Willowbrook Local History
On January 18, 1960, Willowbrook incorporated with a population of 167 residents from the Ridgemoor Homeowners Association. Today, the Village has a population of over eight thousand and is home to a new shopping development. As the Village continues to grow it is important to preserve and celebrate its past. A committee has planned events throughout the year to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. The committee has also published Commemorate and Celebrate a book with photos, articles and shared memories of Willowbrook’s past. The booklet Commemorate and Celebrate is a great starting place to discover the Village’s history. For a more “official” history of Willowbrook, view the online entry in The Encyclopedia of Chicago. For another look at Willowbrook history, read the Trib article “A burb where stereotypes haven’t found a home.”
Capturing the history of Willowbrook in the words of its ordinary residents brings the story of this community alive. The following entries are several of these “reminiscences.” We hope you will contribute your stories to the collective memory of Willowbrook as it celebrates its anniversary.
- Arabian Knights Farms
- Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket
- First Mayor Anton “Tony” Borse
- Gone, but not forgotten
- Hinsdale Animal Cemetery
- Lake Hinsdale Village
- Marian Hills Seminary
- Remembering Willowbrook
- Reminiscences from Golfview Hills
- The Knolls Condominiums
- Village Hall and Police Department
- Willowbrook Public Library District
- Willowbrook’s 50th Anniversary
Arabian Knights Farms
Tucked away along Clarendon Hills Road in Willowbrook, Arabian Knights Farms has survived the onslaught of suburban sprawl. Owner Liz Hulka-Vena grew up on the property where her parents Robert and Irene Hulka managed a produce farm. Liz remembers selling sweet corn for 10 cents an ear from the farm’s driveway along unpaved Clarendon Hills Road. Her father would sometimes exchange bread from his Chicago bakery for grain from the Marian Hills Seminary farm. In the 1980s Liz and her husband Michael Vena purchased the property which they gradually transformed into a well-known horse farm and training facility.
Liz’s dream to raise and train horses began when she was 17 and she received a horse as a gift from her father. The next year he purchased a horse for her cousin so Liz, who was the youngest of five children, would have a riding companion. Arabian Knights Farms provides breeding, training, and boarding for Arabian and American Saddlebred horses as well as boarding for other horses and ponies. With room to board up to 60 horses, the farm also has four tack rooms, a heated wash rack, and a 24 hour surveillance and security system. The property includes a 1/8th mile race track, sand track, exercise pens, and an 80 by 170 foot indoor riding arena.
Instructors teach Hunt Seat, Western, Saddle Seat, Dressage, Halter, and horsemanship classes. Trainers will not push a horse or a client or beyond their comfort zone; students are taught respect for each other and for the horses. The owners and staff are committed to building family relationships through horse training and ownership—“[t]he farm is dedicated to the youth, amateur owners, and families involved with the horses, hoping to help families stay close.” “Clippety-clop Arabian Knights Farms adds country to suburbs” Suburban Life, June 30, 1999. Over the years Arabian Knights Farms has partnered with 20 park districts in the surrounding communities to offer horsemanship classes to over 12,000 students.
A variety of farm animals are also part of the Arabian Knights family including three goats, three sheep, one burrow, two miniature horses, exotic birds, ducks, and geese. Many of these animals are part of the petting zoo. The owners’ love for animals and nature is evident throughout the farm. The horses and other farm animals are treated as members of the family and the facilities are exceptionally clean.v
Arabian Knights Farms is very involved in the local community and in extending the healing power of horses to those in need. The farm played a significant role in young Amanda Wiskup’s recovery from cancer. Amanda originally received free lessons at Arabian Knights through the Make a Wish Foundation, and when that funding expired Liz and Michael Vena continued to provide Amanda with free lessons. The owners have also partnered with St. Thomas Hospice to offer Tommy’s Kids Camp, a bereavement camp for children who have lost loved ones.
