History of Norwood Park

Norwood Park’s first settlers were Native Americans. Their trails are still evident as present-day Milwaukee Avenue and Higgins and Talcott Roads. In 1833, after the Black Hawk War, Mark and Margaret Noble and their family became the first non-indigenous settlers to move to the area, claiming more than 500 acres of land. They and subsequent farmers were attracted by the fertile prairie on high ground. Union Ridge, one of the highest points in Cook County, runs through Norwood Park.

The Chicago and North Western Railway built tracks through the area in the 1850s, thus providing a relatively quick and convenient route to Chicago for farmers and, later, for businessmen who commuted to downtown. In the mid 1860s, a group of Chicagoans formed the Norwood Land and Building Association, purchased several farms, subdivided them and platted a suburban village. Many of the investors, attracted by the open spaces, good water, and clean air, chose to live in Norwood Park. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, many more families were prompted to move to Norwood Park, away from the congested city.

The subdivision, originally named Norwood for a New England town in a Henry Ward Beecher novel, was renamed Norwood Park when it was discovered that another Norwood had already been established in Illinois. The first Norwood Park Post Office opened on January 3, 1870. Located at the southwest corner of Central and Chicago Avenues (Nina and Avondale Avenues), the Post Office was housed in Norwood Park’s first general store. Mail arrived by train and was taken to the store, where residents picked up their mail.

Residents of the subdivision and its immediate area, generally displeased with services provided by Jefferson Township, established the Township of Norwood Park in 1873. The township was composed of portions of four other townships: Jefferson, Leyden, Maine, and Niles. The Village of Norwood Park was incorporated in 1874. After nearly twenty years as an independent village, a special election was held on November 7, 1893, at which time voters approved annexation to the City of Chicago by a vote of 124 to 27.

Norwood Park was designed to be a park-like residential suburb with large lots, wide streets, and elegant single-family homes. One unusual feature is its curvilinear street pattern. A 1907 real estate sales brochure described Norwood Park as a place with “…proper living conditions, fresh air and sunshine, good surroundings, a healthy religious activity – we have five churches, and above all, no saloons.” By the 1920s, Norwood Park was a mature residential community. As the community evolved, the early Victorian homes were joined by Tudor, bungalow, and ranch style homes. Downtown Norwood Park is centered at Northwest Highway and Raven Street near the restored Chicago and North Western Railway (now Union Pacific Railroad) train station. Additional retail and commercial activities are located on Higgins Road, Harlem, and Milwaukee Avenues.

Norwood Park remains a quaint, picturesque community and lives up to the dreams of those early settlers who considered it an “ideal suburb.” The City of Chicago designated three houses in Norwood Park as Historical Landmarks: the Henry W. Rincker House on August 10, 1979 (“accidentally” demolished on August 20, 1980); the Noble-Seymour-Crippen House at 5622-5624 N. Newark Avenue on May 11, 1988; and the John Wingert House at 6231 N. Canfield on July 31, 1990. The Noble-Seymour-Crippen House was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 11, 2000; the Norwood Park train station was listed on February 9, 2001; the Norwood Park Historic District was listed on November 21, 2002; and the Passionist Fathers Monastery was listed on March 6, 2013.