The Roots of Elmhurst
Elmhurst is made up of many different neighborhoods, some developed over a century ago. Here is the second in our series, “Elmhurst Neighborhoods,” that explores how these neighborhoods contributed to the rich tapestry of Elmhurst’s diverse history.
While not technically a subdivision, this section of Elmhurst is so rich in heritage, it will receive not one, but two reviews. This first installment will look at Elmhurst’s beginnings. Later we will look at the impressive cultural institutions that contribute to the very heart of the city.
Many of Elmhurst’s first families came from western New York state, and so what was originally called Brush Hills Road was soon changed to York Street, which serves as the eastern border of this historic neighborhood. The longest north-south street within Elmhurst, outside of town it is known as York Road.
At the northeast corner of St. Charles and Cottage Hill, a marker placed by the Martha Ibbetson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1936 commemorates the original site of the Cottage Hill Tavern, built in 1843 to serve travelers as they rode on St. Charles Road from Geneva to Chicago. The Tavern was moved to 413 South York Street by John Case in 1891, which allowed Frank Sturges to build his estate in 1893, an impressive gray marble home with trees, rare shrubs and a winding path and drive around it.
Traveling down York Street allows a view of what remains of the Sturgis house, two ancient looking pillars standing in a yard at the southwestern intersection of Elmwood and York. These pillars marked the entrance of the Sturges estate, which extended all the way to St. Charles Road. Originally named Broad Street, Elmwood Terrace was the northern boundary of the Frank Sturgess property. The name of the street was inspired by the beautiful elm trees growing there when it was sub-divided. Sturges Parkway, which runs parallel to York Street and for just one block north of St. Charles Road, takes its name from its former owner.
About a block north of the pillars, two schools have grown up together. The first public school in Elmhurst was built in 1888 at 145 Arthur Street.
Initially named Cottage Hill School, and then Elmhurst Grade School, the name was finally changed in 1905 to Hawthorne in honor of Nathanial Hawthorne, the novelist. In 1892, a two-year high school was added and later expanded to a four year school named Elmhurst High School, which was housed on the top floor of the grade school. In 1918, a large piece of property on St. Charles Road was purchased for a new high school after a fire destroyed the old school building. Hawthorne School was rebuilt as a grade school and in 2007, a massive renovation was approved.
In 1863, St. Mary’s was the first church built in Elmhurst. St. Mary’s burned down in 1898 and was rebuilt on a larger piece of land just south of the old location so that a school could be added. In 1900, the new Immaculate Conception school opened with 40 students in eight grades, run by two sisters and a postulant. As the school grew, the church bought the present property on York and Arthur Streets and a new building was eventually built. The current building was completed in 1929, and the school has undergone many changes since then, including setting a trend. Immaculate Conception High School was the first coeducational Catholic High School in DuPage County.
The properties in this area of Elmhurst hold both historic significance and contemporary amenities as they have been refurbished to reflect past glories and current requirements of the modern family. If you are interested in viewing homes in the area, use LW Reedy’s new MLS Mapping Search tool or contact a LW Reedy Agent for information on this, or any of Elmhurst’s wonderful neighborhoods.
Residents of this neighborhood are in the award winning Elmhurst School District 205 and would attend Hawthorne Grade School, Sandburg Middle School and York High School. Click here for more information on those schools and links to school reports and more.
We gratefully acknowledge all of the time and assistance the good people at Elmhurst Historical Museum provided in our research. They were, and will continue to be, an invaluable resource for this series.