To support the horse farm and training facility, the owners also manage Arabian Knights Farms Entertainment a popular venue for conferences, seminars, family parties, and weddings. The secluded grounds offer a perfect spot to escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life and reconnect with nature. The 10 acre property includes two ponds, an outdoor aviary, a screened cedar gazebo, and a popular petting zoo. A heated party “Barn” with a large dance floor is available to rent.
*In 2015, Pulte Homes purchased Arabian Knights Farms and built the upscale Carrington Club subdivision on the property.
Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket
Route 66’s mystique has captivated people for years and has spawned many road trips. Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket is Willowbrook’s claim to Route 66 fame. According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago: “In 1946 the ‘Nationally Famous Chicken Basket’ opened, attracting drivers along the busy highway by installing a rooftop skating rink complete with professional ice skaters. Inside, big-name bands played music while customers peered out picture windows to watch helicopters take off from Hinsdale Airport. Dell Rhea bought the restaurant in 1963, renaming it Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket.”
Read the Chicago Tribune article “Route 66 Motels Checking Out” to discover more about this nostalgic restaurant that also serves great chicken!
First Mayor Anton “Tony” Borse
Stop by the Village Hall and pick up your copy of the 50th Anniversary booklet Commemorate. and Celebrate. It’s hard to imagine, but 50 years ago the Village Board met in the Borse’s basement and Mrs. Borse (Florence) served as the assistant village clerk. In 1985 The Doings published Donna Farina’s interview with Mr. Borse for Willowbrooks’s 25th anniversary: Borse, the Village’s Founding Father.
Mr. Borse was the President of Borse Plastics which was one of the Village’s
largest employers. In 1984, he was awarded Willowbrook’s Citizen of the Year award. For more information about Mr. Borse’s contributions, read Village Mourns Death of Founding President from the Village of Willowbrook ‘s March/April 1994 newsletter.
Gone, but not forgotten
During the past several years, the Village of Willowbrook has said good-bye to several longstanding businesses. The lure of the “blue light” special ended for local shoppers when the Kmart at 840 Plainfield Road closed its doors in 2013. Three retail sites: Pete’s Fresh Market, Steinmart, and Ulta will replace the former store. Dominick’s, which had been in business at 63rd Street and Route 83 since 1987, shut down in 2013 as part of Safeway’s restructuring, and Whole Foods relocated its store to the vacant building.
Pizza lovers mourn the loss of Phillies Pizza, which closed on November 21, 2015, after 29 years of serving pizza to locals. The increase in rent at the renovated Hinsdale Lake Commons shopping center was too much for the business.
When owners Liz Hulka-Vena and Michael Vena decided to retire, they had hoped to sell their enchanting horse farm and entertainment business to someone who shared their love of horses and animals. With no takers, Pulte Home Corporation purchased the property and built 29 homes in the upscale Carrington Club subdivision. Liz Hulka-Vena grew up on the property and purchased her parents’ produce farm in 1980 to create her dream of woning a horse farm and training center. Read more about the history of Arabian Kinights Farms and view photos. on Flickr.
In July 14, 2016, the popular Willowbrook Lanes at 735 Plainfield Road closed unexpectedly due to the owner, Lou Viren Jr.’s, illness. The iconic sign with the large bowling pin said “Closed, Thank you for the memories.” Tyler Hook, who grew up bowling at Willowbrook Lanes, quickly contacted the owner and paid over $5,000 for the giant bowling pin sign to add to his collection. [Fornek, K. (2016 September 8) Soon there may be no sign of Willowbrook Lanes. Chicago Tribune. chicagotribune.com] Bowlers sadly stopped by to pick up their gear and say good-bye, and summer leagues had to find another bowling alley to finish the season.
Viren’s father, Louis Viren, Sr., built the bowling alley in March 1963, and used partners and investors to open the business. In 1983, Viren bought out his partners, and his son Louis Viren, Jr. managed the business. Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears was one of the original investors. Ditka received 12 1/2 percent of the profits in return for the use of his name. Ditka and his football friends frequently stopped by to drink at the bar. On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1963, several weeks after the Chicago Bears won the NFL championship, Ditka, his friends and their wives, decided to ring in the New Year at Willowbrook Lanes. Unfortunately, the evening ended tragically for Tony Parrilli, one of Ditka’s friends. He died after being shot accidentally by Willowbrook Chief of Police Robert Winthers as he tried to break up a fight in the washroom. [Keteyian, Armen. Ditka: Monster of the Midway. New York: Pocket Books. 1992.]
