Evanston, Illinois A College Town on the North Shore

Located right off of Lake Michigan and minutes from the Chicago, the northern suburb of Evanston is home to more than 74,000 residents. This diverse population contributes to the city's unique and extensive cultural scene while at the same time creating a sense of community and activism, which characterize Evanston today.

Biased Beginnings

Although Evanston is now considered one of the most socially inclusive and politically active communities, the first settler and native encounters were far from PC. The first inhabitants of the region were the Potawami Indians who utilized the land for hunting, gathering, fishing, and farming. The then swampy and flood-prone region was overlooked by European settlers who described it as 'without value'. However, their opinion quickly changed when they realized the area's close proximity to the lake and abundance of natural resources would make it an excellent location to settle, or rather, snatch. In the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, the land was confiscated and the Potowami forced to move West.

The federal government began selling the land at $1.25 per acre. In 1836, the first buyer, Major Edward Mulford, bought 160 acres of land that is now St. Francis Hospital. Mulford and his wife built the '10 mile house' which served as a tavern for travelers as well as a community center for residents featuring a church, school, post office and meeting house. In the 1850s about 450 residents called the region home.

Inclusive Expansion

The early 1850s brought a group of Methodist men into the area and with them, a more humanitarian spirit. They were looking for the perfect site for sanctified learning and decided that the location of present-day Evanston would be the place to do so. Although the men were Methodist affiliated, they were committed to non-sectarian admissions, believing the future university should serve all residents in the area. They named the institution Northwestern University and submitted their plans to court for a city named Evanston, after one of the group's leaders, John Evans. Included in the charter was a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol within four miles of the university, making Evanston a 'dry town'. It also permitted the university to own 2,000 tax-free acres, which greatly expanded the city limits.

In 1871, the Chicago fire brought many city dwellers into neighboring Evanston, as residents looked to escape the devastation of the fire, but also sought a more placid, tree-lined environment, away from the crowding and poverty of the city. Many Germans, Swedes, Poles, and after the Civil War, African Americans, moved to Evanston, greatly diversifying the population.


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