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Chicago Heights, Illinois

Chicago Heights Train StationIn around 1891, Chicago real estate developer Charles Wacker led a group wishing to establish Chicago Heights as an industrial suburb of the city. Having gained the support of large-scale industry giants like Inland Steel, and with the building of the grand Louis Sullivan designed Hotel Victoria, the community began to expand rapidly.

On May 20, 1901, many Chicago Heights residents signed a petition asking for the mayor and aldermen to select a board of directors that would be responsible for founding and running a free public library in Chicago Heights. On June 28, 1901, the first library board members were sworn in, including Sam W. Lea, F.W. Schact, W.E. Canady, James Bowie, David Wallace, Joseph Caldwell, C.W. Salisbury, A.J. Sorensen, and A.W. McEldowney. The library was opened in a small room in the new city building on February 20, 1902. That month, the library board wrote to industrialist Andrew Carnegie seeking funds to build a library building in Chicago Heights. In July, the board was notified that Carnegie had proposed $15,000 toward the cost of a library building as long as the city could provide a free site for the building and if the council could promise $1,500 a year to keep the library running. The Carnegie Library in Chicago Heights was designed by Richard E. Schmidt. The library was located at 1627 Halsted Street and opened on September 11, 1903, with a staff of two and 1,643 volumes. A bigger library was eventually needed, and on August 5, 1972, the present building at 15th Street and Chicago Road was opened. The Chicago Heights Free Public Library was a million-dollar building that opened with 60,000 books, records, and other materials.

By the year 1920 Chicago Heights' population was just over 19,600 residents. Italian, Polish, American American, Lithuanian and Irish workers quickly flocked to the East Side and Hill neighborhoods to be near to the heavy industries.

Retail outlets flourished in the downtown area with banking, transportation and entertainment gaining steam in the burgeoning community of rural settlers.

In 1916 the Lincoln Highway Association routed the first transcontinental highway through the city, dubbing it “the Crossroads of the Nation.”

Ford Transmissions PlantSteel, chemical and war materials were chief exports of Chicago Heights factories around the 1940s. During World War II residential expansion to the north and west sections of the city increased rapidly. And a new Ford stamping plant in the 1950s created jobs for the entire community.

Bloom Township High School was also recognized at that time for sports and academics.

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