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Winnetka Village


Winnetka Village Hall is located at 510 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, IL 60093; phone: 847-501-6000.

Beginnings [1]

In 1836 the Erastus Patterson family arrived in Winnetka via ox-drawn wagon after a one- thousand-mile journey from Woodstock, Vermont. Near the Green Bay Trail on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, somewhat east of the present Christ Church on Sheridan Road, the Pattersons built a log tavern to provide food and shelter for travelers. In 1847 John and Susannah Garland and their eight children bought the tavern, which they enlarged. They also built a saw mill, a red brick house for themselves and, eventually, Winnetka's first church on the Christ Church site in 1869.

About 100 people lived in the area when New Trier Township, named after Trier, Germany, the original home of many of the area's settlers, was organized in 1850. Shortly after and anticipating the construction of the railroad, Chicago pioneer Charles Peck and his friend Walter Gurnee, president of the newly formed Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad, laid out Winnetka's original town site. The advent of the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad's train service in 1854 assured Winnetka's suburban future as the railroad became the major force in the development of the North Shore.

Often called the "founders of Winnetka," Charles and Sarah Peck built a large house northwest of Elm and Maple Streets. Sarah Peck, who named Winnetka after a Native American phrase thought to mean "beautiful land," organized the Village's first school, a private one, in 1856. Charles Peck encouraged the planting of many trees (his own property was an arboretum visited by botanists from colleges and universities) and donated the elms planted along Elm Street. In 1869 the Pecks donated the Village Green (also known as the Village Common) to the community. Reflecting the public spirit of its donors, the Village Green became something of a spiritual center for Winnetka as well as a meeting place for Village celebrations and Memorial Day observances.

Although it may have looked like a farming community, mid-1850's Winnetka lay only five miles from Evanston's Northwestern University, one of the few seats of higher learning in Illinois (the next closest being Knox College in far-away Galesburg). Winnetka's early residents, many from New England, were well educated, highly religious and reform minded. Reflecting contemporary values, the Village's charter, granted by the state in 1869, banned public consumption and sale of alcohol while enforcing the planting and protection of shade trees. "Winnetka — with its village common and concern over public education — was the embodiment of the civic idealism associated with small-town life in New England."

Relative to other North Shore communities, Winnetka's growth was slow prior to 1900. The 1880 population was 584, 1890 was 1,079 and 1900 was 1,883. After 1900, the Village grew more rapidly. By 1920 the population had more than tripled to 6,694. Within the next ten years, its population doubled to today's level of about 12,000.

  1. Winnetka Plan Commission, Winnetka 2020: Comprehensive Plan for the Village of Winnetka, 1999, www.villageofwinnetka.org, accessed April, 2012.
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