The first residents of this region were the Potawatomi Indians who settled in the Chicago area in the eighteenth century.
They found this land to be fertile and rich in natural resources and established relationships with French fur traders. After the Black Hawk War, the Potawatomi relinquished their lands in Eastern Illinois and Yankee settlers from New England and upstate New York began arriving in the area in the 1830’s. Our first unit of local government was Maine Township, a name suggested by Joseph Mitchell, an earlier settler from Maine. The Township was officially organized in April of 1850. Most prominent among these early people was Captain Mancel Talcott, Sr., who built a log cabin on the west bank of the Des Plaines River just north of the intersection with current-day Touhy Avenue. His cabin also served as the second Post Office in the entire Chicago area, and Mancel Talcott Sr. was our first Postmaster at that location, beginning in 1837.
Early settler George Penny, along with business partner Robert Meacham, opened a brickyard in 1854 in the vicinity of Meacham, Elm and Grand Blvd, and the community was known as Pennyville. At Penny’s request, the name was changed to Brickton in 1857, and our community experienced growth when a new railroad depot opened and there was an influx of new residents in the aftermath of the Chicago Fire.
By 1873 the population of Brickton was 405, and when the residents voted to incorporate that year, the village was renamed Park Ridge with George Carpenter as our first village president. Over the next decades, as Park Ridge established its identity as a residential community, its leaders sought to develop the look of a traditional New England town, with large homes on wide lots and a profusion of trees. Apartment buildings were banned and industrial development discouraged.
A large grammar school was built in 1893 on the site of the present public library and a high school district was formed in 1902. In 1898, Andrew Carnegie donated $7500 to fund a library, which opened in 1913.
Citizens grew impatient to replace unpaved streets and plank sidewalks and expand the inadequate sewer system and formed a political group to push for improvements and change to a city form of government in 1910. Albert J. Buchheit was elected the first mayor and presided at the first City Council meeting on July 7, 1910. Park Ridge was advertised as “A Restoring Place of Health & Vigor” and “The Recreation Place of the Tired & Worn Out.” A community of artisans, sculptors, printers and musicians was established in the early twentieth century and the city was home to many famous artists who helped define innovation and entrepreneurship in the arts, including Clara Barck Welles of the Kalo Shop, Albert and Dulah Evans Krehbiel of the Ridge Crafts, Alfonso Iannelli of Iannelli Studios and others.
Park Ridge experienced a major building boom during the 1910s and ’20s. City dwellers discovered the pleasant surroundings and convenient commuter trains. The population ballooned to 10,417 in 1930. The Pickwick Theatre, “suburban Chicago’s most beautiful theatre” with its famous interior art and design by Alfonso Iannelli, opened in 1928.
The depression of the 1930s halted the boom. During the 1940s, some housing for war-industry workers was built. However, significant expansion of Park Ridge did not begin until the 1950s, as part of America’s postwar suburbanization. Aiding the growth was the opening of nearby O’Hare Airport, as well as the construction of two tollways and the Northwest (now Kennedy) Expressway.
As its population grew, Park Ridge encouraged office development and allowed a limited number of apartment buildings. Lutheran General Hospital relocated from Chicago in 1959, and a second high school (Maine South) opened in 1964.
In 1999, the process for creating the Uptown project began and from 2002-2009 the Residences & Shops of Uptown were developed consisting of retail commercial space and residential townhouses, row houses, lofts units and condominiums. Park Ridge entered the twenty-first century as a mature, upper-middle-class residential suburb.