Location: Berwyn, Illinois is a 90-year-old city located just eight miles west of Chicago’s Loop. With a population of approximately 47,500 citizens in an area of 3.8 square miles, Berwyn provides a diverse and affordable location for potential home and business seekers. Berwyn is bounded on the east by Lombard Avenue; on the north by Roosevelt Road (State Route 38), on the west by Harlem Avenue (State Route 43) and on the south by Pershing Road. Within the boarders of Berwyn, spanning from east to west, is an historic stretch of old Route 66 along Ogden Avenue (formerly Old Plank Road.)
History: This western suburb of Chicago was conceived in 1890 when William Andrews and Charles Piper, two Chicago attorneys who became realtors, started developing parcels of land in the area that was to become Berwyn. Steam engines were popular in the early 1890’s not only to cross long distances but to pull commuter trains as well. Andrews and Piper knew they would need a station so people could commute downtown.
The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad already had two stations nearby, one at either end of the settlement, and was reluctant to build a third in the middle of the swamp that the realtors called a community. However, Andrews and Piper wanted an in-town station because travel on unpaved roads was difficult. The railroad agreed to create a stop if Andrews and Piper would build a station. They agreed.
As a result, they had to come up with a name for the stop. They consulted with P.S. Eustis, general passenger agent for the railroad. Eustis had recently returned from a trip to Pennsylvania and was charmed by the community names there. He handed the realtors a timetable from a Pennsylvania railroad so they could get some ideas. Andrews and Piper liked the sound of Berwyn, the name of the small Philadelphia suburb, so they chose it. Berwyn was incorporated in 1902.
Architecture: Berwyn is filled with architecturally significant homes and boasts two historic districts, 12th Street and LaVergne Settlements, which were established as a result of the City’s “Century of Homes Award” by resident volunteers working with Mayor Thomas G. Shaughnessy. Berwyn has 320 homes identified as being 100 years or older. Berwyn won two “Governors’ Home Town Awards” and was a finalist in the “City Livability Award” by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Berwyn boasts the most significant collection of Chicago-style bungalows in the nation, built between the 1920’s and the 1940’s. The Berwyn Bungalow is a one-story structure with a basement, attic and two or three bedrooms. These homes were detailed with oak floors and stained glass windows. Some of these distinctive homes were built with terra cotta exteriors.
Government: Berwyn is a self-governing municipality with home rule power granted by the Illinois Constitution of 1970. Berwyn uses the Mayor-Council form of government, with some modifications, the principal being that Berwyn also has a Town Board. Therefore, Berwyn’s government is actually a co-extensive city and town.
The regular elected officers of the city are the Mayor, City Clerk, Treasurer, Aldermen, and President of Berwyn Township.
Education: Berwyn has two elementary school districts within its boundaries. District No. 98 educates the elementary student population of North Berwyn. Students attending North Berwyn schools reside in the area between Roosevelt Road (12th St.) and Cermak Road (22nd St.). The district has three K-6 grade elementary school facilities and a middle school for 6th through 8th graders.
School District No. 100 educates the K-8 grade population of South Berwyn. The district’s six elementary schools are responsible for the educational program of elementary students living between Cermak Road and Pershing Road (39th St.).
The two districts work cooperatively on various facets of the instructional program. They share a common goal: to provide sound basic education by concentrating on the fundamental skills of reading, writing, and mathematics as they prepare students to function in the 21st century.
Berwyn also has three kindergarten through eighth grade parochial schools: St. Leonard, St. Mary of Celle and St. Odilo.
J. Sterling Morton High School District No. 201 serves the communities of Berwyn, Cicero, Lyons, Stickney, Forest View, and McCook with two high school complexes, Morton East in Cicero and Morton West in Berwyn. The curriculum provides opportunities for both vocational and college preparatory courses plus a variety of extra-curricular activities including sports, music, and the arts.
Morton College in District 527, serves the communities of Berwyn, Cicero, Lyons, Stickney, Forest View, and McCook. Located in Cicero, Morton College provides Berwyn residents the opportunity to continue their education at a fully accredited community college noted for its quality education, small class size, personal atmosphere, and reasonable tuition rates. University transfer programs, career and technical programs, and continuing education courses are offered to meet the varying needs and goals of students.
Points of Interest: Cermak Plaza Shopping Center, located at Cermak Road and Harlem Avenue, is the city’s most concentrated area of retail activity. Built in the 1950s as one of the first shopping centers in the Chicago area, “The Plaza” is home to more than twenty retailers. A recent renovation project has added to its appeal as an attractive site ideally situated at one of the busiest intersections in the western suburbs. It also boasts a unique collection of modern outdoor artworks, which have provoked occasional controversy but continue to draw the curious, including many foreign visitors. The largest work, “The Spindle,” was featured in the motion picture “Wayne’s World” however, it was destroyed and taken down on May 2, 2008 to make room for a new Walgreens store.
Library: Library services for Berwyn residents include the loan of books, periodicals, video tapes, audio tapes, and compact discs; the housing of a Czech language special interest book collection, Spanish books, and textbooks for Berwyn schools.
Located opposite the main entrance, the Friends of the Library Shoppe features a selection of used books. Coffee, tea, and small gift items are also available.
Shopping: Berwyn’s principal commercial area is Cermak Road (2200 S), extending across the breadth of the city from Lombard Avenue (6200 W) to Harlem Avenue (7200W). One of the longest stretches of continuous commercial activity in the Chicago area, Cermak Road features a wide array of retail and service businesses, from national chains to locally owned specialty stores. The entire spectrum of retail and business categories are represented here, including ethnic bakeries, gift shops, full service financial institutions, and fine restaurants. Each October, Cermak Road celebrates the contributions and traditions of its Czech population with a week-long “Houby Festival” culminating in one of the area’s largest parades.