La Grange, Illinois
|Village of La Grange, Illinois|
|Etymology: French: la grange|
Tradition & Pride - Moving Forward
|Anthem: My La Grange by Jimmy Dunne|
|Incorporated||June 11, 1879|
|Founded by||Franklin Dwight Cossitt|
|Named for||La Grange, Tennessee, in turn named after the ancestral home of Marquis de Lafayette|
|• Village President||Mark Kuchler|
|• Trustees||Beth Augustine|
|• Total||2.52 sq mi (6.54 km2)|
|• Land||2.52 sq mi (6.54 km2)|
|• Water||0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2) 0%|
|Elevation||646 ft (197 m)|
|• Density||6,463.76/sq mi (2,495.85/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
|Wikimedia Commons||La Grange, Illinois|
The area around La Grange was first settled in the 1830s, when Chicago residents moved out to the west due to the rapid population increase in the city in the decade since its incorporation. The first settler, Robert Leitch, came to the area in 1830, seven years before the City of Chicago was incorporated. La Grange's location, at approximately 13 miles (21 km) from the Chicago Loop, is not considered far from the city by today's standards, but in that time the residents enjoyed the peace of rural life without much communication with urban residents.
The village was officially incorporated on June 11, 1879. It was founded by Franklin Dwight Cossitt, who was born in Granby, Connecticut, and raised in Tennessee, and moved to Chicago in 1862 where he built a successful wholesale grocery business.
In 1870, Cossitt purchased several hundred acres of farmland in Lyons Township, along the Chicago-Dixon Road, known today as Ogden Avenue (U.S. Highway 34). Ogden Avenue, on the site of a defunct Native American trail, was also referred to as the "Old Plank Road". Planks were often stolen by settlers to be used as building material, which made traveling very bumpy. When the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad came to town, La Grange was a milk stop called Hazel Glen. A few miles to the south, through present-day Willow Springs, the Illinois and Michigan Canal had emerged as a major shipping corridor, connecting Chicago and the Great Lakes with the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
Cossitt set out to build the ideal suburban village - laying out streets, planting trees, donating property for churches and schools, and building quality homes for sale between $2,000-$8000 USD. He also placed liquor restrictions in the land deeds he sold to prevent the village from becoming a saloon town.
When Cossitt began his development, the area was served by a post office known as Kensington. But upon learning of another community already with that name in Illinois, Cossitt decided to name his town in honor of La Grange, Tennessee, where he had been raised as a youth on an uncle's cotton farm. To this day, Kensington remains the name of one of the village's major avenues.
After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed much of that city, thousands of its citizens sought new homes and opportunities far from the city's ills but within a convenient commute. La Grange was ideally situated to accommodate them.
Telephones were first set up by Dr. George Fox in the 1880s for quick communication between his home office and a drug store, enabling him to order prescriptions to be delivered by buggy in a moment's notice. Growing to 52 lines in 1894, it increased twofold to 120 by the next year, and surged to 2,346 by 1921 (36 percent of the population at the time).
There was a large spike in population is the 1880s and 1890s as the village grew from just over 500 to nearly 4,000 residents, over 600% growth in twenty years. The population continued to grow steadily through the 1960s, peaking at 17,814 according to the 1970 census. The population declined slightly in the '70s & '80s and has been relatively stable since then.
La Grange is located at  about 13 miles (21 km) west of Chicago. The village is roughly flat, only deviating from the elevation of 645 feet by at most ten feet. La Grange is surrounded by incorporated places of similar sizes on all sides except to the South West, where the generously-named La Grange Highlands are.(41.807938, -87.873455),
As of 2020, La Grange has a total area of 2.52 square miles (6.53 km2), all land. Two major railroad tracks run through the village, including the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and the CSX/Indiana Harbor Belt lines.
