Forest Park, Illinois

Coordinates: 41°52′23″N 87°48′40″W / 41.87306°N 87.81111°W / 41.87306; -87.81111
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Forest Park, Illinois
Village of Forest Park
Madison Street, Downtown Forest Park
Madison Street, Downtown Forest Park
Forest Park Logo
"Big city access, small town charm"
Location of Forest Park in Cook County, Illinois.
Location of Forest Park in Cook County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 41°52′23″N 87°48′40″W / 41.87306°N 87.81111°W / 41.87306; -87.81111
CountryUnited States
 • TypeCommission
 • MayorMayor Rory Hoskins
 • CommissionersJessica Voogd
Joseph Byrnes
Ryan Nero
Dan Novak
 • Total2.40 sq mi (6.22 km2)
 • Land2.40 sq mi (6.22 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  0%
 • Total14,339
 • Density5,969.61/sq mi (2,305.18/km2)
Standard of living (2007-11)
 • Per capita income$34,756
 • Median home value$222,400
ZIP code(s)
Area code(s)708
FIPS code17-26935

Forest Park (formerly Harlem) is a village in Cook County, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, United States. The population was 14,339 at the 2020 census.[2] The Forest Park terminal on the CTA Blue Line is the line's western terminus, located on the Eisenhower Expressway at Des Plaines Avenue.[3] This makes it one of just two municipalities served by the Chicago "L" train network that does not directly border Chicago (the other being Wilmette).


Forest Park is located at 41°52′23″N 87°48′40″W / 41.87306°N 87.81111°W / 41.87306; -87.81111 (41.873031, -87.811155).[4] According to the 2021 census gazetteer files, Forest Park has a total area of 2.40 square miles (6.22 km2), all land.[5] The Des Plaines River runs through Forest Park.


Haymarket Martyrs' Monument, Forest Home Cemetery

The community (formerly part of a larger town called Harlem) officially became incorporated under the name of Forest Park on April 17, 1907.

For much of its history, Forest Park was known as a "Village of cemeteries", with more dead "residents" than living ones; some figures estimate the ratio at 30:1, dead to alive. Forest Park cemeteries include Altenheim,[6] Forest Home Cemetery (incorporating the German Waldheim Cemetery),[7] Jewish Waldheim (producer Mike Todd is buried in Beth Aaron there[8]),[9] Woodlawn[10][11] (including Showmen's Rest),[12][13] and Concordia.[6][14] Forest Home Cemetery is home to the famous Haymarket Martyrs' Monument.[15]

From 1925 to 1931, Forest Park had a radio station with a variety of call letters. The station began in 1925 as WHT. It was known as WNBA, with its studios near Des Plaines and Roosevelt Road from 1927 to 1928. In 1929, the call letters changed again, this time to WSOA and again to WCHI in 1929. As WSOA, the radio station had 5,000 watts of power. It went off the air for good in 1931.[16][17]

The Naval Ordnance Station Forest Park (originally a Naval Ordnance Plant) operated from early in World War II until most of the plant was replaced by a mall in 1971, with some of the site used as a Naval Reserve center until 2007. The plant employed up to 6,500 workers and produced 19,000 torpedoes during World War II.[18]

In 2007, the town held a summer-long centennial celebration. Forest Park has also held two other centennial celebrations, one in 1956 for when the first settlers came and one in 1984 for the 100th anniversary of the creation of the town of Harlem.[19]

Women's professional baseball/softball has roots in Forest Park. Emery Parichy purchased the Boston Bloomer Girls softball team in the early 1930s, renamed them Emery Parichy's Bloomer Girls, and moved them to Forest Park. The team operated in the suburb until 1955, when the land their softball field was on was taken for the Eisenhower Expressway.[20]

Amusement park[edit]

Forest Park was the location of Forest Park Amusement Park,[21] a small but popular amusement park located just west of Desplaines Avenue, and just north of the then Waldheim Cemetery, from 1907 to 1922. Initially, the park was received negatively by Chicago area church members due to its close proximity to the cemetery. However, its public acclaim helped bring in a crowd of approximately five to ten thousand on opening day, and the various rides, games, and shows the park had to offer kept residents coming back.[22] On July 25, 1918, a fire broke out in the swimming pool's boiler room. The fire quickly spread to other utility areas of the park which left firefighters without access to water and power. The park planned to reopen later that same day, though 1/5th of the park was destroyed by the fire. In the years following the fire, the park was mostly successful primarily due to events and activities that helped the community and the park's occasional rallies against prohibition. However, with the 18th Amendment taking effect coupled with a strict crack-down on gambling, the park never reopened following the cessation of its 1922 season.[23][24] Its former location is now occupied by the Forest Park station on CTA's Blue Line at Desplaines Avenue.[25]

