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Rich History of Park Forest, IL

Park Forest has a rich history of firsts. It was the first planned community after World War II, the first town to feature an outdoor mall modeled after the "Plaza San Marco in Venice" (source) and the first of its kind to encourage diversity among its residents, both religiously and racially.

Cedarwood Housing Cooperative is honored to be a part of this fantastic community. We know first hand how working together to build an area is essential to the success of the area. From the developers who pursued their vision to the active residents that still call Park Forest home today, cooperation has always been a common thread.

Enjoy this timeline of key events that helped shape Park Forest into what it is today.

1946 - On October 28th, the official plans to develop the farmland/old golf course area approximately 30 miles south of Chicago are released to the public. Philip Klutznick, Carroll Sweet and Nathan Manilow, developers, are eager to create a self-serving community centered around returning WWII veterans and their families. In a press conference, they outlined the plans for housing, parks, shopping and municipalities for the area loving coined the "GI town". "This announcement received national attention in the New York Times and Collier's magazine." (source)

1948 - The Village's first residents, Leona and Ross DeLue moved in. Shortly therefore, more joined them.

1949 - On February 1st, the residents voted to incorporate Park Forest officially as a Village.

1950 - "By 1950, Park Forest had become a haven for young families: Nine out of 10 couples living there were parents, and nine out of 10 children were under 13 years of age. The plans called for a population of 25,000, living in 5,500 rental, cooperative and single-family units." (source)

1952 - Photo captured below by Ed Smith with the Chicago Tribune shows middle income families buzzing over the available, affordable homes in the area.

people walking down sidewalk park forest IL in the 1950s

(photo credit Chicago Tribune; Ed Smith)

Photo captured below shows how the planned community created rows of pristine homes with plenty of space and yard - something attractive to current city dwellers.

birds eye view park forest

(photo credit Owen Kent; Chicago Historical Society (ICHi-23064))

1953 - Park Forest received its first (of two) All American City Awards by the National Civic League who recognized the Village for working together to develop Rich Township High School. (source)

1977 - Park Forest received its second All American City Award, this time for "racial integration and open housing initiatives." (source)

2000 - The population has reached 23,462

2003 - Meteorites land in Park Forest and cause quite an excitement. "It was definitely unique in that it was the most populous area ever struck by a fall of this size," said Menakshi Wadhwa, the Field Museum's meteorite curator. ... Meteorites hit the Earth all the time. And through history some have hit cars, homes and even cows. But, in large part because 70 percent of the globe is covered in water, never before have so many meteorites hit all at once in such a densely populated area." (source)

2007 - Park Forest "was named one of America's Most Livable Suburbs by Forbes Magazine" (source)

2013 - "Park Forest has been named the winner of the Congress for New Urbanism Illinois Charter Award for Best Town Plan (and) the winner of the Illinois American Planning Association’s Best Sustainability Plan Award" (source)

2014 - Park Forest was "ranked third in the nation in affordable housing by Business Insider." (source) and received the Governor's Sustainability Award.

2018 - Park Forest relocates its farmers market to the vacant lot across from Victory Center near the corner of Main Street and Western Avenue in an attempt to revive one of the oldest, longest running farmers markets south of Chicago. After its first weekend open, thanks to all the support from the community, prospects are looking great for a total recovery.

From art festivals, to music in the park on hot summer nights to business networking events, cute downtown shops, a winery, a grocery store, many restaurants and more, Park Forest is a lovely place to visit, shop and dine.

people sitting outside village of park forest

(photo credit the Village of Park Forest official website)

To the roughly 22,000 people who call Park Forest home today, the essence of greatness of a tight-knit community has not changed since developers Klutznick, Sweet and Manilow first set forth their vision. If you're ready to call Park Forest, IL your home, give us a call or stop by and see what homes we have available.

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