History of DuPage County : DuPage Roots

       Search Book









  Because of the growing shortage, the Tree Towns Water Commission was founded in the 1950s. Its successor, the DuPage Water Com­mission, was composed of representatives from 22 municipalities. This in turn, was superseded by a body composed of 11 mem­bers, five named by the municipalities, and six by the county board. A proposal has been formulated to bring water from Lake Michigan in a seven-foot diameter pipe to a point just south of Elmhurst. Thence it would be dis­tributed throughout the county at a total cost of $350 million.

  If water shortage is one pressing problem, another is water surplus- when it comes to flooding. Following the devastating inundation of 1972, a floodplain ordinance was enacted by the county within a year. A subse­quent program of water retention has been undertaken; one example is the 870-acre reser­voir near Spring Brook Creek north of Bloom­ingdale. This, in turn, feeds into Salt Creek, which is part of the Des Plaines River water­shed.

  A third water-related issue deals with re­cycling. Environmental engineer John R Sheaffer, a Wheaton resident and co-author with Leonard A. Stevens of Future Water, contends that the need to recycle water is urgent. An example of such conservation is found at Hamilton Lakes, a new hotel and office complex in Itasca. The 274-acre project is hydrologically self-sufficient as well water, pumped from a shallow aquifer and once used, is then piped to two lagoons where bacteria and micro-organisms begin disposing of the waste. The water is then used to irrigate the landscape through an underground sprink­ler system. The nutrients from the treated waste water provide $13,000 worth of free fertilizer annually as the water filters through the soil. By the time it reaches the aquifer again, it is clean enough to be used for drinking.

  The problem of waste disposal is, of course, broader than water management. In DuPage, as elsewhere, there is the challenge of running "out of out" in a throwaway society. Two landfills, Mallard Lake in Hanover Park and Greene Valley in Woodridge, following the pattern of "Mt. Trashmore" in Blackwell Pre­serve, have capacities to receive enough waste to continue in operation until after the turn of the century. However, there are twenty-five municipalities outside of DuPage, mostly from Cook County, that use these facilities. Cook County is slated to close some of its own sites in the meantime. Moreover, the disposal of toxic wastes has been a continuing source of contention. An Oak Brook-based waste man­agement company received national publicity in 1983, the year of the "Sewergate" contro­versy. The presence of thorium contamination in Kress Creek, produced by owners of a plant in West Chicago from 1931 to 1973, resulted in a 1984 cleanup order from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.



Courtesy of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

  The public response to the ecological threat of rapid population growth often has been made through the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. Its land acquisition program has resulted in an increased amount of land in the public domain from its first purchase ofsixty-one acres in 1917, two years after the State of Illinois passed the enabling statutes to allow the formation of forest preserve dis­tricts, to 17,500 acres at present. DuPage was the second county in the state and the fifth in the country to establish a district. Commis­sioner Roy C. Blackwell offered particularly strong leadership in promoting the cause of conservation. The date of acquisition of each of the preserves is as follows:

Belleau Woods- 1965

Roy C. Blackwell- 1961

Burlington Park - 1922

Campbell Slough -1977

Churchill Woods -1935

Cricket Creek -1974 (renamed 1978; previously called Kingery West)

Danada -1980

East Branch- 1970

Egermann Woods -1974

Fischer Woods - 1921

Fullersburg Woods - 1920

Fullerton Park- 1974

Goodrich Woods -1926

Greene Valley - 1926 (renamed in 1969; previously called Hinterlong)

Herrick Lake -1925

Hidden Lake -1976

Mallard Lake - 1956

Maple Grove -1920

McDowell Grove- 1930

Meacham Grove - 1920

Pioneer Park- 1929

Pratt's Wayne Woods - 1965

Springbrook - 1975

Salt Creek -1931

Elmhurst/Salt Creek- 1978

Timber Ridge - 1965

West Branch - 1973 Upper Area

1979 Lower Area

Warrenville Grove - 1923

Waterfall Glen -1925 (renamed in 1973; previously called Rocky Glen)

