Forest Park

Location: Forest Park is located just ten miles west of downtown Chicago and is easily accessible from the east or west from the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290).

History: For thousands of years, the Potawatomis and other Indians lived on the future site of Forest Park.  In 1835, this area was known as Oak Ridge due to the many native oaks along what is now Lake Street and Des Plaines Avenue.

Four years later, a French-Indian trader, Leon Bourassa, purchased government land along the Des Plaines River and in 1851 sold 160 acres to Ferdinand Haase, who built a lavish 30-room manor home. In 1856, attracted by the beauty of the land, Mr. John Henry Quick from Harlem, New York, purchased a farm on the site of what is now the Village of River Forest.  There being no municipal control, Mr. Quick named everything that needed a name Harlem, after his native city.   The Village of Harlem, which was comprised of the vast area which later became the Village of River Forest and a portion of the Village of Oak Park, was incorporated in 1884.

When the village applied for its own Post Office, they were informed this was not possible since there already was a Harlem, Illinois. Hence, a new name for the Village had to be selected. A resolution was passed changing the name of the Village of Harlem to the Village of Forest Park.

Forest Park is a family-oriented community with a small-town atmosphere boasting the conveniences of a much larger community, such as easy access to shopping, transportation and medical services. Click here for more historical information.

Architecture: Forest Park offers a variety of housing options, including rental units, condominiums, single and multifamily homes.

Government: At an election in 1911, the Village of Forest Park adopted the commission form of government that it still operates under today with a mayor and four commissioners serving four-year terms. Click here for the Village Web site.

Education: Forest Park Elementary School District 91 has four elementary schools and a middle school.

In addition, Forest Park is home to three private schools: St. Bernardine Catholic School, St. John Lutheran School and the Forest Park Montessori Child Development Center.

Forest Park students attend District No. 209 Proviso East High School in the nearby Village of Maywood.

Transportation: Forest Park’s proximity to the Eisenhower Expressway provides convenient access to all roads and expressway systems. The Village of Forest Park is served by the CTA‘s Congress and Lake Street El lines, Metra Train and Pace suburban buses.

Points of Interest: The Howard Mohr Community Center, named in honor of the late state senator and Forest Park mayor, serves as an entertainment and social service center with programs serving children and the elderly.

The Forest Park Aquatic Center opened June 1, 1996 and features two flume slides, two drop slides, a diving board, an interactive play structure, lap lanes and a zero-depth shallow end. It is surrounded by landscaped sun decks with a nearby concession stand, sand play area and a sand volleyball court.

The Village has a rich history, which includes original cobble stone streets. Some of the cemeteries located on the outskirts of Forest Park house many historically famous individuals such as Ernest Hemingway’s parents, as well as members from the Hay Market Day riot and many other historical figures.

Library: The Forest Park Public Library boasts a modern facility equipped with educational mechanisms including Internet access, The Reading Edge (a device that assists the vision impaired), a telephone directory computer disk, a Chicago Tribune index and more. The library’s shelves hold about 90,000 items. A number of programs sponsored by the Forest Park Library include arts and crafts, story hours, family movies, guest speakers, educational seminars and holiday parties.

Shopping: The Village of Forest Park, more than 100 years old, is a Mainstreet community. Madison Street, the Village’s main business district, offers a healthy mix of newcomers and longtime business owners in retail, restaurants and services. In 1999, the Madison Street Business District underwent a major renovation, including tearing up the street and sidewalks and the installation of period-style lighting, benches and widened walkways. The area is perhaps best known for its quality dining and entertainment establishments – some of the best in the Western Suburbs. The quaint downtown, while continually modernizing, still features varied architecture and a growing number of antique shops that give shoppers a glimpse into the early part of the century.

Ferrarra Pan Candy Company, home of the famous Lemonheads, is just one example of the businesses and industries that have made Forest Park their base for decades.

Local newspapers: The Forest Park Review, published by the Wednesday Journal, Inc.