Hinsdale Animal Cemetery
Bill and Nancy Remkus are the third generation of the Remkus family toown the Hinsdale Animal Cemetery located on 64th Street and Bentley Avenue in Willowbrook, Illinois. In 1950, George Remkus and his father-in-law William Dykema purchased the cemetery from George’s friend John Stankowicz. In 1930, Stankowicz became the cemetery’s second owner; the cemetery was established in 1926 on 7 acres in what was then Clarendon Hills, Illinois.
The Cemetery is now twelve acres and offers private burials in a wooden box or pet casket, private or memorial cremations, granite monuments and headstones, and other memorials. Two visitation rooms are available for owners who want to say a final good-bye before the cremation. Some headstones are simple, others elaborate, and some have touching inscriptions. About 30 people have their cremated remains buried with their pets’ at the Cemetery. Watch the informational YouTube video to learn more about the Cemetery’s history and services.
One of the Cemetery’s most memorable monuments is the iron statue John Stankowicz built for his dog Arap, a shepherd retriever mix. Arap died when his warning bark alerted the Stankowicz family of the encroaching Communist militia. Stankowicz and his family escaped from the militia and immigrated to the United States. The inscription on Arap’s memorial reads “He gave up his life that a human might live. Greater love hath not man.”
Perhaps, the most touching story is that of Karla I and her owner Bernice Clifton. Ms. Clifton lost her vision in her ‘20s in 1938 and could no longer work as a successful window designer. When Bernice learned of the Seeing Eye program at Morristown, New Jersey, she applied to the program. Only after meeting the program’s strict admission standards, and earning the $150 required for the dog, did she receive Karla her Seeing Eye dog. When Bernice and Karla returned to Oak Park, they became well known and Bernice began her career as a lecturer. In 1951, Bernice’s lawyer Jerome Simon made their story known internationally in his book Sight Unseen: How Bernice Clifton Discovered the Value of a Handicap. Over three thousand people attended Karla I’s funeral service held at the Cemetery. At the service Bernice said: “My life was not changed through blindness. It was just a continuation with Karla as my eyes. She did more for me than any human could. She kept me from being a blind person.”
Trix, the last surviving dog of the 16 that served overseas with Coast Guard in World War II is also buried in the Cemetery. A war hero, Trix, cleared out enemy snipers while on beach patrol and guard duty on Guam, Okinawa, and the Philippines. Toni Colone, an Airedale, died in 1926 a veteran of World War I. Tippy, a show dog, is also buried in the Cemetery.
Although the majority of pets buried in the Cemetery are dogs, the Cemetery also has cats, birds, horses, turtles, rabbits, and a monkey. View the Hinsdale Animal Cemetery set on Flickr for more photos and stories.
Lake Hinsdale Village
In 1966, a truly unique design for a plot of farmland was created by Kyle G. Benkert, a cum laude Harvard trained architect. His initial vision of a community of single and multifamily residences built around a 13 acre lake included twin towers of 30 to 40 stories, a city hall for the 9 year old community of Willowbrook, and a 30,000 square foot commercial center. By early 1967, Benkert’s dream became a detailed scale model used with his successful request for zoning and annexation by Willowbrook.
Benkert needed a source of funds and he found Alfred Hoffman, a Hinsdale resident. Hoffman saw the plan as a way of putting his construction firm, Tekton Corporation, on the map. Soon he had a commitment from U.S. Gypsum for $3.5 million. He and Kyle were in business and the Kingery Project, later called Lake Hinsdale Village, was on its way.
On March 24, 1969, the zoning and annexation request was approved by Willowbrook, clearing the way for purchasing the property from the Marian Fathers. Building began in October of that year. The lake had to be dredged and the clubhouse, swimming pool and other amenities had to be built as well as bridges, streets, and sidewalks.
