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, today’s 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 Park, IL

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 1700s.

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 McClaughry.

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.

School Students in front of The Improvement Club
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 today’s 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

1st Church in Palos Park
As it is today!

The Village of Palos Park was incorporated in 1914
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 community.

Farmer's Market 1916 
Farmer's Market is still operating Today!
In 1927 the Palos Women’s 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 Women’s 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 Dunne’s 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 House".

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 Society.


A recent scene in Palos ParkThe 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 Chicago.

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.

 Palos Park, IL


Kaptur Administrative Center
8999 West 123rd Street, Palos Park, Illinois 60464
Main: 708-671-3700 
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