Local History: Village Of Westchester. 1925 to 1954
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Creation and Early History of The Village
At the beginning of the 1920s the future area of was primarily farmland. Despite its relatively sparse population some improvements were made. Read these "LaGrange Citizen" articles:
Westchester was created when a group of men, headed by Samuel Insull, purchased about 2200 acres from various owners and proceeded to develop and subdivide the property. At the time of Samuel Insull’s development of the area, it is said that the land was bought up at $700 to $800 per acre. It was all farm land at that time and the only buildings were the farm buildings, which have been torn down and removed. The acquisition or the land was done with an attempt at secrecy but the public became aware of the "Proviso Mystery". Read the following newspaper articles from the 1920s:
The Village of Westchester was incorporated on October 30, 1925, and it’s Charter was filed with the State of Illinois on January 14, 1926. Westchester's Interurban was extended south from the connection with the Aurora & Elgin Railroad at Bellwood. Service to Roosevelt Road started on October 1, 1926, and the extension to 22nd Street, was built and service started to that point in 1930. See Start Work on Westchester L Spur At Once and "L" Trains to Stop Soon.
Westchester was incorporated December 16, 1925. The first election of Village officials was held on January 20, 1926, when thirty-five votes were cast.
According to the Village incorporation documents Mr. Otto Tatterow was elected as Westchester’s first president.
The first Village Clerk was Steven E. Jackson with Clemens C. Puscheck as the Village Magistrate and Charles Long as the Police Magistrate.
The first Board of Trustees was Wesley E. Panttila, Warren Owens, Charles R. Gardner, Ernest Farrand, Klaus Prime and Grant N. Britten.
According to the April 20, 1927, Westchester Tribune the village officials were:
Ruben N. Nelson became Clerk.
Curtis E. Jackson became Magistrate.
Wesley E. Panttila served as Treasurer.
The Trustees were John A. Landahl, Roy L. LaForce, Ernest Farrand, Roy E. Zehner, Charles R. Gardner and Klaus Prime.
Some of these names should be familiar.
Over the years Puscheck Road was changed to Gardner Road to honor former Trustee Charles R. Gardner.
One of Westchester's first schools was named after Grant N. Britten, the Village President from 1927 to 1935.
After incorporation and election, all the work of installing improvements such as construction of water mains, first double sewer system in Proviso Township, streets, lighting and trees was rushed. These improvements ran to four and a half million, only covering from Harrison to Twenty-second Street, Gardner Road to Mannheim Road. There were forty-two miles of streets laid and eighty-four miles of sidewalks. Lake Michigan water was provided by a connection with Chicago mains at Garfield Avenue and Austin Boulevard. A sixteen inch main was from that point to Puscheck Road.
Numerous other improvements were reported in another area newspaper, The LaGrange Citizen:
A new store building was built at 1543 Westchester Boulevard (near the corner of Canterbury Street and Westchester Boulevard), so the Village rented the empty store and established its offices in it.1
Mr. Britten built a structure next door to his home. This building became the second village hall (photograph to the left) -- but the first village hall owned by the Village of Westchester.
The second village hall was located on Mannheim Road, just north of the viaduct. (Photograph by Charles N. Field)
The building waslater used for a business called Chintz and Prints, a thriving business in the 1950's and early 1960's. Eventually, the building was razed and a strip of office buildings took is place. (Photograph by Charles N. Field)
(A Britten handbill from the Village Election, April 18, 1931.)
The outstanding event of 1929 occurred on October 15, 1929 when the lights were turned on. Westchester looked like a "White City".
The first police car was anyone’s; they just hung a sign on the vehicle in use at that time. Policemen went to LaGrange at 7:30 a.m. and picked up the mail. As there were so few police calls, police also served as the mailmen. When the mail was slow, the police department got the calls.
In 1937 Reuben N. Nelson became President of Westchester.
In 1939 the Village Hall was on Westchester Boulevard, the same building which was later occupied by our Royal Blue Store. Reuben N. Nelson was the incumbent Village President. Originally the building was built for William Zelosky's Westchester real estate office. The structure has been designed by the architect Paul A. Olson. It had a thatched roof. Mr. Olsen's grandson, Jeffrey A. Koblish of North Barrington, grew up on the north side of Westchester and informed us of his grandfather's part in Westchester's history.
Photo by Charles Field
From this early start the population grew to 358 in the early 1930’s and to 620 in 1940. As of 1955 Westchester has a population of approximately 11,000. For current information seeCurrent Village Information.
nd Street for a round trip cost of twenty-five cents. The ‘L’ used the Aurora & Elgin tracks turning south on Bellwood Avenue and was planned to reach Wolf Road (and even futher), but these plans were never finalized. For more information on both the Westchester and Mount Carmel branches. (For more information see Westchester's Interurban.