By January 1971, the first of 200 planned townhouses were finished and residents began moving in. By mid-summer a number of the town-houses along the southeast shore of the lake were occupied. Condo A was completed and sold out and Condo B was soon to be.
The 1970’s were exciting and busy years for residents as the population grew at an accelerating rate. In one month alone, there were ten cocktail parties, four Sunday brunches, and a gala Oktoberfest. Residents volunteered as clubhouse attendants, gardeners, and even street repairmen. The LHV Athletic Club was organized and annual Superstar events attracted wide participation. As Tekton relinquished control of the subdivisions, residents became more and more involved in governing and controlling their enterprise. Lake erosion became a major problem and was solved with rip-rap and gabions. Master Board members also learned about trapping rabbits in order to save trees during the harsh winter of 1979.
In early 1981, the Clubhouse was showing major signs of wear and tear from 10 years of heavy use. A phased in plan for redecorating was completed over three years. The ladies of the Village assembled and published the first LHV cookbook. Also, the Village Thespians created and produced two variety shows which played to full house crowds.
In the mid 80’s there was some concern about the approval of a shopping center north of the village but concerns vanished as the project proceeded. In 1988 residents learned that the popular swimming pool, at age 18 needed complete refurbishing. This project was completed without lost swimming time.
Suddenly LHV was twenty years old. It was time to look back with gratitude to the many presidents, board members, and committee members who worked long and hard to make LHV, as its motto states, “All that Life Should Be….and More.”
October 20, 1990
View the updated History of Lake Hinsdale Village 1969-2019.
Marian Hills Seminary
On August 24, 1922, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception purchased a 220 acre farm in DuPage County. The purchase included 40 head of cattle and a flock of chickens. The farm’s rural location and its proximity to a train station made it an ideal site on which to build a Catholic school for the sons of Lithuanian immigrants who lived in Chicago and the surrounding area. The Marian Fathers established Marian Hills College (known briefly as the Lithuanian College of America) for novices and young men interested in joining the Congregation of the Marian Fathers. As the enrollment grew, the DuPage location could no longer accommodate the growing student body, and the college was relocated to Connecticut.
The Marian Fathers continued to run the farm and operate a boys’ summer camp until the early 1970s when developers purchased the land. The Seminary’s 220 acres extended north to 59th Street, south to 67th Street, east to Clarendon Hills Road, and west to Route 83 in what is now Willowbrook. From 1950 to 1962, the Seminary chapel served over 2,000 parishioners of St. Mary’s Parish (renamed Our Lady of Peace in 1982). Those who attended services at the Seminary remember the beautiful tree-lined entry which ended in a circular drive at the building’s entrance. The construction of St. Mary’s church and school in December 1962 as well as the Congregation’s need for funds prompted the Marian Fathers to sell the property to developers. Willowbrook subdivisions such as the Knolls, Lake Hinsdale Village, Stanhope Square and the Hinsdale Commons shopping center now occupy land that was formerly part of the Seminary.
by Judy Thompson
Frank and Marilyn Zimmerman moved to Ridgemoor West in 1959. They lived on Quincy Drive which was one of only 3 houses on a 40-acre unincorporated field. Route 83 was only a two- lane blacktop road.
Marilyn remembers hearing cows mooing in the morning around what is now Lake Hinsdale Village. Frank recalls the fun his children (two boys and a girl) had fishing and ice skating on “their” hidden pond, which is now a lake bordering Stanhope Square and the Knolls.
On May 29, 1961, a year after Willowbrook was incorporated, Governor Otto Kerner commissioned Frank to be a Police Magistrate for the Village of Willowbrook. As Justice of the Peace, he was authorized to perform marriages. Frank fondly remembers marrying 16 or 17 couples in his living room which his “kids really enjoyed. They would collect cans and then tie them to the bride and groom’s car and watch as the car drove off. It was great fun for them.”
