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Village of Park Forest - Top Story News

Posted on: November 4, 2016

Park Forest celebrates 70th Anniversary

The Park Forest Board of Trustees was joined by former elected officials on Oct. 24 to recognize Park Forest 70th year anniversary.

Board members took a brief recess after adopting a 70th year anniversary proclamation to mingle with a handful of former elected officials who turned out for the occasion. On hand were dignitaries 
Gary Kopycinski, Gail Graham, Penny Shnay, Alicia Rodman-McCray, Mary Lubertozzi, Matt Guritz, and Rita Guritz.

The adopted proclamation read as follows:

1-1_PF_70.jpgOn the Occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Announcement of the Creation of Park Forest 

WHEREAS, only a few houses and a golf course were present in the region that came to be known as “Park Forest, Illinois,” on October 28, 1946, when Philip Klutznick, Nathan Manilow, and Carroll Sweet held a press conference at the Palmer House in Chicago to announce the creation of this new community; and

WHEREAS, in the 70 years since then has developed a vibrant municipality that has become the subject for books, one of the most famous of which is The Organization Man, based in large part on interviews that the author, William H. Whyte, did with some of the early settlers of the community, and on which he based a sociological study of life in the newly emerging suburbs of America; and

2-2_PF_70.jpgWHEREAS, on August 30, 1948, the first residents of the new community moved into Court B-1, and on November 27 of the same year, the developers of held a barbeque and tent meeting to explain to the residents the particulars of incorporation; and

WHEREAS, as an outgrowth of the tent meeting, a referendum passed on February 1, 1949, by a vote of 90-2, to incorporate the town, and on April 2, 1949, the first election of Village officials was held with Dennis O’Harrow chosen as the first Village President (Mayor), serving until October 10 of the following year because of a job transfer he received and being succeeded by Trustee Henry X. Dietch, who subsequently also became the Village Attorney and many years later a Cook County judge; and

WHEREAS, a “planned community” was something of a rarity at that time, the concept for these suburban communities having been developed by Levitt & Sons, Inc., a builder/developer that first created Levittown in New York, and then a number of subsequent “Levittowns” in other regions, to meet post-World War II housing needs, with the Park Forest community modeled on those developments but designed to be pedestrian and child-friendly, with curved streets that promoted greater safety and easy access to parks, shopping, and other amenities; and

WHEREAS, education was an important need in the early Village of Park Forest, as there was an abundance of school-aged children, and the first school board was elected in March 1949 and subsequently built the first elementary school, Dogwood School, and a referendum held on June 23, 1951, created the Rich Township High School, which subsequently was renamed Rich East High School and became the flagship institution of School District 227 when Rich Central High School was opened in Olympia Fields and Rich South High School was opened in Richton Park; and

WHEREAS, commercial development also was extremely important for the new community, with the Park Forest Plaza taking shape in 1946 and reaching virtual completion by 1948, including at its high point a Marshall Fields, a Goldblatts, a Sears, and numerous smaller shops, with the Holiday Theatre opening its doors on October 18, 1950; and

WHEREAS, in its initial days, “Park Forest” was the name of the development, but not the town itself, the official naming not coming about until a referendum passed in December 1950 after two years of arguing by Village officials, with the vote to officially name the community “Park Forest” passing with 63 percent of the residents agreeing on that name; and ParkForest-70-logo.2.2.png

WHEREAS, housing in the early days of Park Forest was mostly townhomes in the central and mid-east region of town, with single family homes later constructed south of the Plaza all the way down into Will County, with split-level and tri-level homes constructed next, and finally a number of custom-built homes constructed, mostly in the region that came to be known as Thorncreek Estates; and

WHEREAS, beginning in 1962, many of the townhomes were converted from rental to cooperative housing, with the first co-op corporation being what now is Birch Street Townhomes and four other co-op corporations following, but with many of the townhomes remaining as rentals or being converted to condominiums; and

WHEREAS, Park Forest has much to be proud of because it has a history rich in accomplishment, with the community twice named an All-America City, first in 1953 for the community effort to create the Rich Township High School, and then again in 1976 for its open housing efforts, and also being a finalist for the award on two other occasions, and today with an exhibit that stands at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., recognizing Park Forest for its many accomplishments; and

WHEREAS, indeed, Park Forest is unique for many reasons, some planned and some by accident, including the Park Forest Farmers Market, which continues today and was one of the first to be established in the Chicago region, and the John Joyce Central Park Wetlands, created with the assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that draws school children and numerous other visitors throughout the year, in addition to drawing loads of birds, the sightings of which regularly are recorded by the local Audubon Society, and being named as a STAR community for its sustainability efforts, a unique designation that has been given only to a relative handful of other communities across the U.S., and accidentally gaining recognition in 2003 for a meteor that landed in town, with parts of the “Park Forest Meteor” today on exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry; and

WHEREAS, nothing stands out as an accomplishment of Park Forest as much as its commitment to diversity, with the first African-American family, the Wilsons, being welcomed into the community on Christmas Eve 1959 at a time when other suburbs were fighting against integration, and in 1981, while the community remained overwhelmingly Caucasian in its population, Ron Bean, an African-American, being elected as the town’s seventh mayor, and today proudly being a community with a population that is almost 70 percent African-American.

NOW, THEREFORE, DO I, John A. Ostenburg, tenth mayor of the Village of Park Forest, Cook and Will Counties, Illinois, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the announcement of the creation of our municipality, proudly proclaim October 28 as Founders Day in the Village of Park Forest, and in so doing commend all the elected and professional leaders of the community, and the various volunteers who have played key roles in maintaining the stability of our Village, and encourage the citizens to remain loyal to the founding principles of our great and vibrant community.

Proclaimed this 24th day of October in the year 2016 of the common era.

3-2_PF_70.jpg


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