In the community, a strong spirit ties long term residents to a growing population, many of whom are employed locally or in Chicago (45%). The community has an enduring sense of history. A small downtown cemetery is where the early settlers were buried. The full-service downtown is a monument to small business with a wide variety of specialty shops.
The village was a grove of oak and maple trees settled in 1832 by Pierce Downer, about the time that the Blackhawk Indian Wars ended. He was followed to the area by Israel Blodgett, whose home still stands. In 1842, the first general store and post office opened at Maple and Lane Place. By 1846, enough settlers moved to the area, and the first one-room schoolhouse was erected at Maple Avenue and Dunham Road. It was part of the Underground Railroad, providing sanctuary for slaves escaping to Canada during the Civil War. The construction of the railroad in the mid 1860’s eventually transformed the village from an exporter of agricultural goods to Chicago to an exporter of commuters. Downers Grove was incorporated in 1873. By 1899, electric lights and telephone service came to the village.
More than 46,000 people live in Downers Grove. The village is located 22 miles from the Loop. Municipal services and good schools have long been Downers Grove hallmarks. It has had an award winning Park District, and has been cited for conservational and ecological progress.
The village sponsors cultural festivals and concerts. Downers Grove Concert Association hosts a summer long Artists’ Showcase West, which features a series of professional entertainers.
Its size makes for a wide-ranging housing profile. The resale market is active. Downers Grove has experienced an explosive growth. The population has doubled since 1960, and has quadrupled since 1950. Housing values quadrupled 81 percent during the decade of the 1980’s.
Downers Grove has a main shopping area downtown. There are also a number of smaller, convenient shopping areas. Two major malls: Oak Brook Center and Yorktown Plaza are nearby.
Children attend schools in a number of Districts: 58, 60, 61, 66, 68, and 69. They all have high academic standards. The village has ten (10) elementary schools. There are three (3) public junior high schools, a middle school, as well as private elementary and secondary schools. Most high school students attend either Downers Grove North or Downers Grove South in District 99; a small number attend in Hinsdale District 86. All three high schools have outstanding reputations as academic and sports powers. Students have above average scores on both ACT and SAT college entrance exams.
Culturally, the village is served by the Downers Grove Theater Guild, a concert association and an oratorio society. The public library boasts 135,000 volumes and a wide collection of periodicals, tapes, CDS and other audiovisual items. A large addition to the library has been recently completed.
Thirty-one (31) parks cover more than 500 acres and help bolster a strong athletic program that includes dozens of baseball fields, tennis and basketball courts, football and soccer fields, as well as jogging trails, bike paths, and nature walks. More than 280 programs are offered year-round including more than 54,000 hours of service annually. The park district is a member of the South East Association for Special Parks and Recreation (SEASPAR) The park district has two nature parks: Lyman Woods and Belmont Prairie. The Morton Arboretum is adjacent to the northwest side of Downers Grove, in Lisle, and offers 20 miles of trails and 4,5OO varieties of trees and plants. Downers Grove Golf Course, a nine-hole facility, is located on the western edge of the village, and dates from 1892. It was the first course west of the Alleghany Mountains.
Residents can reach the Loop on thc Burlington Northern railroad in an average time of 48 minutes for the local train and 25 minutes on the express. The Grove Commuter Bus shuttles riders to one of three train stations in town, and the East-West Tollway (Interstate 88) passes only one mile north of the village. The Stevenson Expressway (I-55) is about 5 wiles to the south. Drive time to the Loop is approximately 45 minutes. O’Hare Airport is about 20 minutes via the Tri-State Tollway (interstate 294) from Downers Grove, while Midway Airport is 30 minutes away.
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