Celia Perry Shockey
It was in the 1830s that a speculator and early settler, John J. Monell, purchased 320 acres that is today Clarendon Hills. Then in 1839 he was issued a patent to 640 acres. He sold one-third of this to Alfred Belknap, and later a portion to Myron P. Bush and George Howard.
This land was subject to the rights and privileges of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. In 1863 the building of the railroad began. It was completed in 1864, bisecting the area which became Clarendon Hills. In 1867 Bush and Howard conveyed 370 acres, which were south of the tracks, to attorney and president of the CB&Q, James M. Walker. Henry C. Middaugh took charge of the 270 acres north of the tracks in 1870. He farmed this land for many years.
This vicinity, 18.3 miles west of Chicago, was platted in 1873. The name of Clarendon Hills was suggested by Robert Harris, a former president of the CB&Q Railroad, after a Boston suburb.
In the early days trains stopped mostly for milk, hay and wheat. Through the years the CB&Q developed a commuter service. By the seventies the Burlington changed its engines from wood-burning to coal, and eventually from steam to diesel.
The men who platted Clarendon Hills were interested in developing the area as a real estate venture. Frederick Law Olmsted, the prominent landscape architect, laid out the village, according to an early president of Clarendon Hills, Paul Rickert, who kept a detailed scrapbook of village history. A more recent hypothesis is that the community was laid out according to Olmsted principles. The village does have two trademarks of Olmsted’s work: winding streets fitting the contours of the land, and individual lots of different shapes and sizes.
Speculators kept investing in land, but little happened. Middaugh tile-drained his land and planted eleven miles of trees along proposed streets which follow the contours of the land.
In 1893 he built a stately mansion as his home. He expected others to follow, but such development did not happen in his lifetime. The village lay dormant until the 1920s.
Among homes over 100 years old are two structures built in 1870 the Middaugh foreman’s home at 148 Norfolk Avenue, and sheepherder’s cottage at 58 Chestnut Street. Middaugh acquired an additional 80 acres, kept several hundred horses, a large herd of cattle and sheep for which he built an imposing group of barns. He served as a DuPage school director. The 1913 history of DuPage County records that he served eight years as a member of the DuPage County Board of Supervisors, the last four of which as chairman.
Clarendon Hills became noted in those years for its daisy fields. People from Chicago and many other places came to see and pick the daisies in bloom. Daisy seeds had mistakenly been supplied to Middaugh in his seed order.
Henry Middaugh was instrumental in persuading the Hinsdale Golf Club to establish its course on 133 acres within the village limits of Clarendon Hills. It is one of the early golf courses in the great metropolitan area, with water hazards and sand traps formed like the characters appearing in the cartoons of the Chicago Tribune.
The residence and farm of Mr. Middaugh was occupied later by Albert E. Cook. After the Middaugh home was vacated by Cook, it was taken over by the Sisters of Christian Charity of the Convent of Maria Immaculata. It was used as a retreat for those of the Roman Catholic faith until 1954. At that time the newly formed Notre Dame parish took possession. Middaugh House, owned by the Catholic Church, is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Many of Clarendon Hills streets bear the names of early landowners. Other street names cross over from Hinsdale. Ogden Avenue was originally a well-traveled Indian path. Through the years residents have found many arrowheads and spearheads on their properties, evidence of early Indian habitation and travel.
In 1922 the plat of the A. T. McIntosh & Co. Clarendon Hills subdivision was recorded. In 1923 the McIntosh Golf Club Addition was recorded When McIntosh took over the north end of town, he was not aware of the Olmsted plan. Therefore he proceeded to straighten out all streets. McIntosh soon learned that some of his residential lots were peat bogs, and he had to buy back the land. Fire broke out frequently in the bogs and, in some cases, lasted for two years. Today the bogs have been made into park areas.
At the turn of the century, Mr. Robert Hamill bought forty acres in the village and moved his family to one of three houses on the property. Part of the property was later used by the Lion’s Club for a park and swimming pool. A small residential area became known as Hamill Lane.
Recently the Clarendon Hills Village Board has annexed parcels of developed lands south of 55th Street. Few open areas remain, and Clarendon Hills has become a contained village.
In 1923 there was great need to establish a public agency overseeing the welfare of Clarendon Hills citizens. There was much discussion among the natives, whether to annex to Hinsdale, or to remain a separate entity by incorporating. A vote for self-government carried, 81 to 57. The first election was held and Mr. Orrin Goode became the first president. The village was incorporated early in 1924. The board appointed A. G. Hines as treasurer, who served in that capacity until his death.