Circle Theatre[edit]

For most of its history, Forest Park was home for the 25-year-old professional (non-equity) theater company, Circle Theatre, which now resides across Harlem Avenue in neighboring Oak Park.[26] Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times writes: "One of the most consistently satisfying theatrical operations in the area ...everything from classics to new American plays at its very best." Circle Theatre has produced over 175 productions and received over 80 Joseph Jefferson (JEFF) nominations and won over 30 Jeff Awards.[27] Notable visits from famous playwrights have included Marvin Hamlisch, Rupert Holmes, Douglas Post, Michael John LaChiusa, Stephen Clark and Rebecca Gilman.[26] Rebecca Gilman had her first play produced at Circle Theatre before becoming one of America's leading playwrights. Notable supporters have included Harry Connick, Jr. and Russell Crowe.[26] Award-winning director/choreographer Kevin Bellie was artistic director from 2003 to 2012.[28]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[29]

As of the 2020 census[31] there were 14,339 people, 6,695 households, and 3,138 families residing in the village. The population density was 5,969.61 inhabitants per square mile (2,304.88/km2). There were 8,169 housing units at an average density of 3,400.92 per square mile (1,313.10/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 49.60% White, 30.89% African American, 0.43% Native American, 6.23% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 4.72% from other races, and 8.11% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.32% of the population.

There were 6,695 households, out of which 18.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.26% were married couples living together, 14.03% had a female householder with no husband present, and 53.13% were non-families. 42.70% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.56% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.80 and the average family size was 2.03.

The village's age distribution consisted of 14.7% under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 36.1% from 25 to 44, 26.3% from 45 to 64, and 15.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 85.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.8 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $70,670, and the median income for a family was $101,894. Males had a median income of $52,797 versus $49,492 for females. The per capita income for the village was $46,969. About 2.3% of families and 9.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.4% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.

Forest Park village, Illinois - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010[32] Pop 2020[30] % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 7,048 6,756 49.75% 47.12%
Black or African American alone (NH) 4,504 4,345 31.79% 30.30%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 27 26 0.19% 0.18%
Asian alone (NH) 841 879 5.94% 6.13%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 2 3 0.01% 0.02%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 40 113 0.28% 0.79%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 307 594 2.17% 4.14%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 1,398 1,623 9.87% 11.32%
Total 14,167 14,339 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.


Miriam McKinnie's mural study for the Forest Park post office (1939)

The village of Forest Park runs under a village commission form of government led by a mayor and four commissioners elected every four years.

Forest Park lies within Illinois's 7th congressional district.

The United States Postal Service operates the Forest Park Post Office at 417 Des Plaines Avenue.[33] The post office contains a mural, The White Fawn, painted in 1940 by Miriam McKinnie. Murals were produced from 1934 to 1943 in the United States through the Section of Painting and Sculpture, later called the Section of Fine Arts, of the Treasury Department.

Village life[edit]

The Park District of Forest Park, located near the center of the village, has a 15-acre (61,000 m2) park, with an aquatic center. Shopping is mostly located on Madison Street. Previously known for many taverns, it now also features antique merchants, boutiques, and eating establishments. Recently it was voted by the readers of the Chicago Tribune as the "Best Neighborhood Dining" in the Chicago area.

In the last few days of July and first few of August, Forest Park's Park District plays host to the Forest Park No Glove National Invitational Softball Tournament. This is an invitational to all the best 16-inch softball teams in Chicago metropolitan area (and sometimes from other regions). The game is slow-pitch softball played without gloves, a favorite in the region.

Every autumn the St. Bernardine Church hosts an Oktoberfest and the village hosts a Rib-fest.

The village has several industries, but the most prominent is Ferrara Pan, now known as simply the Ferrara Candy Company. The candy factory can be seen and smelled from the Harlem Blue Line stop.

The town is served by a weekly newspaper, the Forest Park Review, coming out every Wednesday. It is printed by Wednesday Journal, Inc. A bi-monthly publication, The Forest Park Post, is distributed to all homes and businesses in Forest Park and is published by 34 Publishing, Inc.

There is a NFP citizens advocacy and information organization known as Vox 60130 (formerly Citizens United in Forest Park) serving the community since 2004. It monitors local governmental meetings and activities and sponsors workshops and presentations of important, relevant issues. They also hold candidate forums during each local election cycle.