Wayne Grove- 1923

West Chicago Prairie - 1979

West DuPage Woods -1919

York Woods - 1917

Willowbrook -1956

Winfield Mounds - 1976

Wood Dale Grove - 1929

  Under the administration of H. C. "Chuck" Johnson, the district has received achievement awards from the National Association of Counties for the Blackwell Recreational Pre­serve and the Fullersburg Nature Center. The districts resource management specialist, Wayne Lampa, has identified in the West Chicago Prairie 450 plant species, a number of which have not been found growing elsewhere. Altogether, the preserves account for 20 per­cent of the county's land use.

  Closely related to these conservation ef­forts, but having broader responsibilities, is the DuPage County Development Department. DuPage was the first county in Illinois to adopt a zoning ordinance in 1933. A comprehensive rezoning of the county occurred in the 1950s, with planning made a function of the Depart­ment of Building and Zoning. It was not, however, until 1969 that the DuPage County Regional Planning Commission was estab­lished. Since that time, Joseph Abel has served as the director. He made a land use survey the first order of business because that informa­tion provides the basis of decision making for all other aspects of the master plan, including its housing and transportation components.  These, in turn, have generated considerable debate.


Joseph Abel, Director of DuPage County Development Department.


Art by Mark Ravanesi



John Erlenborn with his successor to the 13th Congressional district seat, Harris Fawell



  In 1971 HOPE, Inc. (Homes of Private Enter­prise), an advocacy group formed in 1968 to provide increased housing opportunities for lower-income and minority persons, filed suit against the DuPage County Board on the grounds of exclusionary zoning practices. Headed by former Catholic priest, Bernard Kleina, the group was represented by attorney R Dickey Hamilton, son of former Wheaton mayor, Margaret Hamilton.

  Ten years after the initial complaint, Feder­al District Judge Herbert L. Will ruled in favor  of the fair housing organization. In the summer of 1984, however, the 7th District U. S. Court of Appeals ruled that HOPE lacked standing in the case. The decision may ultimately be appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court. What­ever the outcome, the dispute has become a civil rights landmark in DuPage history.

  During the period of litigation, through 1982, 4,154 units of subsidized housing had been established in twenty-five of the munici­palities. By the county's own estimate, 15,000 units are still needed to meet the housing needs. In August 1983, when the DuPage Housing Authority announced the availability of funds for thirty rent subsidy payments, 700 people waited in line to apply.

  In addition to the housing dilemma has been that pertaining to highways. Seventeen inter­sections in DuPage fall into the highest cate­gory of accidents, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The traffic at Army Trail and Rohlwing roads in Addison doubled between 1978 and 1983, with 61,000 vehicles entering and exiting at the nearby Interstate Route 90 terminus each day.

  Relieving that congestion would be the pro­posed North-South Tollway which would make connection between Army Trail Road and I-55. With the Northeast Illinois Planning Commission projecting 20 percent of the re­gion's population to be living in that corridor by the year 2000, the need for FAP 431, as the projected expressway has been called, is ap­parent. The Morton Arboretum, however, would have land taken on its east end by that road expansion and has testified to ecological damage which would be inflicted by such a high-speed artery. The built-in conflicts of a rapidly growing area, therefore, are inevitable. Among the officials brought into play on the resolution of such public collision of interests are DuPage office holders at various levels.

  The highest elected officials are those re­presenting the county in Congress. For six of his twenty years in the House of Representa­tives, John Erlenborn represented all of DuPage County, in addition to a portion of Will County, With the redistricting that fol­lowed the 1980 census, DuPage is now repre­sented by three congressmen. Erlenborn's 13th District extends across its southeast quadrant into Cook and Will counties as well. The 6th District, currently served by Henry Hyde, covers the northeast quadrant along with por­tions of five townships in Cook County. The western three DuPage townships and a portion of Milton are now represented by Tom Cor­corcoran, whose jurisdiction extends as far south as Marshall County.