It was in 1944 that the village adopted the caucus system for naming candidates for election to village offices. The party system of the previous twenty years had become a divisive one that had caused much bitterness among people. There is representation on the caucus from every organization in the village and from nine neighborhood sections. The candidates nominated are to fill vacancies on the village, park and library boards, and the office of village clerk. These nominations are submitted for approval at the annual meeting and voted upon at the next election.
This village has long been known as “the volunteer community.” Volunteers have created and maintained the parks. The fire department continues to be a volunteer undertaking. The public library began and has remained a volunteer operation for twenty years, now using the talents of sixty or more dedicated individuals. It now has one paid librarian and one part-time assistant librarian. In 1981 the library statistics for the state of Illinois showed that the Clarendon Hills Public Library was at the top in its category, with circulation 50% higher than most libraries in villages of this size.
Lloyd Church was appointed village superintendent in 1952, and in 1959 was named village manager. He served the village until his retirement in 1973. In 1978 the new village hall building was dedicated to him.
Ed Mochel was appointed the first police officer. From a one-man department, begun in 1924, it has grown to a fully-paid force of twelve today.
There are approximately fifty acres devoted to parks located in four sites. In 1946 an election was held to form the Clarendon Hills Park District. In 1957 a referendum gave the district authority to issue bonds for park planning.
In 1956 the businessmen and women of the village formed a Chamber of Commerce for the advancement of business interests, to promote home trade and to enforce higher business standards. It spearheaded a 40th anniversary celebration in 1964. Each year it promotes a spring festival and periodically publishes a booklet about the village. At Christmastime it sponsors a Christmas Walk. It has urged architectural uniformity in the business district, better lighting and improved landscaping. The village has only a few small manufacturing activities.
In 1870 a one-room church/schoolhouse was built in Clarendon Hills. It accommodated one teacher and about twenty pupils during the week. On Sunday it provided a place for twenty-five Methodists to have religious services. In 1887 this building was destroyed by fire and a new one-room schoolhouse was built. In 1927 this schoolhouse was replaced by a two-room brick building to accommodate ninety pupils and two teachers, with an addition made in 1930.
When Clarendon Hills was experiencing a boom in 1947, the school was seriously overcrowded and some pupils had to commute temporarily to Hinsdale. It was at this time that the two school districts were combined. Now Clarendon Hills and Hinsdale are in the same district.
The first church to be organized became Community Presbyterian, meeting in homes and the Walker School. In 1929 the group had grown to thirty-four persons, affiliating with the Presbytery of Chicago. The Reverend Robert Bell served as the organizing pastor.
For eighteen years the Roman Catholics in the village met in a rented store front. A mission church, it was served by clergy from the St. Isaac Jogues Roman Catholic Church of Hinsdale. In 1954 Bishop Martin McNamara of the Joliet diocese established the Notre Dame Parish, after purchasing the Middaugh property.
In 1954 an Episcopal church, the Church of the Holy Nativity, was founded. It was a mission church of the diocese of Chicago. Parishioners worshipped in a rented store until 1958, when a new building was completed. Episcopal churchwomen operate a business for the benefit of the church and its missions, the “Tween the Towers Shop.”
In 1951 a Lutheran congregation also began in Walker School. By 1955 anew building was completed, Christ Lutheran Church of Clarendon Hills.
In the early life of the village people, formed various clubs. In 1927 there was a civic club established. In 1940 a popular garden club sponsored an annual flower and garden show each fall, continuing through the 1950s. Also in that decade two women’s clubs were formed, one meeting in the evening and the other in the afternoon. The evening club gave money for an ambulance. The afternoon club helped start the village library. The Infant Welfare Society sponsors the sale of luminarias for the Christmas Eve decoration of village streets. Originating as an old Mexican custom, the luminaria have made Clarendon Hills a showplace on Christmas Eve, attracting many visitors and celebrants.
The Lions Club was formed in 1950. The Lions chose as their major project a swimming pool for the village, buying land and doing most of the work themselves. The pool was dedicated in 1953, and the organization continues to maintain it. Since the loss of so many American elm trees to the Dutch Elm disease, the Lions also set up a program for replacing trees on the village streets.
There were 132 residents in 1920, and 934 in 1930. By 1960 the community had grown to 5,885 inhabitants, to 7,300 in 1970. In 1974, after the addition of the Blackhawk Heights subdivision, the total was about 8,000 persons. The 1980 census figures, however, showed a population decrease to 6,709 persons, as the children of families remaining in the village matured and moved elsewhere.
Clarendon Hills continues to be a village in which residents take pride and enjoy one another as neighbors.
Celia Perry Shockey is a thirty-year resident of Clarendon Hills, who was Administrator of the Clarendon Hills Library from its opening in 1963 to 1971, and currently maintains its historical files.