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History in the Making

Flourishing Hinsdale holds tight to the historic, with an eye on the future

Suburban Life Magazine

Impressive tree-lined streets, attractive parks and stately buildings paint a picture-postcard image of Hinsdale.

Flushing out the snapshot of the town where he serves as director of the Hinsdale Economic Development Commission, Timothy Scott says the prestigious municipality ranks in the top 1 percent of the wealthiest towns in Illinois.

Though the latest figures are still being updated, Scott says he wouldn’t be surprised if average household income now exceeds $200,000, compared to $180,000-plus recorded by the 2010 census. Unofficially, he pegs the village’s current population at “just shy of 17,000," versus the previously reported count of 16,816.

Meanwhile, real estate professionals say average single-family homes in Hinsdale currently fetch $1.45 million, with many commanding significantly higher sticker prices.

The chamber of commerce actively promotes the town year-round as a destination for local and visiting families to shop, dine and be entertained.

Jan Anderson, president and CEO of the Hinsdale Chamber of Commerce, cites the annual Christmas Walk, now in its 48th year; it’s set for Dec. 6 from 4-8 p.m. Hinsdale Middle School students create and illustrate a story about the adventures of Cookie the Gingerbread Man, and their efforts are displayed in the windows of various local merchants.

“We do a traditional tree lighting ceremony where Santa arrives on a fire truck accompanied by the village president,” Anderson says. Also offered, in partnership with the Economic Development Commission, are a Santa House on weekends and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Other chamber events include Uniquely Thursdays, a 10-week summer concert series featuring live music, food vendors and children’s games. Another big draw held the second weekend of June is the Hinsdale Fine Arts Festival, where a juried panel typically reviews the work of some 140 artists.
Having a downtown designated as a National Register Historic District has helped Hinsdale maintain a vibrant central commercial area.

Six individual Hinsdale buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places are the Orland P. Bassett House at 329 E. Sixth St., the Robert A. and Mary Childs House at 318 S. Garfield Ave., Immanuel Evangelical Church at 302 S. Grant St., the Francis Stuyvesant Peabody House at 8 E. Third St. and the William Whitney House at 142 E. First St.

The Hinsdale Public Library, whose roots go back to 1893, is housed in the Memorial Building, which was completed in 1929 and became its first permanent residence. Karen Kleckner Keefe, executive director, says the facility owns 101,635 books, 30,811 e-books and checks out 344,638 items. In addition, more than 14,000 people attend library programs every year.

The Hinsdale Historical Society runs the Roger & Ruth Anderson Architecture Center, which advocates for the preservation of Hinsdale's historical architecture and functions as an archive and resource.
 “I think part of the charm is having such an historic district and its independently owned one-of-a-kind type businesses,” says Anderson.

There’s a lot of stability in the retail environment. Among those with longstanding ties are Hinsdale News Agency, Hinsdale Furriers, Hinsdale Flower Shop, King-Keyser Specialty Sports, Kramer Foods and Hartley’s Cycle Shoppe Ltd. all from the 1950s. Some other longtime establishments include Vern Goers Greenhouse (19667), Phillip’s Flowers and Gifts (1972), Browning and Sons Fine Jewelry (1986), Char Crews Inc. (1984) and Fullers Home & Hardware, which replaced Soukup Hardware.
Yet even as the flourishing 130-year-old west suburban town basks in its historic roots, it looks to the future.

“We certainly weren’t immune to the recession,” Scott says. “Like all municipalities, we wrestled with business attraction and retention. We are constantly looking for new tax-producing businesses, particularly those that would complement what we already have in town or fill voids.”

Anderson says the restaurant scene experienced turnover but is now “on the upswing,” with CiNe, Nabuki and Il Poggiolo joining such well-established institutions in town as Jade Dragon and Toni Patisserie and Café. Other new dining venues are anticipated to blossom in 2014.

Meanwhile, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, the town’s largest employer, recently received approval for a cancer center on Ogden Ave., and the site is being prepared for construction.

Also moving ahead are plans for a half-block-long retail-and-office complex on east First St. that will be known as Garfield Crossing.

“A proposed redevelopment site for about 15 years, work on this spot is finally coming to fruition,” Scott notes, adding: “The new project will complement to downtown historic character. It will ‘read’ like five separate buildings and mimic the rhythm of our existing street mall. “

Plans are under way to demolish the former building on the site, with completion of the new two-story structure targeted within 14 months.

“Resolving that development challenge represents one of our biggest achievements in quite some time.”

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