When Donald Schultz was Village President, Frank was elected Village Trustee on May 1, 1969 to April 30, 1973 and re-elected to the office from May 1, 1973 to April 30, 1977.
One of his favorite recollections was being able to play Santa Claus. Loretta Mourecek, assistant village secretary, would play Mrs. Claus. All decked out in their bright red outfits and sitting in an Oldsmobile convertible, donated by Tabor Olds with a police car and fire truck leading the parade, they would wind their way through the growing population of Ridgemoor, distributing plastic Santas and other toys made by Borse Plastics, to the children. Tony and Florence Borse donated the toys and other goodies. The Santa “couple” did this for seven or eight years and Frank said everyone had a wonderful time.
Some of the Zimmermans’ other memories include popular spots to eat, like Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket and Fredens.
They remember Fredens being a house on Madison Street near Ruth Lake, where home cooking was served. The owners made a restaurant out of their living room and dining room and an area in back of the house. The wife was known for making great pies. Her husband managed the bar in the basement. “All tasty home cooking”.
Another restaurant they recall is the Country Kitchen, which was on Frontage Road near Dell Rheas. They said the restaurant specialized in Bohemian cooking and people would come for roast duck, sauerkraut and dumplings. It was a small building that is no longer there.
Going south on Madison, close to 90th, was Butch Sass’ Turkey Farm, a popular place especially around Thanksgiving, where you could go and buy a fresh turkey. Every year there would be a “Turkey Shoot” and a raffle would be held in the barn complete with a large spinning wheel to give out the prize–a free turkey. Frank said the fresh turkey sandwiches they served were delicious.
Other recollections are of a poultry store on Route 83 near where Baker’s Square now stands, that only sold chickens and eggs.
Then there was Kobel’s Tavern and grocery store before it became the Country House Restaurant.
On 63rd Street near Clarendon Hills Road, stood Joe and Sophie’s greenhouse. Along with their daughter and twin sons, the couple sold flowers, tomato plants, peppers and other vegetables. Joe and Sophie knew every plant they sold and were always willing to offer suggestions regarding planting and potting. Sunrise Assisted Living of Willowbrook now occupies the property.
Marilyn remembers Gower School on Frontage Road, east of Madison. She said it was the only grade school serving the community at that time. Part of the building is still there.
Besides being a Willowbrook Trustee, Frank owned his own insurance agency in Western Springs and also served as a volunteer fireman and paramedic. He is proud of the plaque his received in 1988 from the Fire and Rescue Service acknowledging his years of distinguished service and loyalty to the Village of Western Springs where he was a volunteer for 30 years.
Frank and Marilyn now make their home in Stanhope Square where Frank serves as Vice President on the condominium board.
Reminiscences from Golfview Hills
Special thanks to the Golfview Hills Woman’s Club and especially to Jan Kaminski and Ann Diedrich for sharing some of their memories of Golfview Hills and the surrounding area which includes Willowbrook.They recall back in the olden days (mid 50’s) when you could almost forget your alarm clock. The roosters living across Route 83 regularly gave them a wake-up call.
Hinsdale Airport was located at 75th Street between Madison and Route 83. Small planes could be seen coming in for a landing or taking off over Route 83. The area later became a heliport and an industrial park.Over the years there have been many sightings around the streets of Golfview Hills. Astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth was seen jogging while a guest of one of the residents.
Among the others who have graced their shores was Rich King, sports announcer for Channel 9, and Paul Malloy Sr., Sun Times reporter and author of “Eight Is Enough”, which was based on his family. They remember the landmark Fredens Restaurant, site of several of their chili suppers, which was sold and razed to make way for the Ashbury Woods condominiums at Madison and 58th Streets. Godair Retirement Home at 63rd and Madison was torn down and those residents moved to King Bruwaert Retirement Home. Those who owned individual homes in Godair Park remained. The rest of the area is now Ruth Lake Woods condominiums.