  At the state level, James "Pate" Philip of Elmhurst now serves as the State Senate minority leader as well as chairman of the DuPage County Republican party. He has held the latter post since 1970, after winning a hotly contested election against Carleton Nadelhoffer of Naperville at the party's county con­vention by a weighted vote of 31,990 to 31,552. This intraparty campaign was so in­tense that one committeeman took four planes from Florida during an airlines strike to be present for the balloting.

  This political battle occurred at the time of the retirement of Elmer Hoffman, the head of the organization for the preceding two decades. During his tenure in the party post, as Erlen­born's predecessor in Washington, as Illinois state treasurer, and officeholder in a variety of other positions, Hoffman had been the domi­nant political figure since World War II. During the Richard J. Daley era, Hoffman claimed that the Chicago mayor was the best campaigner the DuPage Republicans ever had because the opposition to the Chicago "machine" was a common denominator among suburbanites.

  The state's attorney's office has been the springboard for a number of the recent genera­tion of leaders. Under William Guild's ad­ministration in the late 1950s, these attorneys first served and later held the following posi­tions: William Bauer, federal judge; John Er­lenborn, congressman; Harris Fawell, state senator and congressional nominee. Helen Kinney, the first woman to serve as circuit court judge, likewise, had worked in that office. In 1960 Phoebe Dutcher was the first woman ever elected to county-wide office.

  A three-part series in the Suburban Tribune from October 22-24, 1980, delineated the three networks which sustain the near mono­poly that the Republican party enjoys in DuPage: the business-political axis, the pre­cinct committeeman system, and loyalists who hold county jobs. Illustrating these intercon­nections, the series notes that fifty-six corpo­rate contributors to the party received seventy­three county contracts. There are 112 elected state, county, and township officials in DuPage. At that time sixty-nine of them, or members of their immediate families, served as committeemen.

  The dominance of the GOP is also to be accounted for by its three-to-one voter registra­tion advantage over Democrats, although 55 percent of the county's electorate are unde­clared independents. A record four Democrats served on the twenty-five-member county board in the wake of the Watergate scandal; however, Jane Spirgel of Elmhurst is the only one to survive elections subsequent to 1976. Democrat William Redmond of Bensenville served as speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives before his 1982 retirement.

  Jack Knuepfer also served at the state level of government before his successful race for county board chairman in 1976. In that capa­city, he leads in overseeing its tax-supported human services.


  Both publicly and privately supported services provide the collective response to the human impact of post World War II social change in DuPage.


 1982-1983 DuPage County Board (Seated from left) Jay C. Bennett, County Clerk

Jack T. Knuepfer, Chairman of the County Board R Lloyd Renfro. (Standing, from left) NorbertR Fend, Frank C. Urban, Lenore Davenport, Richard A. Carlson, Charles G. Kaelin, Paul W. Weber, Mary B. Price, William R Bates, Barbara Broderick, J. Russell Swanson, Julius T. Hankinson, Jane Spirgel, Don G. Prindle, Charles Vaughn, Pat Trowbridge, Harold J. Bollweg, Ange B. Mahnke, Frank H. Bellinger, Barbara R Purcell, Herbert C. "Bud "Kirchhoff, Ruth Kretchmer, Robert J. Raymond Ray R Soden.



President Reagan visits DuPage College in 1984.

  The county's Mental Health Department has grown to the point of offering satellite counseling services in Addison, Lombard, Westmont, and Wheaton in response to 400 calls a month. DUI Program (Driving Under the Influence) is treating those referred by the courts. It services 3,000 cases instead of the originally estimated 1,000 cases, according to Gary Noll, director.

  Mobility, in itself, generates the need for var­ied services. Within the schools, for example, with the high degree of turnover in the county's population, the 275 counselors, social work­ers, and psychologists find continuity of service difficult to provide to 112,000 stu­dents. Only 18.8 percent of those living in Carol Stream in 1980 had resided in that community five years before. The figure was 24.7 percent for Lisle and 28.20 percent for Naperville. While length of residence was up to 62.47 percent in Elmhurst and 71.06 percent in Wayne, the average stay in one place in the county as a whole was less than 50 percent over the preceding five years.

