Woodstock, Illinois

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Woodstock Illinois 02.jpg
The Woodstock Opera House on the Square in historic downtown Woodstock
Motto: "True to Its Past; Confident of Its Future"
Country United States
State Illinois
County McHenry
Townships Dorr, Greenwood, Hartland, Seneca
Coordinates 42°19′3″N 88°26′46″W / 42.31750°N 88.44611°W / 42.31750; -88.44611Coordinates: 42°19′3″N 88°26′46″W / 42.31750°N 88.44611°W / 42.31750; -88.44611
Area 13.55 sq mi (35 km2)
 - land 13.55 sq mi (35 km2)
 - water 0.00 sq mi (0 km2)
Population 24,770 (2010)
Density 2,304.5/sq mi (890/km2)
Founded 1852
Mayor Dr. Brian Sager
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 60098
Area code 815/779
Location of Woodstock within Illinois and the Chicago area
Wikimedia Commons: Woodstock, Illinois
Website: www.woodstockil.gov

Woodstock is a city in and the county seat of McHenry County, Illinois, United States, located 51 miles (82 km) northwest of Chicago.[1] The population was 24,770 at the 2010 census. The city's downtown includes a historic turn-of-the-century town square, which is anchored by the landmark Woodstock Opera House and Old McHenry County Courthouse. The city was named one of the nation's Dozen Distinctive Destinations in 2007 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[2][2]


Main Street about 1910

Centerville, as Woodstock was originally called, was chosen as the county seat on September 4, 1843, due to its location at the geographic center of McHenry County. Early area settler Alvin Judd developed a plat for the town, incorporating a two-acre public square, near which a 2-story frame courthouse and jail were constructed the following year by George C. Dean and Daniel Blair. In 1845, resident Joel Johnson's proposed that Centerville be given a more original name, and so the town was renamed Woodstock after Johnson's hometown of Woodstock, Vermont. (The town was listed as "Center" on the 1850 Federal Census, however.) In 1852, Woodstock was incorporated as a village with Judd as president. In response to a burgeoning population following the Civil War, Woodstock was incorporated as a city in 1873. John S. Wheat was elected as Woodstock's first mayor. A vital artery for the growing town was the train line to and from Chicago, which allowed for a substantial industrial presence early in the town's history.[3]

In 1895, Eugene V. Debs served out a short federal prison sentence in the Woodstock Jail following the 1894 Pullman labor strike in Chicago. Debs, the former president of the American Railway Union, was held in Woodstock instead of Chicago because federal officials feared that he would be surrounded with too many sympathizers in a Chicago prison and therefore could have still incited further violence. Debs was instead assigned to a cell in the newly constructed Woodstock Jail, which occupied the lowest floor of the Woodstock Courthouse on the town square. During his time in jail, Debs received several influential socialist visitors and encountered the works of Karl Marx. By the time he was released in 1895 (purportedly before 10,000+ onlookers assembled in the Woodstock Square), Debs had become a socialist. He later ran for the United States Presidency under the newly formed Social Democratic Party against William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan, and then again in 1904.[4]

Typewriters in a Woodstock business. Photographed in 2013. Note the name "Woodstock" on some of them.

During the early part of the 20th century, Woodstock had become "Typewriter City." Home to the factories of both the Emerson Typewriter Company and the Oliver Typewriter Company, Woodstock workers had built more than half the world's typewriters by 1922.[3] The companies were very much a part of life in the city during this time. Both factories had active social clubs, baseball teams that competed against one another, and Emerson even had a well-regarded band that played at public events. In 1919, Emerson Typewriter became the Woodstock Typewriter Company. The city grew and flourished with increasing demand for Woodstock typewriters up through and after World War II. Initially the company sold typewriters for use in the war effort domestically and abroad, but even after the war's end returning servicemen, now familiar with the Woodstock brand, chose these models for their households. The factory was in use until 1970.[5]


According to the 2010 census, Woodstock has a total area of 13.55 square miles (35.09 km2), all land.[6]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,327
1870 1,574 18.6%
1880 1,475 −6.3%
1890 1,683 14.1%
1900 2,502 48.7%
1910 4,331 73.1%
1920 5,523 27.5%
1930 5,471 −0.9%
1940 6,123 11.9%
1950 7,192 17.5%
1960 8,897 23.7%
1970 10,226 14.9%
1980 11,725 14.7%
1990 14,353 22.4%
2000 20,151 40.4%
2010 24,770 22.9%
Est. 2015 25,189 [7] 1.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[8]
Road Sign Announcing Entry Into Woodstock

As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 20,151 people, 7,273 households, and 4,843 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,891.1 people per square mile (729.9/km²). There were 7,599 housing units at an average density of 713.1 per square mile (275.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 87.48% Caucasian American, 1.06% African American, 0.23% Native American, 2.01% Asian, 7.69% from other races, and 1.52% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 19.01% of the population.