A tragic event was the crash of a Trans World Airlines plane into a cornfield across Route 83 near 59th Street and Clarendon Hills Road. The Lockheed L-049 Constellation, named “Star of Dublin” was about nine miles west of Midway Airport when it went down at 2:07 a.m. on September 1, 1961 killing all seventy-three passengers and the crew of five.According to the New York Times of September 2, 1961, the crash was the fourth worst in United States air history and the worst single-plane disaster in United States commercial aviation.
The plane (a four-engine piston plane) had taken off from Midway Airport and was headed for Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It crashed only four minutes after takeoff. According to reports, the plane swooped to earth fast at a steep angle. No houses were hit. The New York Times’ article of September 28, 1961 reported that the Civil Aeronautics Board believed the cause of the accident to be a missing bolt vital to the operation of the hydraulic control system. TWA officials reported that the bolt had been lost on impact when the plane hit the ground.
Most early settlers in Golfview Hills remember that rainy night. Many were awakened when their bedrooms lit up as though it were daylight; and as the light faded to darkness, the sirens began and continued for a long, long time. For days after the crash traffic was congested with cars parking along Route 83 and people walking across the field to view the disaster.
The Knolls Condominiums
The property of The Knolls Condominiums has a long history dating back to the Marian Hills Seminary. In the early 1970’s, the Seminary sold the property to an apartment complex developer and in 1974 through 1975 the Knolls Apartments were built. The Knolls Apartments were converted into a condominium property in 1979, with 600 units housed in 25 residential buildings, the population at any give time ranges from 900 to 1,000 people.
The Knolls has the unique status of being self-managed operating and maintaining approximately 29 acres, 2 miles of sidewalks, 2 swimming pools, a clubhouse and tennis courts. Our residents still enjoy the historical efforts of the Franciscan monks who planted an apple orchard, a pear orchard and promenade walks that represent our current mature trees.
Over the years, The Knolls has grown, changed and developed in conjunction with the Village of Willowbrook.
Village Hall and Police Department
The Village of Willowbrook has come a long way in its 50 years. The evolution of Village Hall captures this growth. If you’ve read the entry “First Mayor Anton “Tony” Borse,” then you know that from 1960 to 1965 the Village Board met at 508 Ridgemoor—the Borse residence. Eventually, the Village offices moved out of the Borses’ basement to a brick bungalow near 72nd and Madison Street in unincorporated Hinsdale.
Thanks to Debbie Hahn of the Willowbrook Police Department who shared this interesting history of the first Village Hall and the Police Department:
The first Village Hall was an old brick bungalow near 72nd Street and Madison Street in unincorporated Hinsdale, Illinois. The offices were on the first floor of the house and the file room for the Village files was the bath tub. The Police Department was in the basement of the house and one of the basement posts was used to handcuff prisoners to it. If the Police were called out on an emergency, they would yell and the office staff would have to bend over so that the officer can jump over them to get out the door in a quick manner.
The Village Hall, as it stands today, has been expanded four times. The Administration offices, police department, parks department and public works were all housed in the new building. The front used to be where the employee kitchen currently is. The police department took up an area toward the northwest corner of the building, separated from the general office area by a heavy metal door. This area held offices for the chief of police, a detective, a small patrol room, an office which was shared by the police secretaries and included the evidence closet. Prisoners were kept in a locked cell which now is used as a supply closet. Finger printing and processing was completed in the common area by these offices.
In 1981, the Village Hall was expanded to include a council chamber, lobby and a new police department. Years later the police department was expanded to include more offices and now it houses a men’s and women’s locker room, an evidence locker, updated cells and holding area, interview rooms and a patrol room.
The public works department included several garage bays and a salt shed in the back of the village hall. In 2009, a new Public Works garage and salt dome were constructed on the property near the Village’s standpipe on Willowbrook Centre Parkway. The former public works area is being utilized for onsite record storage. When the Village Hall was expanded to include a new police department, the parks and recreation department was able to utilize its old space.
Reprinted from the Preface of 1960-2010 50th Anniversary Commemorate and Celebrate.
