Joel and Laurie Kagann
The early settlers of the southwest section of Lisle Township, DuPage County — Nadelhoffer, Greene, Goodrich, Kohley, Pfaff and Faulhaber — had no idea that the land they farmed in the late 1800s would some day become the community known as Woodridge.
In the late 1950s Albert Kaufmann, president of Surety Builders, started a development south of 75th Street and east of Illinois Route 53. He called this development Woodridge. Like the neighboring Woodridge Golf Course and an earlier settlement located on Route 53, the name was chosen from a description of the land itself, a wooded ridge overlooking the East Branch of the DuPage River, Kaufman started the Woodridge Sewer & Water Company to provide service to this subdivision. In 1971 this Woodridge Company was purchased by the Village of Woodridge.
By mid-1959 the population of the area had grown to 459, and the residents petitioned the county court for permission to incorporate as a village. A referendum was held and the Village of Woodridge was incorporated on August 24, 1959. The residents elected the first president (mayor), Leon Werch, and a board of trustees. With incorporation came the need for other municipal services. An all volunteer police department was established in 1960 with the assistance of Elmer Messer, a security office at International Harvester’s Burr Ridge plant. Also in 1960 a volunteer fire company was organized, which later merged with the Lisle Fire Protection District. Today the village is served by three fire protection districts: Lisle/Woodridge, Belmont and Downers Grove Estates.
By early 1963 many of the farms east of Route 53, between 71st Street and 63rd Street, were purchased by the Winston-Muss Corporation (presently, Centex Winston) to build a community of over 2,000 homes. This area became known as Winston Hills, and the first section of homes was opened in early 1964.
Immediately, a division within the community became apparent between the north and south. Because there was no direct access between the two sections of the village, several similar social and community organizations were formed, each reflecting its individual section name, Woodridge or Winston Hills. In 1974 a roadway, Woodridge Drive, connecting both sections of the village, was dedicated and opened to the public. The sectionalism of the Woodridge community has disappeared.
A high point in the development of Winston Hills was a publicity promotion sponsored by the Winston-Muss Corporation, together with a Hollywood film studio. In the summer of 1967, film actress Debbie Reynolds appeared in Woodridge at a picnic given for the entire community. Later, residents were taken by bus to the Chicago Theatre where they attended a special preview of “Divorce American Style” a film about family life in suburbia, starring Miss Reynolds.
Another expansion in the land area of Woodridge occurred in 1972, when several large farms centered around the Nadelhoffer property along 71st Street were annexed to Woodridge and developed as “Woodridge Center.” A combination of single family, duplex and town houses with provisions for a commercial center for the community was to be provided. However, this latter aspect of the development never materialized. A site was also provided for the establishment of a community government. This expansion doubled the square miles of Woodridge.
Prior to 1966 the very basic needs of the new community were provided by itinerant merchants (dairy and bakery products). For other shopping needs Woodridge residents had to travel either to Downers Grove or to Lisle. The long-awaited shopping center opened at 75th Street and Janes Avenue in 1965, when other neighborhood shopping areas opened. A large shopping center is currently under development on the southwest corner of 75th Street and Lemont Road.
During the mid-seventies, in spite of recession, Woodridge continued to grow and expand as a fully developed community. Today many community residents continue to work in downtown Chicago. A local commuter bus service to the Burlington Northern railroad stations in Lisle and Belmont was established in the mid-1970s and today this route is operated by the Regional Transportation Authority.
In 1977 a major industrial company, Wilton Industries, a division of Pillsbury, located its international corporate offices and distribution center in Woodridge. This company will eventually provide over 500 jobs for the residents in the area. Woodridge continues to move slowly away from simply being a “bedroom’ community. Land which has been set aside for light industry and research will be developed.
