Valle: Elmhurst springs up around tavern
In this column we will continue our discussion of the origins of some of the municipalities in York Township.
Before Elmhurst officially adopted its current name in 1869 at the suggestion of one Thomas B. Bryan because of the many elm trees that were planted in the area during the previous year, it was called Cottage Hill.
In 1836, the first European settlers came to the Salt Creek area which today is Elmhurst. In 1843, John Hovey arrived from Ohio and constructed the “Hill Cottage Tavern” at the Northeast corner of St. Charles Road and what is now Cottage Hill Avenue, just west of today’s York Road.
The structure originally stood on the highest point within a radius of almost two miles, and it soon became a popular stop on the Frink and Walker Stagecoach Company route which ran between Chicago and the Fox River Valley.
By 1845, a village had sprung up around the tavern and the community received its own post office. The village’s first name was Hill Cottage, after the tavern. But, soon it became Cottage Hill at the request of the postmaster. Just four years later, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was granted a right-of-way through the young town, providing convenient rail access to and from Chicago for farmers, their produce, and residents.
Elmhurst was incorporated as a village in 1882. It had a population of 1,050 residents and included legal boundaries of St. Charles Road to North Avenue and one-half mile west of York Street to one-quarter mile east of York Street. Public improvements were soon provided by the village; police protection, a volunteer fire department, sewers, and plank sidewalks. Such private companies as Elmhurst Spring Water Company, Elmhurst Electric Light Company, and Chicago Telephone Company introduced other new services in the late 19th century.
Elmhurst more than tripled in size during the 1920s, growing form 4,594 residents to 14,055. The community also enjoyed the benefits of such new, modern city services as cement sidewalks, paved streets, ornamental electric streetlights, a City water department, and new sewer service. Many present day institutions were organized in the 1920s as well: Elmhurst Park District dates to 1920, and Elmhurst Hospital was established in 1926.
In 1936, the daughters of the American Revolution placed a commemorative stone to mark the location of tavern and post office at St. Charles Road and Cottage Hill Avenue.
John W. Valle is supervisor of York Township.