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October 10, 2015
Hinsdale History and Architecture

The history of our Village can be traced back for more than a century. What we call "Hinsdale" today was once known as Brush Hill and later called Fullersburg. Hardy pioneers seeking higher ground came west from the shores of Lake Michigan, following the old Black Hawk Indian Trail, which led them to what is now DuPage County and the western edge of Cook County.

With great foresight, William Robbins, "The Father of Hinsdale," bought 6400 acres of land in 1862, and a village was born. One of the first things Robbins did was to plan and build streets, but equally important, he planted thousands of young shade trees. The name "Hinsdale" was established on April 3, 1873, and Judge Joel Tiffany was its first president. Hinsdale's population at that time was about 500; today, it is home to over 18,000 residents.

The hard work, planning, and tenaciousness of our Hinsdale forefathers has resulted in a cornucopia of loveliness; tree-shaded streets and a gracious and quite elegance. It can be said that more than a century later, the Village of Hinsdale has fulfilled nearly every dream its planners visualized.

Helping to maintain this rich heritage is the responsibility of today's Hinsdale. Surely a segment of that is a vital, self-supporting business community. Our residents have at their fingertips services of every nature. In this day of large shopping centers, and impersonal service, Hinsdale's businesses provide complete services in a warm, caring, and professional manner. Those hardy pioneers who envisioned a thriving community here would be pleased to know that their dreams have been handled with care from generation to generation, and that their village today successfully combines the charm of the past with the vitality of the future.

The stately Village offices and library welcome Hinsdalians new and old.

Today Hinsdale covers an area just under 5 square miles and can be found off of the intersections of Interstate Highway 294 (Tri-State Tollway) and U.S. Route 34 (Ogden Avenue) or Illinois Route 83 (Kingery Highway) and U.S. Route 34. Hinsdale is located in Downers Grove Township, with the Cook County portion located in Lyons Township, and the very northern edge of town located in York Township. Hinsdale is bordered on the east by the Village of Western Springs, on the north by the Village of Oak Brook, the west by the Village of Westmont and the Village of Clarendon Hills, and the south by the Village of Burr Ridge.

For more history, go to the Hinsdale Historical Society web site at: www.hinsdalehistory.org.

Hinsdale is an example of the upper middle-class railroad suburb that developed across the country from 1850 through 1880. Chicago, with a network of 11 separate railroad lines that entered the city from 1847 through 1861, had more than 100 railroad suburbs surrounding it by 1873. The railroad suburb has a distinctive landscape based on the picturesque English ideal of the country house set in a naturalistic, landscaped garden. Single-family homes were developed near rail stations to allow the wealthy to escape the ills of the city. Hinsdale is one of these railroad suburbs, founded in 1866 by William Robbins in anticipation of the location of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad's commuter line through the area in 1864.

As surveyors plotted the CB&Q rail line in 1862, Robbins purchased some 700 acres on either side of the right-of-way, which was about one mile south of what then was known as the town of Fullersburg, near present-day Ogden Avenue and York Road. Robbins built a summer home for himself in 1864, platted the original Town of Hinsdale which encompassed much of today's central (downtown) business district and the area immediately southwest of it to present-day Fourth and Sixth streets, and recorded the town with DuPage County in 1866. To encourage development, he subdivided and sold his land. Other developers and settlers came, and by 1873 the town had stores, a post office, hotel, schoolhouse, Baptist and Congregational churches and a population of 1,500.

The tree-lined streets in Hinsdale's nearly five square mile area basically are in a grid pattern, with north-south streets running perpendicular to east-west streets, except for north of Ogden Avenue and east of County Line Road where hilly and wooded terrain inspired curving streets, loops and cul-de-sacs. Lot sizes are largely uniform, although they vary in size depending on location, probably as a result of the original developer's plans for housing in the area.

The 1890s brought extensive improvements in the Village, including a bond issue for water works, a drainage system, electrical lines, paved streets, sidewalks and a newspaper. An article, "Hinsdale the Beautiful," in the November 1897 issue of Campbell's Illustrated Journal, showcased nearly 50 of Hinsdale's most impressive homes and did much to establish the village as one of the most desirable suburbs, as well as spur its continuing growth.

Hinsdale attracted industrious people of varying income levels, which is reflected in the wide range of architectural styles and vernacular and popular types that are abundant throughout the village. Indeed, Hinsdale is unique in this respect, as has been documented in various historical and architectural reports and surveys by the State of Illinois, DuPage County, the Village of Hinsdale and others in recent years. The village's architecture includes high-style buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (including Italianate, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Shingle Style, Prairie Style, Craftsman Bungalow, Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, French Eclectic, Tudor Revival, and Plan Book and Pre-Cut Catalog houses); 19th Century vernacular types (including Gable Front, Four Over Four, L-form, T-form and Upright and Wing houses); and 20th Century popular types (including American Foursquare, Bungalow, Classic Box, Ranch and Split-level houses).

Hinsdale's obvious attractions have long benefited it, to the point where its desirability has resulted in a sustained community wide redevelopment in recent years, sometimes at the expense of the very things that bring people to Hinsdale. Mindful of this, the Hinsdale Historic Preservation Ordinance was approved in April 2000, and the first Hinsdale Historic Preservation Commission was appointed the following month. Preservation is now policy in Hinsdale, and the village's unique historic and cultural assets have their own official advocate in the form of the Historic Preservation Commission.

In 2002, the Village of Hinsdale was designated as a Certified Local Government (CLG) through the National Parks Service. This program recognizes communities that have created historic preservation programs that meet minimum requirements. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) administers this federal program for the National Parks Service.

The designation as a Certified Local Government allows the Village the opportunity to apply for grant money for intensive survey work, public education and training. The Village received a grant to complete the Downtown Commercial Architectural Resource Survey in 2003.

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency also administers the following programs:

  • Property Tax Assessment Freeze for Historic Residences
  • Historic Preservation Tax Credits for Commercial Buildings
  • National Register of Historic Places

Sources: Town of Hinsdale Architectural Resources Survey, October 2001; Village of Hinsdale statistics and other data.
Please contact the Village Planner at (630) 789-7030 with any questions and for assistance in designating your home as a landmark.
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Updated: Friday, December 21, 2012 15:00