  The increasing mixture of national origins is reflected at the College of DuPage. This two­ -year community college, which has grown to 28,000 students since its 1967 opening, pro­vides English as a second language to students from thirty-nine countries. Thirteen of the county's forty-five school districts offer bilin­gual education.

  The DuPage Library System serves twenty-eight schools, seventeen public, sixteen spe­cial, and eight academic libraries in the county. Established in 1966, this is one of eighteen cooperative systems in Illinois. It makes pos­sible the interlibrary loan program, computer searching, and a variety of other services.

  In the private sector, two of the social agencies date from the nineteenth century. The Lutherbrook Children's Center, now part of the statewide Lutheran Child & Family Ser­vices, dates back to the Addison orphanage. The eighty-eight-year-old Bensenville Home Society now offers retirement as well as adop­tion, foster care, and counseling services.

  The Family Service Association, begun during the Depression years, devotes half of its resources to divorce problems as the rate of marital dissolutions nears the 50 percent mark. Drug related and financial counseling have assumed a larger portion of staff time in recent years.

  A service for the mentally handicapped came to an abandoned 1916 school building at the corner of Park and Butterfield roads, south of Glen Ellyn, in 1952, after having made an initial start that same year in LaGrange. Tak­ing the name Bonaparte from above the door, it moved to Lincoln School in Bensenville in 1956 and merged with the Ray Graham Re­habilitation Center in 1972. Today, with seventeen sites in DuPage and a$6 million budget, the Ray Graham Association for the Handicapped is the largest agency of its kind in the country. It was named after the founder of such rehabilitation services for the State of Illinois.

  Begun in 1965, Little Friends, Inc., of Naperville also serves the disabled and handi­capped and occupies the former Kroehler mansion. The Attention Group (TAG), an emergency shelter for teens in Naperville and Downers Grove, and the Family Shelter in Glen Ellyn for battered women and their children reflect a grass-roots response to prob­lems about which society is becoming increas­ingly aware.

  Compassionate Friends, headquartered in Oakbrook, is an international organization with 350 chapters around the world providing support to grieving parents. The local expres­sion of a national movement is Hospice Volun­teers of DuPage, a support service for the terminally ill and their families. It cooperates with the county's seven hospitals, three of which have been established since 1950­Glendale Heights Community, Good Samari­tan in Downers Grove, and Marianjoy Reha­bilitation in Wheaton. Each of these has had particular impetus from the religious commu­nity.

  Mixed with its social service involvements, DuPage religion has been characterized by three recent developments. The first is the marked increase in the number of Catholics, now constituting the largest religious body with 255,000 adherents out of the 675,000 popula­tion. (The Missouri Synod Lutherans with 26,374 are next in size.) This is up from 30,000 adherents when the Joliet Diocese split off from the Chicago Archdiocese in 1949. The number stood at 180,370 in 1971. There are forty parishes and thirty-one elementary and five secondary schools. This growth is due in large measure to the influx of people from the predominately Catholic western suburbs of Cook County, as distinct from the earlier pattern of transferees from across the nation. The largest parish is still SS. Peter and Paul in Naperville, with 3,700 families. There are 3,500 families in Glendale Heights' St. Mat­thew's Church, including a sizable number of Vietnamese, with a Mass in that language.

  Cloverdale's Parish of St. Isidore changed little after its founding in 1920 until the 1950s. By 1978 it had 450 families registered. Within two years that number almost quadrupled. The Rev. Stanley Orlikiewicz is the dean of priests in DuPage. He has served three different parishes and is currently at the 3,000-family church in Roselle, a church which had doubled in size over the last decade.

