Welcome to A Sense of Place, the West Chicago City Museum’s new blog! Through brief capsules of local history we’re here to prove that history is not dry and dusty, but alive and entertaining. And starting in April, this blog will contain additional essays to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Let’s start at the beginning. Knowing our name provides a sense of place.
What’s in a Name?
West Chicago- You’re smack dab in the middle of the first Illinois community shaped by the new technology of railroads. Back in 1849 the tracks of the Galena & Chicago Union (G&CU) Railroad reached this area, and a town began to take shape. By 1850 three railroads met here, forming the first railroad junction in the state, and giving the town its first name-Junction.
In 1857 two plats of town existed. One, the aforementioned Junction, the other named Turner in honor of John B. Turner, one of the G&CU’s early presidents, a benevolent local landowner, although never a resident. The town became known informally as Turner Junction. In 1873 it incorporated as a village and took the formal name of Village of Turner.
Soon after Chicago’s successful Columbian Exposition, local businessman Charles E. Bolles thought we should tie our fortunes to Chicago by changing our name to Village of West Chicago in 1896. It would attract business, grow the town and locate us in the state. Unfortunately we lost a unique name that told of our railroad roots.
In 1906 the village changed to a mayor-aldermanic government and became the City of West Chicago.