Willowbrook Public Library District
In 1978, Village President Edwin Schmittschmitt appointed a committee to investigate creating a public library. The committee included Melissa Gregory, Harriet Dewey, Blanche Jaros, Matthew Stala, and Secretary Karen Kesner. The Village of Willowbrook needed 12, 000 taxpayers to qualify for federal funds to create a public library district. After the City of Darien and the Village of Burr Ridge rejected Willowbrook’s invitation to jointly form a library district, in 1979 the committee received a $77,000 Project Plus Project grant for a trial library. Since the Project Plus grant required a tax base of 15,000 people, the Village included some unincorporated areas as part of the library district. The grant stipulated that a referendum on the establishment of a tax-supported library had to be held the in November 1980.
The “project” library opened April 16, 1980 at 305 West 75th Street in the Willow Commons Shopping Center with a book collection of 3,500volumes and a professional staff. The library was open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The demonstration library was a success, and in November 1980 residents approved the creation of the Willowbrook Public Library District. Subsequent referendums in April 1981 and in November 1981, successfully annexed additional adjoining unincorporated areas.
The City of Darien also received a grant for a demonstration library which led to the Darien Public Library District. The Willowbrook and Darien Public libraries were within one mile of each other, were in storefront locations, and were struggling financially. On July 1, 1988, the libraries merged to become the Indian Prairie Public Library District. Although Mr. SchmittSchmitt’s initial efforts to combine library services was rejected, he correctly predicted that “some day, residents of Burr Ridge, Willowbrook, and Darien . . . will join together to form a joint library system.” Suburban Life August 24, 1979.
Willowbrook’s 50th Anniversary
On October 26, 2011, the Village of Willowbrook received the Governor’s Home Town Award for History and Historic Preservation. The Village received the award for the community-wide activities that it offered throughout 2010 to celebrate and commemorate its 50th Anniversary. In December 2009, the Village installed 25 banners throughout Willowbrook which displayed the Village’s new logo and the “Commemorate and Celebrate” slogan. The 50th Anniversary celebration was initiated with the Birthday Bash held at the Village Hall, 7760 Quincy Street from 1 to 4 pm.
The Birthday Bash included tours of Village Hall, entertainment for children, Cloe the Clown, music, and birthday cakes. Visitors also had a chance to meet current and past Village officials. FOX Chicago News sportscaster Corey McPherrin and meteorologist Tammie Souza were special guests. Unique Balloon Decorating decorated the hall with orange and green balloons. Whole Foods and Dominick’s donated birthday cakes, Starbucks donated coffee, and Binny’s Beverage Depot provided soda and water.
Willowbrook’s 50th Anniversary Family Fun Day
The second community-wide 50th Anniversary celebration was a Family Fun Day held June 26, 2010 held at Willow Pond, Plainfield and Adams. The day began with a Fun Run at 9:30 am of 1.8 miles from Village Hall to Willow Pond. Activities included a free cookout, chess games sponsored by the Willowbrook Chess Club, a Kiwanis’s sponsored bean bag toss, and a fishing derby. At 2 pm the 50th Anniversary Committee buried a time capsule which will not be uncovered until 2035 at Willowbrook’s 75th Anniversary.
Willowbrook’s 50th Anniversary Dickens of a Holiday
The final event of the year-long anniversary was a Dickens of a Holiday held on December 4, 2010 from 1 to 4 pm at Willowbrook Town Center. Clovers Nursery donated Christmas trees for Willowbrook Town Center. Area school children made ornaments to decorate the trees. On the half hour, carolers from Hinsdale South High School Choir and Madrigal singers, Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church choir, and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church choirs entertained the guests. Many merchants offered coupons, giveaways, and sponsored activities. Lassak Market and Deli, Jimmy John’s and Whole Foods provided treats such as hot apple cider, candy canes, and hot chocolate. A horse drawn carriage took people for rides. Santa Claus set up shop in an empty storefront where residents dropped off food and clothing for the Our Lady of Peace food pantry. Children wrote and mailed their letters to Santa Claus. The day ended with Village President Robert Napoli lighting the Christmas tree at 5 p.m.