Tune-in Thursday, July 28 when WGN Radio’s Your Hometown monthly series spotlights Brookfield and Riverside.
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad led to a construction boom to what was once farmland a distance from the city. This rail line contributed to the development of the two towns featured in this month’s Your Hometown series: Brookfield and Riverside.
Brookfield sits 13 miles west of downtown in Cook County. Prior to the 1800s, it was all prairie, forest and farm. The European settlement dates to 1889 with a Chicago lawyer turned real estate investor Samuel Eberly Gross who came to the area to develop what he called “Grossdale”.
The Grossdale Train Station, the first building erected, is now the location of the Brookfield Historical Society and on the National Register of Historic Places. Grossdale incorporated in 1893, but in 1905, the village’s name changed to Brookfield as residents wanted distance from Gross. The founder’s name is reflected in Brookfield’s S.E. Gross Middle School (3524 Maple Avenue).
Of course, more than just people call Brookfield home. More than 2,400 animals representing over 400 species live at Brookfield Zoo (1st Avenue and 31st Street), a 235-acre park on Cook County forest preserve land managed by the Chicago Zoological Society and operating since 1934.
Riverside is located nine miles west of downtown and a large part of it is in the Riverside Landscape Architecture District, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970. The village came into being when the Riverside Improvement Company bought land along the Des Plaines River and the rail line and commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux to design a “charming modern suburban neighborhood”. What Olmsted and Vaux designed in 1869 was the first planned community in the United States with winding streets and plenty of green spaces.
At the center of the village stands the Riverside Water Tower, one of the company’s first projects built in 1869 and designed by William Le Baron Jenney in Swiss Gothic style. A 1913 fire led to a significant portion of the building being destroyed and subsequently rebuilt. The water tower has since become a symbol of Riverside.
Construction of Riverside stalled in 1873 following the Chicago Fire and a financial panic that led to the dissolution of the company. When building resumed, the Riverside Golf Club, one of the oldest in the country, opened in 1893 followed by the Riverside Township Hall in 1895. Riverside is an “architectural museum” featuring many Victorians and 1920s bungalows built by renowned architects including Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Baron Jenney, and others. The F.F. Tomek House and the Avery Coonley House, both designed by Wright, individually have National Historic Landmark status.
The Frederick Law Olmsted Society of Riverside offers walking tours or a self-guided map can be found through the Riverside Historical Museum.
Your Hometown is sponsored by McDonald’s.