After incorporation in 1959 and the opening of a permanent school, Surety Builders rented a small house, located at 2909 Forest Glen Parkway, to the village for the sum of $1.00 per year. Over the years this facility housed the police department, village clerk, a courtroom, building department and even the public library. These quarters were soon outgrown and a temporary village hall and police station were constructed at the south end of the area in 1971. In 1980 the village purchased and remodeled the bank building at 75th Street and Woodward Avenue, and the general offices were moved to that location. The “temporary” building on 83rd Street continues to house the public works and police departments.
The history of School District 68 dates back to the mid-19th century. On April 6, 1858 a warrantee deed was recorded, deeding the land now at the northeast corner of Hobson Road and Route 53 from the Pomeroy Goodrich family to the board of school trustees. The present school on that site, Goodrich, was built in the 1920s, with an addition added in the 1950s. Even with the expansion of the school in the late 1950s, it was not able to accommodate the increased enrollment that was being generated from the area known as Woodridge.
In 1961 Woodridge School, located on Larchwood Lane, was opened. The land adjacent to the Woodridge School property was sold by Mr. Kaufman to the Diocese of Joliet. This became the site of St. Scholastica School and Church.
Additional schools were opened over the years to serve the educational needs of the Woodridge young people: Meadowview School in 1968; Edgewood School in 1969; Sipley School in 1973; Thomas Jefferson Junior High School in 1973; and Willowcreek in 1976. The majority of young people attending public schools in Woodridge go to one of six schools and the junior high school operated by School District 68. High school youth needs are served by Community High School District 99. The district operates two high schools, North and South, both of which are located in Downers Grove. Graduates from Woodridge’s Jefferson Junior High School can choose which high school to attend, and there are Woodridge students in attendance at both campuses.
In 1967 the residents of Woodridge went to the polls to provide another service in the community, a public library. In 1969 the fledgling library hired its first full-time employee. Its collection of books numbered 553 in 1969. Now the library has over 43,000 volumes and a staff of twenty two. During its short history the library has moved three times, each time into a larger “model home.” Finally, in 1977, the voters approved a bond issue to build the current 23,000 square foot facility at 2525 Center Drive. The recreational needs of the community were met in 1969 when village residents passed a referendum establishing the Woodridge Park District. The park district today operates over 250 acres of land. The majority of the prime park land owned by the district was deeded to it by the village between 1973 and 1977. Approximately sixty four of the acres are used exclusively for park sites. The other acreage is shared with the school district and maintained by the park district, Two swimming pools and several tennis courts are also available to residents. Additional open area was acquired by the village in 1973 when voters approved a referendum to purchase the Maplecrest Golf Course. This 130 acre site has open space available for future recreational land use. The municipality continues to operate it under the name of Village Greens of Woodridge, as a golf course during the summer and as an outdoor recreational center during the winter.
As the community grew, its spiritual needs were met by the establishment of the first church in 1960, when the Village Baptist church was formed. Shortly thereafter, the Prince of Peace Lutheran (LCA), Saint Scholastica Roman Catholic and the Woodridge Methodist Churches were founded. For a period of time, three of the four churches in Woodridge had their rectories or parsonages on the same street and in the same block. Village residents referred to the area as “church row.” By 1984 several additional churches were established in the community: Good Shepherd Community Church, Lumen Christi Presbyterian Church, Trinity Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), and the Church of Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ (Woodridge Ward).
The 459 people who gave birth to the village have been succeeded by 23,000 residents today. The early names are mostly memories and that first school is preserved only in the core of a much larger facility of the growing school system. The part-time volunteer firemen and police officers have given way to large, paid, professional departments. There is not much plowing, lumbering, milking or barndancing on the ridge overlooking the East Branch of the DuPage River. But Woodridge, with its motto “Pride in Progress,” is indeed proud of the progress it has made during its first quarter century.
Joel and Laurie Kagann serve as officers of Woodridge Special Events Committee. He has also been chief of police, mayor and village clerk, while she is currently Woodridge’s Public Library Administrator.