Forest Park is within the Forest Park School District 91 and the Proviso Township High Schools District 209. The elementary school district operates four elementary schools and Forest Park Middle School. The community is served by Proviso East High School in Maywood. In addition, the Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy, a magnet school, is located in Forest Park.[34]

Public libraries[edit]

The Forest Park Public Library is located at 7555 Jackson Boulevard.[35] The current library building opened on October 8, 1995. It covers 26,400 square feet (2,450 m2) over two levels and is completely accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is spacious and comfortable, with more seating and study areas, along with a meeting room, a youth activity room and computer room. The total cost of the building was projected to be $3,295,000, including construction, site improvements, furnishings, computer and security systems, professional and financing costs and contingencies. The funding comes from the Imber Fund, now grown to $900,000, a State of Illinois Construction Grant of $250,000, General Obligation Bonds for $2.9 million and interest income.


Notable people[edit]


Forest Park Amusement Park[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  2. ^ "Forest Park village, Illinois". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  3. ^ "Forest Park Terminal". Chicago Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  4. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  5. ^ Bureau, US Census. "Gazetteer Files". Retrieved June 29, 2022.
  6. ^ a b Matt Hucke. "Concordia and Altenheim Cemeteries". Matt Hucke. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  7. ^ Matt Hucke. "Forest Home and German Waldheim Cemeteries". Matt Hucke. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  8. ^ Matt Hucke. "Gravesite-Mike Todd". Matt Hucke. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  9. ^ Matt Hucke. "Jewish Waldheim cemeteries". Matt Hucke. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  10. ^ Matt Hucke. "Woodlawn Cemetery". Matt Hucke. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  11. ^ "Woodlawn Cemetery sign". Matt Hucke. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  12. ^ Matt Hucke. "Showmen's Rest I". Matt Hucke. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  13. ^ Matt Hucke. "Showmen's Rest II". Matt Hucke. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  14. ^ "Concordia Cemetery, Forest Park, IL website". Concordia Cemetery. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  15. ^ Matt Hucke. "Haymarket Monument-Forest Home Cemetery". Matt Hucke. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  16. ^ "QSL card for Radio Station WSOA". 1929. Archived from the original on March 18, 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  17. ^ "Photo of QSL card for radio station WSOA showing it was operating at 5,000 watts of power". February 24, 1929. Archived from the original on March 19, 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  18. ^ Chicago Tribune, 5 September 2005, "Old Torpedo Factory Hit by Military Site Closings"
  19. ^ Poplawska, Anna. Forest Park turns 100-again!. Forest Park Review. Printed 2007-08-28. Accessed 2007-09-03.
  20. ^ "Forest Park History" (PDF). Forest Archived from the original (PDF) on July 23, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2010. (PDF)
  21. ^ Forest Park Amusement Park
  22. ^ "Opening". The Historical Society of Forest Park. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  23. ^ "Closing". The Historical Society of Forest Park. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  24. ^ "The History of Forest Park Amusement Park". The Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal. January 16, 2017. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  25. ^ "Forest Park". Jazz Age Chicago. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  26. ^ a b c "In 1985, Karen Skinner, Wayne Buidens and Joseph Bass founded Circle Theatre with the mission of making exciting theatre available to the western suburbs of Chicago. They chose the name "Circle Theatre"." "About Us-Circle Theatre". Circle Theatre. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  27. ^ "Awards-Circle Theatre". Circle Theatre. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  28. ^ Jones, Chris (November 5, 2012). "Kevin Bellie exits Circle, to freelance direct". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  29. ^ "Decennial Census of Population and Housing by Decades". US Census Bureau.
  30. ^ a b "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2020: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Forest Park village, Illinois". United States Census Bureau.
  31. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  32. ^ "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2010: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - Forest Park village, Illinois". United States Census Bureau.
  33. ^ "Post Office Location - FOREST PARK." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on April 17, 2009.
  34. ^ "About Proviso Township High Schools District 209 Archived 2017-04-12 at the Wayback Machine." Proviso Township High Schools District 209. Retrieved on February 23, 2014.
  35. ^ "Contact Us Archived 2009-03-29 at the Wayback Machine." Forest Park Public Library. Retrieved on April 17, 2009.
  36. ^ "Saint Bernadine Parish". Saint Bernadine Parish. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  37. ^ "Ferrara-Pan Candy Company". Ferrara-Pan Candy Company. Retrieved November 21, 2011.

External links[edit]