History of Palos Park, Illinois
Join Us On This History Tour of our Town
The original Palos Park and Palos Dells are unique.
The terrain is hilly and wooded with creeks, caves, ravines, ponds and springs. There is a
natural bonding of people with their environment. Just as early settlers appreciated the
natural beauty of Palos, todays resident regard Palos as an oasis amid the more
congested Chicago landscape.
Bound by forest preserves on three sides, foot
trails and bridle paths are plentiful. Deer, small mammals and countless varieties of
birds inhabit the area. These features play an important role in the development and
character Palos Park. Below find an abbreviated history of the Village of Palos
Park, derived from the 75th Anniversary Palos Park
book, by Geraldine (Dollie) DeNovo.
Palos the Early Settlers
The main influx of settlers came to Palos with the building
of the Illinois-Michigan Canal which was completed in 1848. Others however, were familiar
with the area long before the construction of the waterway. Archeological evidence reveals
that Indians and French explorers, soldiers and traders roamed the hills of Palos in the
Our focus here is on the settling of Palos from the 1830s. The first white man
to settle in Palos was James Paddock and his family in 1834. In that same year came
Schuler Brown, John D. McCord, Samuel Mahaffay, Richard McClaughry and Matthew
The name of the town was Trenton; it was changed in 1850 to Palos. This
recommendation was made by M.S. Powell, the first Postmaster. One of his ancestors sailed
with Christopher Columbus from Palos de Fronters. It is noted that in Spanish it means
"Tall Tree", "The Mast of a Shop" or "Promontory".
Originally, school was held in the Powell cabin. The first real school was
built of logs in 1840 in the woods close to 119th street and Kean Ave. The
Powell cabin also housed the Post Office. In 1839 the Post Office was relocated to the
front part of the Schmidt house at 8917 W. 123rd street. Ada Schmidt followed
Postmaster Powell as the first Postmistress.
The Wabash Railroad became a key feature in the development of non-farming
residents in the late 1800s. The beautiful scenery and easy accessibility via the newly
developed railroad created the influx of summer cottages and some seasonal homes on
generous acreage. During the Colombian Exposition in 1892, many residents made a rapid
transition to Palos to avoid the hordes of visitors. Almost all village newcomers depended
upon Chicago for their livelihood. Some older residents claimed that the University of
Chicago grew up in Palos Park. Since the University opened up in 1892, a continuous parade
of staff members lived in the small Palos community.
Palos Park had its version of quaint, turn of the century
charm. The Sharpshooters Clubhouse, a private hotel, shooting range and picnic area were
owned by a group of wealthy Chicago Germans. The clubhouse, built in 1892 was in the heart
of the future village of Palos Park. Next to the Sharpshooters Clubhouse was the first
Palos train depot. Since the railroad was the lifeline to Chicago, the depot was a focal
point of activity.
Palos Improvement Club 1913
In October of 1900, in a tent pitched by the side of McCarthy
Road, was born the Palos Improvement Club. It was the genesis of todays beautiful
old Village Hall and municipal complex. During the Great Depression the Lemont limestone
structure was built through the WPA and PWA programs of President Roosevelt. It was
dedicated on March 30, 1940.
|In 1902 the first Protestant church was erected,
from which the Palos Park Presbyterian Community Church is an outgrowth today
As it is today!
The Village of Palos Park was incorporated in
In the early 1920's, an artist colony emerged and by 1940 the
Village had become a center for artists, writers and intellectuals. From early on, the art
colony in Palos Park played a pivotal role in the personal and artistic development of our
Farmer's Market 1916
In 1927 the Palos Womens Club received a letter from Mrs. Lorado Taft of
Chicago, suggesting the sale of antiques and art objects of her mother, Mrs. Emily S
Bartlett (a former president of the Womens Club). The proceeds of the sale were to
be used as the nucleus of a library. In 1936, a room in the
Improvement Club building was established as a library.
Although Palos Park lacks a significant business district, outsiders for miles
around associate Palos with one prominent landmark-The Plush Horse Ice Cream Parlor. The
business was originally named Dunnes Meat Market and Grocery. It also housed the
Palos Post Office in the rear building. In 1939, Frank, Lillian and Sophie Itzel purchased
the building and converted the store into an ice cream parlor, named "The Hobby
The Village of Palos Park has grown up much since the early
farms, cottages and people. Many of the early structures still stand and are a reminder of
a time gone by. The hard work of the early settlers is evident as well. We are proud of
the Village of Palos Park which struggles to remain a quaint town in a burgeoning
"suburbia" of Chicago.
Many other fascinating facts and stories of the development of Palos
Park can be read in the 75th Anniversary Book of Palos
Park, or by visiting the Palos Park Historical
The Forest Preserve District of Palos
The Forest Preserve District is an important element in the
character of the Village of Palos Park. The preserves were actually anticipated at the end
of the 19th Century by Daniel Burnham, a noted architect and city planner, and
master of the "Chicago Plan", who helped rebuild Chicago after the fire of 1871.
In a rapidly expanding industrial age he saw the need for a "green belt" and
recreational area. However, it was Dwight Perkins, a brilliant architect, city
commissioner, and ardent environmentalist, and the Danish landscaper, Jens Jenson,
designer of many Chicago parks, who urged the preservation of the lands surrounding
In 1909 the Illinois General Assembly established the Forest Preserve District.
The Palos Preserve was acquired in 1916, 288 acres at $90 an acre. Today it is the largest
and most diversified of the Forest Preserve Districts. It's hilly, forested beauty now
encompasses approximately 13,000 acres, 10,000 of them in Palos Township.