  Also of note is the work of Father Thomas Peyton, a Maryknoll priest, who in 1967 organized a Roman Catholic group called REC (Religious Education Community), patterned along Vatican II guidelines. Drawn from dif­ferent parishes, the group was instrumental in the establishment of the Peace and Justice Center in Wheaton, which provided draft counseling during the Vietnam War. This agency is now called People's Resource Cen­ter. Director Dorothy McIntyre reports that it is now one of twenty-eight pantries in DuPage, double the number from the preceding years. It serves 5,000 persons annually.


Father Stanley Orlikiewicz.


Billy Graham, with Wheaton College Officials - at the dedication of

the Billy Graham Center.

  As these numbers have grown, Sister Rose­mary Burrin has established Bethlehem Cen­ter, a food depository serving pantries in DuPage and neighboring counties. It makes available government surplus food as well as Second Harvest donations from large food companies. It is supported by the DuPage County Building Trades Council composed of twenty-eight construction trade locals, such as Sheet and Metal Workers Local 265 of Carol Stream. These efforts recognize that there are currently 5,900 county residents over the age of sixty who live below the poverty level. Altogether 20,000 persons, or 3.5 percent of the population, lives below that $4,300 annual income figure.

  The second characteristic of religious life has been evangelical expansion. The opening of the Billy Graham Center in 1980, across from Wheaton College's Blanchard Hall, re­presents that movement. This $13.5 million structure contains the evangelist's memora­bilia and papers and serves as a museum, a conference center, and quarters for the Whea­ton Graduate School of Religion. It is near neighboring Carol Stream which provides headquarters for such groups as MAP (Medi­cal Assistance Program), Tyndale House (publishers of The Living Bible), Youth for Christ, and the National Evangelical Associa­tion, publishers of Christianity Today, which has the largest circulation of all Protestant journals. In 1967 Calvary Temple began in Naperville as the work of the Assemblies of God denomination and has grown to 2,000 members. Christ Church in Oakbrook has become a 3,000-member nondenominational congregation.

  Finally, the increased religious diversity of the most recent decades must be considered. There are two Jewish congregations-Beth Shalom in Naperville and Etz Chaim, an older congregation of 220 families in Lombard. The Zorastrian Center, at 8615 Meadowbrook Drive in Hinsdale, is the first such temple built in North America and serves 300 adherents in the Chicago area. In 1983, at the Odeum Stadium in Villa Park, there was a celebration of the Moslem holiday of Ramadan with 6,000 people attending in the sports facility that accommodates only 4,000. The traffic was backed up for a considerable distance on neighboring Route 83. The Hindu community has purchased the American Legion hall in Glen Ellyn. A Nachiren Shoshu (Buddhist) temple has been built at the intersection of Joliet Road and Route 59, across from the original site of Gary's Mill.

  The cultural aspect of DuPage since World War II likewise features a diversity, variety, and complexity unknown in previous decades. In 1979 the College of DuPage sponsored a community project called Century III, which compiled a list of art related activities in the county. The resulting booklet, "The Arts in DuPage," showed that there were, at the time, nineteen groups in the field of graphic arts. The DuPage Art League was the first to have a gallery and a school. It met originally in the Albright building in Warrenville in 1957 and subsequently opened a gallery on Front Street in Wheaton.

  Also listed are three dance groups, fourteen drama groups, sixteen music clubs, twenty­seven musical performance groups, including four orchestras. The most recently formed of these in the New Philharmonic at the College of DuPage. Perhaps the best known vocal group is the Glen Ellyn Children's Chorus, which has sung with the Chicago Symphony and has appeared elsewhere in this country and abroad

  The DuPage County Historical Museum was established in 1967 through the 1965 purchase of the old Wheaton Library building by philanthropist Edwin Deicke. Margaret Dunton served as first director, the position now held by Patricia Wallace. There are now twenty-six historical societies, the most exten­sive of program and facilities having been developed by the Naperville Heritage Society. In cooperation with that community's park district, an eleven-and-a-half-acre site has been made available as a historic pioneer vil­lage with fourteen authentically restored build­ings representing DuPage life in the 1831 to 1865 period This volunteer group has 700 members and operates on an annual $50,000 budget.

