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Living in Downers Grove, IL
Located approximately 20 miles west of downtown Chicago, Downers Grove is a village of 47,833 people.
Downers Grove was first settled in the 1830s, when pioneer Pierce Downer settled near a grove of oak trees in the area, establishing a farm. Other settlers followed, and by 1844, the first schoolhouse was built. The community sent 119 Union soldiers into battle in the Civil War and was also an important stop on the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad arrived in Downers Grove, and the population began to grow. After the war ended, the Village of Downers Grove was incorporated in 1873. The area surrounding Downers Grove was a prime agricultural area and the village grew as the main hub for the farming community. Many homes were constructed toward the turn of the century. From 1908 to 1940, many Sears, Roebuck, and Company catalog homes were constructed in Downers Grove. Downers Grove continued to grow as a suburb of Chicago throughout the 20th Century. In 1958, the construction of Interstate 88 made access to Chicago even easier, while the construction of Interstate 355 provided quicker access to the area in 1989. With its location at the intersection of these two major tollways, Downers Grove is the headquarters of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority.
With the arrival of the interstate highways, Downers Grove has blossomed into a major commercial hub in DuPage County. Downers Grove includes two major retail areas, at the north and south ends of the village, and generates the 8th highest sales tax revenue among Chicago suburbs. In addition, the north end of Downers Grove has become a major “edge city” of the Illinois Technology and Research Corridor and contains the headquarters for many companies, including food companies Sara Lee and Pepperidge Farm, freight transportation company Hub Group, Inc., floral delivery company FTD, and industrial manufacturer Dover Company.
Downers Grove contains a mixed housing stock, representing nearly every style of housing and generation of the past 125 years, and includes dozens of distinct neighborhoods. Downers Grove has three stops on Metra’s Burlington Northern/Santa Fe commuter rail line, at Belmont, Main Street, and Fairview Avenue, providing convenient public transit access to downtown Chicago, Brookfield Zoo, and other destinations. Downtown Downers Grove has become a popular suburban downtown in its own right, and contains many upscale boutique shops and eateries. The downtown also includes the Tivoli Theater, a vintage cinema that still operates today and even includes a vintage organ that is played between movie showings on the weekends.
Downers Grove is a major center for healthcare. It is home to Good Samaritan Hospital, the only level one trauma center in DuPage County. In addition, Midwestern University is a major healthcare institution that is home to 2,000 students, and has colleges in osteopathic medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and health sciences. The village has a great public schools system, and its high schools, Downers Grove North and South consistently perform well. Newsweek has ranked Downers Grove North in the top 6% of public schools in the U.S. in recent years. In addition, 13 of 15 Downers Grove elementary and middle schools placed in the top quartile of performance for Illinois schools.
Downers Grove Park District maintains nearly 50 parks spread over 600 acres. Some of the many amenities at the parks include two dozen playgrounds and dozens of ball fields, tennis courts, and basketball courts. The Park District also operates a community center, a fitness center, and a historical museum. Two forest preserves are present in the northern part of the village. Downers Grove has been a Tree City USA for 26 years and won the Sterling Award from the foundation. In addition, the Downers Grove Golf Course, which was founded in 1892, is the oldest golf course west of the Allegheny Mountains. Downers Grove is also the site of two major competitive athletic events: the National Criterium Championship cycling race and the Bonfield Express 5k, an annual run held over Thanksgiving weekend. Downers Grove is also home to many cultural festivities including Grove Fest, an ice sculpting festival, a fine arts festival, and several parades throughout the year.