On April 27, tune-in to WGN Radio’s Your Hometown series highlighting Glen Ellyn.
Located in the heart of DuPage County, Glen Ellyn is about 24 miles west of the Loop.
The Potawatomi were the predominant Indigenous tribe when European-American settlers arrived in the mid-1830s. Those settlers claimed land that included the Five Corners intersection of St. Charles, Geneva and Main Streets. The area was called Babcock’s Grove and included part of what is Lombard today. Deacon Winslow Churchill is recognized as the first landowner in 1834.
Settler Moses Stacy built Stacy’s Tavern in 1846 as an inn on the stagecoach route from Chicago to Galena and Rockford. Today, the building remains on its original location at 557 Geneva Road and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Stacy’s Tavern is owned by the Village of Glen Ellyn and operated by the Glen Ellyn Historical Society as a museum where visitors can get a feel of what life was like in the 1840s.
The village underwent seven different names – Babcock’s Grove, Fish’s Corners, DuPage Center, Stacy’s Corners, Newton’s Station, Danby and Prospect Park – before adopting the Glen Ellyn name in 1889. “Glen Ellyn” is a combination of the Welsh spelling of then village president’s wife Ellen Hill and “glen” referring to the local landscape.
Roughly 20% of the Glen Ellyn’s male population fought in the Civil War and one of its residents, Marcellus Jones, is reported to have fired the first shot at the Battle of Gettysburg. He is buried in Wheaton.
Lake Ellyn, a popular community spot part of a public park on the National Register of Historic Places, is manmade and created in 1889 on what was marshland. Glen Ellyn incorporated on May 10, 1892, and billed itself as a “health resort” in part to the lake, a nearby mineral spring and the Lake Glen Ellyn Hotel. The Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Company formed in 1907 after the Lake Glen Ellyn Hotel was destroyed by fire due to a lightning strike in 1906. It’s the last volunteer-based fire department in DuPage County and unique to Chicagoland.
Prior to the lake’s existence, a marker stands on its southwest corner to acknowledge the site of the first baseball game played in Glen Ellyn. The game involved the Rustics, a newly formed team of Glen Ellyn residents, many of whom were Civil War veterans, facing the Chicago Excelsiors who were an early iteration of the Chicago Cubs. That the Rustics had never seen a baseball game may have contributed to the game ending in favor of the Excelsiors, with a score of 102 to 2.
In 1963, the bones of mastodon were discovered on a residential property in Glen Ellyn and 41% of the skeleton was recovered. Known as the Perry Mastodon, it has been on public display in the Meyer Science Center on the Wheaton College campus since 2010.
Glen Ellyn is home to the College of DuPage, founded in 1967 with more than 20,000 students. Located on campus is the McAninch Arts Center (the MAC) which has been a destination for plays, concerts and lectures since 1986. The performing arts space has even hosted several events produced by WGN Radio in the past. Within the MAC, the Cleve Carney Museum of Art showcases student art, a permanent collection and specialty exhibits, from Frida Kahlo to the upcoming Andy Warhol.
Also founded in 1967, the Village Links of Glen Ellyn (485 Winchell Way) was the first public golf course in the world to be certified as a wildlife sanctuary by Audubon International and the first publicly owned 18-hole golf course in DuPage County. The Village Links has also hosted high-profile golf events, including the PGA Tour and U.S. Open.
Hollywood came to Glen Ellyn in 1986 for the movie “Lucas” that filmed at Glenbard West High School, Lake Ellyn Park, the Glen Art Theatre and Maryknoll College. The latter, located on Roosevelt Road, was a 125-acre campus for Catholic seminary students from 1949 to 1972. Demolished in 2000, today it is a neighborhood of single family homes and townhomes. The Glen Art Theatre (540 Crescent Blvd.), one of the 28 buildings that comprises the Downtown North Historic District, held the Midwest premiere for the movie and several of its employees were cast as extras. The Glen opened in the early 1920s and operates today as a four-screen movie theatre. The Main Street Historic District includes 11 homes built between 1874 and 1890 when Glen Ellyn was known as Prospect Park.
The Willowbrook Wildlife Center (525 S. Park Blvd.), part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, provides care and medical treatment to injured and sick native wild animals. The Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn has one of the county’s few remaining native prairies, native plants, and a wide range of habitats.
A few famous names with a connection to Glen Ellyn include comedian John Belushi and actor James Belushi who both attended College of DuPage and actor Sean Hayes who was a graduate of Glenbard West High School.
Your Hometown featuring Glen Ellyn is sponsored by McDonald’s.