Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright built a home and studio here, Ernest Hemingway learned to write the great American novel here and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan mused about swinging from tree limb to tree limb, all in the village of Oak Park, Illinois.
While many writers, sports figures, journalists, actors and comedians have also made their homes in Oak Park, (too many to count) among the more famous names you come across are television actress and comedian Betty White and McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, who were both born in Oak Park. And it was also the home turf of mafia crime boss Sam Giancana, who was murdered by an associate in 1975 in the kitchen of his village house. Dan Castellaneta, the voice of animated character Homer Simpson, is an Oak Parker as well.
Oak Park, which has a population as of the 2010 U.S. Census of 51,878, is the 29th largest municipality in Illinois, and is located on Chicago’s West Side. Just 10 miles west of downtown Chicago, the village offers many services attractive to both families and business leaders.
The village was settled in the early 1830s and it grew rapidly thanks to the influx of railroads and street cars connecting it to neighboring suburbs and jobs in nearby Chicago. Oak Park was incorporated in 1902, when it broke off from Cicero, Illinois.
In 1835, Joseph and Betty Kettlestrings, immigrants from Yorkshire, England, purchased 172 acres of land just west of Chicago and built a small frame house that they soon turned into a tavern, according to a historical account by the Historical Society of Oak Park & River Forest. They charged patrons 50 cents for supper, bed and breakfast. Once their children were born, they moved to Chicago to raise them and send them to school and rented out their farmhouse. They moved back again in 1855 to build a more substantial home near Scoville and Lake Streets. The home continued in that location until 1935 when it was razed to build a high school.