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Facts About Downers Grove, IL
How Downers Grove Received its name: After Pierce Downer, the first permanent resident, who moved from upstate New York and in 1832 staked a 150-acre claim on land that included prairie and a grove of oak trees.
Downers Grove was founded in 1832 by Pierce Downer, a farmer who traveled to Illinois from Rutland, New York, but was originally from Vermont. Its other early settlers included the Blodgett, Curtiss, Blanchard, Stanley, Lyman, and Carpenter families. The original settlers were mostly migrants from the Northeastern United States and Northern Europe. The first schoolhouse was built in 1844.
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad was extended from Aurora to Chicago through Downers Grove in 1864, boosting its population. The town was incorporated in March 1873. Its somewhat unusual spelling (“Apostrophe-free since 1873”) remains a minor historical mystery.
In April 1947, the wreck of a Burlington Railroad Twin Cities Zephyr passenger train killed three people, including the engineer. The streamliner struck a large tractor which had fallen from a freight train and two passenger cars crashed through a wall of the Main Street Station.
The construction of two major toll roads along the village’s northern and western boundaries, I-355 in 1989, and what is now referred to as I-88 in 1958, facilitated the village’s access to the rest of Chicago metropolitan area. Downers Grove has developed into a bustling Chicago suburb with many diverse businesses, including the headquarters for Devry University, FTD, Ambitech Engineering Corp, Dover, Heartland Food Corporation, and HAVI Global Solutions.
Did you know? Economic development officials say the community’s population swells to 110,000 daily with visitors, shoppers and workers. The Blodgett House, built in 1846, was a stop on the Underground Railroad that helped lead slaves to freedom in the 19th Century. Members of the Blodgett family, among the community’s earliest settlers, were active abolitionists. The house still stands and recently moved to Wandschneider Park. Downers Grove’s downtown cemetery is one of two in the nation still in a business district. The community’s two high schools have won 15 state team championships, including one each in football. Downers Grove South has three volleyball crowns while Downers Grove North has three badminton titles.
Downers Grove’s roughly 50-minute (25-minute express) connection to the Loop via three BNSF Railway stations provides many working residents with a convenient commute to the city. Nevertheless, Downers Grove itself serves as headquarters for a multitude of locally, regionally, and nationally renowned businesses.
Respective examples include Every Day’s a Sundae, The Savory Gourmet, Advocate Health Care, and Fortune 500 member Dover Corporation. The village is also home to regional satellite offices of numerous national corporations, including Microsoft, MetLife, and State Farm.
Downers Grove’s retail economy is largely supported by the local section of Ogden Avenue. Formerly part of U.S. Route 66, the stretch of Ogden Avenue that weaves through Chicago’s western suburbs is particularly known for its extensive range of automobile dealerships, classic car dealerships, and service centers.
Brands represented by Downers Grove auto groups include Aston Martin, Bentley, Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, Ford, Lamborghini, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Volkswagen. Ogden—a colloquial shortening of the road’s name—is also framed by a variety of grocery and convenience stores such as CVS, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, Jewel, Trader Joe’s, and Walgreens. While the road serves primarily as a route to destinations, industrial and corporate parks that host the aforementioned headquarters can be found on Ogden’s tributaries adjacent to major tollways such as I-355 or I-88.
Famous residents: Comedian Emo Philips (born Phil Soltanec); hockey’s Granato family (Cammi, Olympic gold medalist; Tony, head coach of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche; and Don, head coach of the minor league Chicago Wolves); pro wrestler Randy Savage; actress Denise Richards; opera singer Sherrill Milnes, most recently associated with the Metropolitan Opera; Luther Ely Smith, founder of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which includes St. Louis’ Gateway Arch.
Why it is worth visiting: The downtown Tivoli Theatre opened in 1928 as only the second theater in the world designed for sound pictures and features a vintage Wurlitzer organ. There’s also a bowling alley in the building. The village is known for a collection of as many as 200 do-it-yourself Sears catalog homes built from 1910 to the 1940s. The historic nine-hole Downers Grove Golf Course, the first course west of the Allegheny Mountains, was established in 1892 and designed by noted course architect Charles Blair Macdonald.
Known in these parts for: Plentiful choices for new and used cars and trucks on Ogden Avenue as Downers Grove is host to nine dealers alone on that stretch. Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, a Level 1 (comprehensive treatment) trauma center also known for neonatal, cardiac, cancer and wellness departments. The national championships of professional cycling — the USA Cycling Professional Criterium — are held downtown each August.
Downers Grove, IL 60515