provided by the town. A joint park district with nearby Flossmoor maintains large facilities on the old Central and Ridge school grounds, two swimming pools, an ice arena, a health club, and numerous parks and playgrounds. An independently maintained wilderness preserve, the Izaac Walton provides fishing and nature activities in the area. The excellence of the police and fire departments, and the public library also contribute to the continued success of the town. This is why people move to Homewood, and this is why it has not fallen to the blight that has swallowed much of the surrounding area.