The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad ran to LaGrange and the Aurora & Elgin stopped in Bellwood. Prior to 1926 the Mount Carmel 'funeral service line' ran along the northern edge of Westchester. Starting in 1926 after the opening of the Westchester Branch, a shuttle bus waited for trains and bought passengers to the corner of Wolf Road and Roosevelt. This service was used mainly in the Spring and Summer when people came out to visit the Mount Carmel and Oak Ridge Cemeteries.
Work started on the elevated line and the first ‘L’ came to Roosevelt Road October 1, 1926. Every twelve minutes a train was due, totaling 180 trains a day. Running time was thirty-eight minutes from the loop to Roosevelt Road. For every other train arriving at Roosevelt Road a shuttle car took them to Canterbury Street or 22
nd Street about 25th Avenue. Two children from Westchester graduated from this school in 1929. The children living north of Roosevelt Road went to a school (a portable one) located on Madison Street about two or three blocks east of Bellwood Avenue. As the Village grew the need for local schools became manifest and a school district was formed. Parts of four different districts were separated from their original districts – LaGrange Park, Bellwood, Hillside and Broadview and by action of the School Trustees of Proviso Township were consolidated and make up District 92½. District directors were elected on January 5, 1929. If District 92½ had not been formed, today’s Westchester children would have to attend to four different schools. The first schools in Westchester were:
Prior to the formation of one school district, the children went to two schools. Those from the south side of Roosevelt Road to the Peterson School which was located on 22
South side was in a home at 1623 Newcastle Avenue
North side was in the bungalow at 742 Newcastle Avenue
Britten School was dedicated on September 1, 1930 (named after Village President Grant N. Britten)
Nixon School and dedicated January 25, 1931 (named in honor of
In the Spring of 1931, a Westchester Parent Teacher Association was organized. The presidents have been as follows:
Mrs. Ingalls, 1931-1932
Mrs. Roberts, 1933
Stella Nelson, 1934-35
Mrs. Baker, 1936-1937
Mrs. Haupt, 1938-1939
Mrs. Smith, 1940-1941
Mrs. Uhlir, 1942-1943
While Mrs. Baker was President, the PTA sponsored and organized the Girl Scouts, the first troop being registered in March 1936. With help of the Village Board, arrangements were made to get membership cards at the Maywood Library. Children took the ‘L’ to Fifth Avenue and walked to Saint Charles Road.
Early Community Organizations
In the fall of 1930 a group of residents residing south of Roosevelt Road formed a Community Club; the meeting was first held in the apartment at 10307 Canterbury Street. It was to be a social club for the purpose of getting together periodically; visiting, playing cards and enjoying coffee and refreshments. A group on the north side of town had organized for a similar purpose. Prior to Christmas in 1930, it was decided to consolidate and have a joint Christmas party and a summer picnic. It was sponsored each year by the Community Club and in later years a Spring and Fall dance was added.
The Westchester Woman’s Club was also organized in 1930 with Miss C. Peebles as its first president.
The first newspaper was the "Westchester Tribune". It was printed in LaGrange by the LaGrange Citizen.
During the "Depression Era" weeds took over and there was little development. Most properties became delinquent, both in contract payments and taxes on the part of the buyer. This default included unpaid street assessments and other improvements.
Until the 1950's fire protection in Village of Westchester was served primarily by two organizations. Westchester had its own volunteer Fire Department until full-time personnel were hired around 1954. Before that year the Westchester volunteers worked along side the Maywood Fire Department in fighting the Village's fires. However, before and after 1954 the communities supported each other in much the same way as they do today. When a large fire is found it is not unusual for the multiple fire departments to respond to the alarm. To see more on the century old Maywood Fire Department's history please check the web page on this site for
Early Residents and Settlers
Development Efforts in Westchester
Early Village History By Charles N. Field
Some additional recommended background reading includes:
1The building that served as the first Village Hall was owned by the Hayward family. After the village hall had moved the Hayward family operated the store as the Hayward Grocery Store. In the late 1940s Robert Hintze, Sr. used the former village hall for his real estate office. It became the Royal Blue store (better known as Lindners) in the 1950s.
Letters and articles from the estate of Luella Seida
A Presentation by Mrs. E. Busch for a girl scout meeting February 16, 1955
The Westchester Tribune, April 20, 1927
Last Modified: 02/17/2007