There were 7,273 households out of which 37.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.7% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.4% were non-families. 27.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.30.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.9% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 33.2% from 25 to 44, 18.9% from 45 to 64, and 9.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 100.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $47,871, and the median income for a family was $54,408. Males had a median income of $40,137 versus $27,264 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,210. About 5.3% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.0% of those under age 18 and 3.0% of those age 65 or over.


Old McHenry County Courthouse and jail in Woodstock

Woodstock is the home to Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple, Founded in 2002 by Bhante Sujatha, an internationally recognized Sri Lankan Buddhist. It offers several guided meditations weekly as well as various other events related to Buddhism and Eastern traditions. The Temple is becoming increasingly popular with people attending from all over the northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Along with Bhante Sujatha, the Blue Lotus is home to three other Buddhist Monastics.

Woodstock had an important role in the creative development of Orson Welles. Welles attended the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock.[10] At Todd, Welles came under the positive influence and guidance of Roger Hill, a teacher who later became the school's headmaster. Hill provided Welles with an ad hoc educational environment that proved invaluable to his creative experience, allowing Welles to concentrate on subjects that interested him. Welles performed and staged his first theatrical experiments and productions at Todd. He also performed at the Woodstock Opera House, where the Orson Welles Stage was dedicated February 10, 2013, honoring the site of Welles's American debut as a professional theatre director.[11][12] Welles occasionally returned to Woodstock, and in a 1960 interview he named it as the one place that, to him, was home. "I suppose it's Woodstock, Illinois, if it's anywhere," Welles replied. "I went to school there for four years. If I try to think of a home, it's that."[13]

Todd School for Boys closed in 1954, and the original buildings were subsequently purchased at auction and reused by Marian Central Catholic High School and Christian Life Services.[14] The dormitory (a.k.a. "Grace Hall" or "Harrison House") was demolished in 2010.[15]

Theatre and film[edit]

Woodstock is perhaps most famous for its role as the location for the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. Although the story is set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the movie's producers preferred the quintessentially American backdrop of the Woodstock Square and its surroundings. Outdoor and street scenes were filmed around the downtown and various side streets, and signs from stores and businesses are visible throughout the movie. [16] Many notable scenes' locations are commemorated with plaques as part of a walking tour for visitors and enthusiasts.[17] Additionally, the bed and breakfast in which Bill Murray's character stays is a few blocks from the Square and was formerly a private residence, but in recent years it has been opened as a functioning bed and breakfast where visitors can stay.[18]

Several scenes in the 1987 film Planes, Trains, and Automobiles were shot in Woodstock, including the scene in which the protagonists' rental car is towed in front of a building (the old Courthouse).[16] The movie brought Woodstock to the attention of location manager Bob Hudgins, who later recommended the town to Harold Ramis for the filming of Groundhog Day. [19]

Orson Welles is Woodstock's other significant connection to film and theatre. In July 1934, Welles coordinated the Todd Theatre Festival, a six-week summer festival at the Woodstock Opera House that featured Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir of Dublin's Gate Theatre.[20]:165 His short film The Hearts of Age was shot on the Todd campus during the festival.[21]


Woodstock has become an important destination for live music in McHenry County and the region with venues featuring local, national, and international artists.

A number of organizations support and promote live music in Woodstock:

  • Liquid Blues
  • Jazz on the Square
  • Off Square Music
  • Opera Woodstock
  • RIFF Productions
  • Woodstock Folk Festival
  • Woodstock City Band
  • Woodstock Mozart Festival
  • Potts & Pans Steelband[22]


Shopping on Woodstock's Historic Square

Woodstock residents have access to several local and/or regional newspapers.

The Woodstock Independent is the town's local paper of record and is delivered weekly to subscribers.[23] Published on Wednesdays, The Independent covers local government meetings, all local schools' activities, local sporting events and other community news. The Independent also publishes The Torch, a feature-oriented tabloid publication that is delivered free to all Woodstock residents 8 or 9 times a year.[24]

The Northwest Herald is a larger, daily newspaper that covers many of the northwest Chicago suburbs, including McHenry County and Woodstock. The Herald also includes national news and sports coverage.

Annual traditions[edit]