Some 14,000 years ago, the land under La Grange sat on the western shore of Lake Chicago, a predecessor to Lake Michigan. The prehistoric shoreline today is delineated by Bluff Avenue, a north–south street on the village's east side.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the 2000 census, there were 15,608 people, 5,624 households, and 4,049 families residing in the village. The population density was 6,220.7 people per square mile (2,400.9/km2) This is mainly due to the Village Plan aiming to prevent overcrowding and to keep population density at a level consistent with the quality of life envisioned by Franklin Cossitt. There were 5,781 housing units at an average density of 2,304.1 per square mile (889.3/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 91.02% White, 6.02% African American, 1% Asian, 0.09% Native American, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.99% from other races, and 0.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race comprised 3.66% of the population.
There were 5,624 households, out of which 37.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.3% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.0% were non-families. 24.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.23.
In the village, the population was spread out, with 28.5% under the age of 18, 4.8% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 23.8% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.4 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $80,342, and the median income for a family was $95,554. Males had a median income of $62,030 versus $41,260 for females. The per capita income for the village was $34,887. About 3.2% of families and 4.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.3% of those under age 18 and 4.4% of those age 65 or over.
La Grange is the mailing address for the headquarters of Electro-Motive Diesel, formerly General Motors' Electro-Motive Division, a major manufacturer of railroad locomotives and diesel engines. The headquarters, engineering facilities and parts-manufacturing operations actually are located in the adjacent village of McCook; originally, the locomotives were also built there, but in more recent years final assembly has moved to EMD's other facility in Muncie, Indiana.
The downtown area, centered along and around La Grange Road (US 45) and the BNSF Railway line, grew somewhat run-down during the 1980s; however, the mid-to-late 1990s saw a revival, with many new businesses opening including Trader Joe's. Many of these new businesses are restaurants; La Grange draws much of this business from the neighboring town of Western Springs, since Western Springs did not allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in restaurants until recently. In June 2006, animal statues were placed around the downtown area, mimicking the famous Chicago Cows.
This expansion of the downtown led to increased congestion; often, parking became difficult to find, especially on weekends. One proposal to remedy this was the building of a parking garage in a current parking-lot area; some very vocal residents, however, opposed this as a waste of tax dollars. Eventually, a referendum on the parking garage was passed; ground was broken on March 3, 2005. The parking structure is now complete and operational. The parking structure was paid for by a grant from the state for the advancement of public transportation (since increasing parking for train commuters would increase the number of people willing to use the train). The upkeep is paid for by an increase in the sales tax at restaurants and other entertainment establishments. There was no increase in the local property taxes.
La Grange holds numerous public activities and festivals. Art fairs, historic housewalks, carnivals, and farmer's markets are also common, mostly taking place in the downtown area.
An annual event known as the Pet Parade has been conducted every year since 1947 and attracts thousands of people from the La Grange area. The parade marches through downtown and includes a wild variety of animal pets like dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, and farm animals. There is a long history of Grand Marshals for the parade including Elephants and Donkeys from the Brookfield Zoo (1948), Luci Baines Johnson – Daughter of the President Lyndon B. Johnson (1964), and Susan Dey and Danny Bonaduce of “The Partridge Family” (1971). Included in the long history of the event is the Pet Parade Queen; including Erin Vondrasek - Daughter of Jim and Mary Vondrasek (2001).
In 2019 the theme for the Pet Parade was 'Celebrating the Heroes and Superheroes' and drew an estimated 15,000 people. The theme for 2020 is 'Roaring 20's: Then and Now'.
The La Grange Village Historic District makes up a large section of the village and includes over 1,000 buildings representing several popular architectural styles of late 19th century and early 20th century. A few homes in district were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There is even a "bootleg" house, one he designed on the side, contrary to his employment agreement, when he was supposed to be working exclusively for architect Louis Sullivan. Wright was reportedly fired over this and similar employment agreement infractions.
The Park District of La Grange maintains 78.5 acres of parkland at 11 locations, and offers over 1,500 recreation programs annually for its more than 16,000 residents. Parks within the village limits include:
The Village of La Grange is a non-home rule municipal corporation and operates under a board-manager form of government. A seven-member board of trustees, elected as provided by state law, serves four-year overlapping terms. A village manager is appointed by the board.
