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Exceptional Elmhurst

Historic city comes of age as destination for shopping, art, dining

Published: Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 4:19 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:51 a.m. CDT

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A close-knit community that ’ s both a family-friendly suburb and a college town, Elmhurst has plenty to offer.

“ It has a hometown feel, but with all the amenities you ’ d expect from a busy metropolitan area, ” says John Quigley, an Elmhurst native who now serves as the President and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Established in 1845 as Cottage Hill, it took the name Elmhurst in 1869. Elmhurst College was established in 1871, and the community incorporated in 1882. Just a few years later, a city's peril would lead to prosperity in nearby Elmhurst.

“ The Great Chicago Fire in 1871 promoted a lot of our growth, because many Chicago businessmen had retreats and lodges out here," Quigley says.

"When their homes and businesses burned, they moved in. ”

  As Elmhurst grew, it established traditions that continue today. The annual Memorial Day Parade began in 1918. Elmhurst ’ s St. Patrick ’ s Day parade is the largest outside of Chicago.

“ For St. Patrick ’ s Day we ’ ll have 15 to 20 thousand people in a six to eight block area, and a hundred entries in the parade, ” Quigley says. "The Memorial Day parade is also terrific, with close to one-hundred entries."

DuPage County ’ s first hospital, Elmhurst Memorial opened in 1926. Known today as Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare, the 50-acre main campus at 155 E. Brush Hill Road offers 259 private patient rooms, cancer treatment center, medical offices and more. 

Private, four-year Elmhurst College ranks consistently among the Midwest ’ s best schools, according annual surveys by U.S. News and World Report, and the Princeton Review. The college boasts a world-renowned jazz band, championship athletic programs, and “ brings vitality to the community and raises the appreciation of education, ” says Quigley, himself a 1977 graduate.

Nearby Wilder Park, at 225 Prospect Avenue, is home to the Elmhurst Art Museum and the Lizzadro Museum. Dedicated to the visual arts, EAM has a special exhibit on monumental proportions this fall. This ambitious exhibition provides unprecedented access to EAM's unique collection and includes work spanning three centuries by such notable artists as Thomas Eakins, Frederic Remington, Sonia Delaunay, Abbott Pattison, Tsuguharu Foujita, Peter Saul and EAM's own founder, Eleanor King Hookham. Never before has the museum's entire collection been on display, and the galleries are full to the ceiling with  visual treasures.

The Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary ARt displays gemstone treasures, antiques to modern with a blending of earth science exhibits. The building itself is designed to resemble a jewel box in a park setting. November 16 is “Lapidary Day” at the museum, offering free artist demonstrations  including: beading, silversmithing, cabochon cutting, wire wrapping and faceting.

A special exhibit on Scottish Jewelry runs through January 26, featuring more than 20 pieces from the Lizzadro Collection, including antique crest and kilt pins, brooches and bracelets.

Elmhurst offers a number of shopping and business districts, including an automotive triangle between Grand Avenue, Lake Street and North York Street, with over a dozen nameplates represented.

Elmhurst ’ s downtown also remains vibrant.  Stretching from North Avenue, south to Adelaide Street and bisected by York Street, Elmhurst City Centre is home to dozens of retail, dining, entertainment and service businesses.  A pedestrian friendly shopping area, City Centre ’ s 11 free parking areas make it accessible to visitors.

“ Our downtown businesses appeal to residents, and also draw people from outside the community, with gifts and apparel you can ’ t find elsewhere, ” says Christy Sopko, events and promotions coordinator for the Elmhurst City Centre.

Shoppers can find boutiques, such as Camden, E Lounge and enzee, and specialty shops  like My Favorite Toy Store, York Furrier, and more.  The area has become known for its fitness-related businesses, including exercise studios and fitness retailers.

“ Fitt-Rx opened a year ago and is already expanding for the third time. We also have two running retailers that do lots of community events, ” Sopko says.

City Centre also is home to more than 40 eateries, from ice cream and coffee shops, favorite chains such as Chipoltle and Buffalo Wild Wings, and fine dining destinations such as Caf é Amano.

“ We have restaurants throughout,  but the area south of the tracks is becoming known for dining, ” Sopko says.

Ongoing activities, such as seasonal festivals and in-store events make City Centre popular year round, and an anchor to the Elmhurst marketplace.

“ It ’ s the idyllic downtown people remember from their childhoods. It ’ s warm and cozy with lots of character, ” Sopko says.

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