  Among the unique cultural institutions is the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art. Its collec­tion of precious stones and rocks was acquired over a forty-year period by Joseph L. Lizzadro of Elmhurst, owner of Chicago's Meade Elec­tric Company. The museum, established in 1962, includes such items as a green jade pagoda fashioned in eighteenth-century China.

   Perhaps the best-known performing artist to come from DuPage since World War II is Sherrill Milnes of Downers Grove. His father, James, came to Downers Grove in 1940 with his wife, Thelma, whose father, Charles K. Roe, had left her a 250-acre dairy farm. Sherrill was five years old when they arrived. In 1945 his mother became the director of the choir of the Congregational church, and it was through her that he gained his initial training and continuing inspiration. As he later re­called, "I heard all the `big dads' sing on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. ... But it never occurred to me that one day I would be singing with them."

  After graduating from Downers Grove High School in 1952, he attended North Central for a year, before transferring to Drake Univer­sity. He did graduate study at Northwestern, doing commercials from 1958 to the early 1960s. His was the big baritone voice singing, "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer." By 1965 he had made his Metropolitan debut with his performance of Valentin in Gounod's "Faust." He has taken his place in the succession of great lead baritones including Lawrence Tibbett, John Charles Thomas, and Robert Merrill. He continued to return to Downers Grove for years for Christmas ora­torios at the Downers Grove Congregational Church, conducting the "Elijah" in 1969 in memory of his mother, who had died that December.


Sherill Mimes.

   Other notables from the county in the post World War II era include two who graduated from Wheaton Central in the 1960s. Both won fame in the mass media. John Belushi became a popular television and movie actor, while Bob Woodward followed a journalistic career on The Washington Post, where he was one of the two reporters to crack the Watergate con­spiracy.

  The DuPage Heritage Gallery, with its exhibits at the DuPage Center and with its oral history library and series of biographies, pub­licizes the lives of outstanding personalities from the locality. With the rate of change continuing unabated, there has been no climax to the area's development. The need to chroni­cle the deepening, broadening, and ever more varied DuPage roots continues.


  While no historical counterpart to the climax forest yet has occurred in the county, still the human parallels to the latter stages of plant succession are clear.

  New life forms appear quickly once a former stage is superceded. Hardwoods moved into prairie cleared of grass so swiftly that pioneers could not let time lapse unduly before planting their crops.

  In comparable fashion, as the auto age superseded former means of transportation, new communities appeared in rapid succession. To be sure, efforts continued to retain small town atmosphere in the midst of suburban sprawl. One Wayne resident stated, "We're two miles west of Illinois 59 and two hundred years behind the rest of the world."


DuPage Center Map.

Courtesy DuPage County Central Services


Author John R Sheaffer autographing copy of Future Water for Sierra Club member Margaret Simpson.

  Oakbrook Terrace retained its previous name, Utopia, for only a year. It became an "instant community." Still, "Utopia" des­cribes the economic and social aspirations of the multitude of new residents. Refugee Re­source Networks of Wheaton has assisted the relocation in DuPage of 3,000 refugees from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethopia, Laos, Po­land, and Vietnam. The Daily Journal, in its annual Business and Industry edition under Alyce Bartlett's editorship, details the broad­ening economic base which makes absorption of such newcomers possible.

  Even with the full potential of the county yet to be realized, DuPage is inevitably caught up in all the major issues confronting society.

  Although twenty-eight of its municipalities now have black residents, the increase of that part of the population from 1,652 to 7,809 during the 1970s was not in proportion to the total population growth, an irony in the county which was at the forefront of pre-Civil War Abolitionism.

  Yet evidence abounds that preservation efforts are not simply for the sake of indulging in nostalgia. Alex Haley's Roots was a recent bestseller because of growing appreciation that the sense of past gives perspective and hope for the future. DuPage Roots has been written with that conviction.