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Entries : Highland Park, IL
Highland Park, IL

Highland Park, IL

Lake County, 23 miles N of the Loop. Highland Park's bluffs, lake vistas,ravines, and accessibility to Chicago support the foresight of nineteenthcentury developers whoenvisioned this picturesque suburb as a retreat for Chicago's affluent professionals.

Indian trails and mounds indicate that before the Black Hawk War, Potawatomi traversed the forested acres that became Highland Park. German immigrants founded two village ports, St. Johns (1847), and Port Clinton (1850), in hopes of opening hinterlands for trade.

By 1855, Walter S. Gurnee, former Chicago mayor, North Shore real-estate speculator, and president of the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad, took control of the Port Clinton Land Company and platted the area for residential settlement. Gurnee surmised that rail offered the best link to Chicago, and that residential development, rather than commercial, would succeed.

Ravine in Highland Park, 1912
The city of Highland Park incorporated with about 600 residents, a school, a hotel, and a religious association in March 1869. Purchase or public consumption of alcohol was prohibited. To heighten the picturesque appeal of the area, developers hired landscape architects Horace W. S. Cleveland and William French to plat the streets. Prairie School architects left their mark on the summer and year-round estates of elite professionals who settled along the lake bluffs. Away from the water, developers built more modest homes for residents who provided services to the suburb.

Residents supported investment in a public library (1887) and annexed the village of Ravinia, south of Highland Park, in 1899. By the turn of the century, Highland Park's population was 2,806, and socially, if not economically diverse. Institutions such as the Gads Hill Summer Settlement House encampment, the Railroad Men's Home, and Wildwood, a resort for German-Jewish families excluded from suburban country clubs, attest to this diversity. Unlike many of its suburban neighbors, Highland Park welcomed a sizable Jewish population after World War II.

The city experienced two growth spurts—in the 1920s, when the population grew by 98 percent to 12,203—and in the 1950s, when it leapt 52 percent to 25,532. Careful planning has protected the area's appeal by promoting its village character and building on its strengths of private and public amenities. The Ravinia Music Festival is one such legacy that began as a recreational park and cultural center established in 1904 by A. C. Frost. Each summer, tens of thousands of visitors enjoy classical and popular concerts in a wooded outdoor setting, including performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Highland Park, IL (inc. 1869)
Year Total
(and by category)
  Foreign Born Native with foreign parentage Males per 100 females
1900 2,806   23.3% 38.5% 100
  2,793 White (99.5%)      
  12 Negro (0.4%)      
  1 Chinese (0.0%)      
1930 12,203   18.5% 90
  12,004 White (98.4%)      
  177 Negro (1.5%)      
  22 Other (0.2%)      
1960 25,532   26.5% 34.9% 91
  24,979 White (97.8%)      
  504 Negro (2.0%)      
  49 Other races (0.2%)      
1990 30,575   10.9% 96
  28,756 White (94.1%)      
  684 Black (2.2%)      
  8 American Indian (0.0%)      
  775 Asian/Pacific Islander (2.5%)      
  352 Other race (1.2%)      
  1,274 Hispanic Origin* (4.2%)      
2000 31,365   15.3% 96
  28,606 White alone (91.2%)      
  559 Black or African American alone (1.8%)      
  24 American Indian and Alaska Native alone (0.1%)      
  716 Asian alone (2.3%)      
  4 Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone (0.0%)      
  1,086 Some other race alone (3.5%)      
  370 Two or more races (1.2%)      
  2,792 Hispanic or Latino* (8.9%)      
Ebner, Michael. Creating Chicago's North Shore. 1988.