the gazebo in town square
  • Diversity Day Festival
  • Fair Diddley
  • Farmers Market
  • Lighting of the Square
    • Held on the Friday after Thanksgiving, this celebration kicks the Holiday season downtown. After dark, crowds gather in the Square, sing carols and mingle around the local shops. At 7pm, a small presentation is made by the mayor, City council representative and even Santa Claus. After Miss Woodstock speaks, the crowd counts down in unison and she throws the big lightswitch. All at once, Christmas lights in all the park trees and atop every building's facade turn on in a dazzling and festive introduction to the season.[25]
  • Groundhog Day
    • The town celebrates "Groundhog Day" at the beginning of every February, including tours of famous filming sites from the 1993 movie. The town now even has its own groundhog named "Woodstock Willie", who essentially performs the same tasks as "Punxsutawney Phil" at the site of the original Groundhog Day festival. Every year on the weekend of Groundhog Day, the Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theater shows Groundhog Day for free. Woodstock's Groundhog day festival also includes a traditional groundhog lighting.
  • HarvestFest
  • McHenry County Fair
  • Woodstock City Band Concerts
    • One of Woodstock's longest standing summertime traditions (starting in 1885), these free Wednesday night summer concerts are held in the Park in the Square and are often accompanied by an ice cream social.
  • Woodstock Challenge Road Run
    • The annual 10K, 5K, 1 mile and 1/2-mile family run/walk races through Emricson Park, sponsored by the Woodstock Rec Department.[26]
  • Woodstock CABA Days
  • Woodstock Folk Festival
  • Woodstock Jazz on the Square Festival
  • Woodstock Mozart Festival
    • The WMF has a 25-year tradition. Concerts in late July and early August are held in the historic Woodstock Opera House and showcase internationally acclaimed guest artists and conductors.


Woodstock's public schools are part of Woodstock Community Unit School District 200, which was formed in 1969.[27] The district currently operates 6 elementary schools (Dean Street, Greenwood, Mary Endres, Olson, Prariewood and Westwood), two middle schools (Northwood and Creekside) and two high schools (Woodstock High School and Woodstock North High School).[28][28] The three most recent buildings, Prariewood, Creekside and WNHS, were approved in a March 2006 referendum to address crowding in schools due to the area's recent growth.[27]

Woodstock is also currently served by private educational institutions: St. Mary Catholic grade school (K-8) is located in town and students often continue on to Marian Central Catholic High School, also located in Woodstock. Residents pursuing an associate degree normally do so at McHenry County College in neighboring Crystal Lake. The Woodstock Center of Aurora University is also located in Woodstock.


Top employers[edit]

According to Woodstock's 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[29] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 McHenry County 1,400
2 Woodstock Community Unit School District 200 1,010
3 Centegra Health System 1,111
4 Catalent 830
5 Claussen Pickle Company 325
6 Charter Dura-Bar 290
7 Walmart 280
8 Silgan Tubes Corporation 211
9 Guardian Electric Manufacturing 150
10 Wolf Distribution 110


Woodstock Railroad Station

Woodstock's railroad station is on Metra's Union/Pacific Northwest Line, which originates in Chicago's Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago.

U.S. Route 14 curves around Woodstock's southwest border, intersecting with Illinois Route 47 at Woodstock's southeast edge. Illinois Route 120 meets Route 47 approximately ¼ mile northeast of Woodstock's Public Square.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 20, 2009. Retrieved December 10, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "Woodstock, IL". Encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org. Retrieved 2016-03-31. 
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 8, 2007. Retrieved September 8, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Woodstock, by Nancy Baker". 
  6. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  7. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Archived from the original on May 11, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  9. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 12, 2010. Retrieved October 9, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Orson Welles 1934 Todd Theatre Festival 80th Anniversary". Woodstock Opera House. Retrieved 2014-09-26. 
  12. ^ "Orson Welles Stage dedicated at Woodstock Opera House". Wellesnet. February 10, 2013. Retrieved 2014-09-26. 
  13. ^ "Close Up: Orson Welles, part 1". Interview by Bernard Braden, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, February 25, 1960 (22:58–23:12). Retrieved 2014-09-26. 
  14. ^ Channick, Robert (5 September 2008). "In Woodstock, historic dorm for boys school attended by Orson Welles faces demolition". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  15. ^ "About Hearthstone Communities". Hearthstone Communities. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "Groundhog Day (1993)". IMDb. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  17. ^ "Every Day is Groundhog Day in Woodstock, IL!". Woodstockgroundhog.org. Retrieved 2016-03-31. 
  18. ^ "HOME". Royalvictorianmanor.com. 2016-02-04. Retrieved 2016-03-31. 
  19. ^ "We visit the town that brought Groundhog Day to life · Pop Pilgrims · The A.V. Club". Avclub.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31. 
  20. ^ a b Tarbox, Todd, Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts. Albany, Georgia: BearManor Media, 2013, ISBN 1-59393-260-X.
  21. ^ "Todd School for Boys 1848–1954, Woodstock, Illinois" (PDF). Woodstock Public Library. Retrieved 2014-09-26. 
  22. ^ "Potts & Pans, Inc. NFP". Pottsandpans.org. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved October 9, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved October 9, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved November 25, 2010. 
  26. ^ [1][dead link]
  27. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 21, 2009. Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  28. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 21, 2009. Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  29. ^ "City of Woodstock : Woodstock, Illinois" (PDF). Woodstockil.gov. Retrieved 2016-03-31. 
  30. ^ "Alexander Berkman : Biography". Spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  31. ^ "Illini Legends, Lists & Lore: Lynn Stewart | News-Gazette.com". Illinihq.com. 2009-10-04. Retrieved 2016-03-31. 

External links[edit]