The village has six operating departments: administration, finance, police, fire, community development and public works.
The village is served by the Park District of La Grange with a five-member board of commissioners, elected as provided by state law, which serves four-year overlapping terms. An executive director is appointed by the board.
The longest-lived continuing endorsing organization in La Grange is the Citizens' Council. As all such organizations under the village manager form of government, it is non-partisan. The council in particular seeks, evaluates, and recommends candidates for the village, library and park district boards.
Other non-partisan slating organizations form periodically to seek and support candidates for the various elected boards.
Students in the village are served by one of three K-8 public school districts. The northern half of the village (roughly any students north of 47th Street) is part of La Grange School District 102. District 102 elementary schools within the village include: Cossitt School (named after Franklin Cossitt) and Ogden Avenue School (named after the local name for U.S. Route 34, which in turn is named after William Butler Ogden, first mayor of Chicago). Some elementary students attend Forest Road School in neighboring La Grange Park, Illinois, and Congress Park School in neighboring Brookfield, Illinois. Middle school students in District 102 attend Park Junior High, located in neighboring La Grange Park.
The southern half of the village (roughly any students south of 47th Street) is part of La Grange School District 105. District 105 elementary schools within the village include: Seventh Avenue School and Spring Avenue School, both located on the streets that share their names. Middle school students in District 105 attend Gurrie Middle School.
A small number of students in the southwest portion of La Grange are served by LaGrange Highlands School District 106, attending Highlands Elementary School and Highlands Middle School in nearby La Grange Highlands, Illinois.
Lyons Township High School District 204 serves the entire village grades 9 through 12. North Campus, located in La Grange, is used by Juniors and Seniors and was the original high school. Freshmen and Sophomores go to South Campus, founded in 1956, located in neighboring Western Springs. The Campus was split due to lack of available land for expansion around the original building. Previously there also was a junior college associated with the high school but due to increasing enrollment, lack of space, and new rules that separated junior colleges from high schools, it was merged with College of DuPage in 1967. When it was open, Lyons Township Junior College was nicknamed Tick-Tock Tech, due to its location near the clock tower.
Preschool programs are available at Kensington School of La Grange, Creative World Montessori School, Little People's Country, Grace Lutheran Church, and First United Methodist Church.
Lyons Township High School by far provides the most media outlets. The first one established, LION Newspaper, was founded over a century ago and distributes news to all over the district. The second form of media, WLTL, first aired in 1968 and has been broadcasting music for fifty years. LTHS also hosts Lyons Township Television (LTTV), which transmits sports or programs created by students of Lyons Township.
Two major highways traverse La Grange: The village's main street, La Grange Road (U.S. Routes 12/20/45), runs north–south and intersects Interstate 55 (Stevenson Expressway) south of the village. Ogden Avenue (U.S. Route 34) runs east–west and intersects Interstate 294 (Tri-State Tollway), west of the village.
The first rail link to Chicago dates to 1864, established by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. La Grange currently has three tracks belonging to the BNSF Railway that run through the north end of the village, with passenger rail service provided by Metra and Amtrak.
Metra's BNSF Railway Line provides frequent commuter service between Aurora and Chicago, with two stations in La Grange. Express service to Downtown Chicago (Union Station) from La Grange Road takes approx. 23 minutes. Amtrak's Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg (both destined for Quincy, Illinois) run twice daily trains through La Grange stopping at La Grange Road.
Freight rail traffic on the BNSF line is extremely heavy, with BNSF operating freight trains on all three mainline tracks through the village. During non-rush hours, a freight train may run along the line as frequently as once every ten minutes on average. The Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad, running north–south through the east end of the village, also has extremely heavy freight traffic.
A proposed passenger rail line connecting the two airports would have a station in La Grange.
La Grange was once home to a municipal air field called Stinson Airport. The airport was closed in the late 1950s and is now a large quarry.
The La Grange Memorial Hospital, operated by Adventist Health System, is a level-two trauma center. The hospital has 270 inpatient beds. A $79 million renovation and expansion of the facility was completed in early 2007.