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The 1960s

The then 2.75-square-mile City of Countryside was officially incorporated as a city on July 27, 1960 with a population of approximately 2,200 residents. And so Countryside started its new adventure as an individual municipality in the western suburbs.

The City of Countryside

Countryside chose to incorporate as a city due to the fact that incorporation as a village required the consent of all municipalities located within a one-mile radius. It was, and remains, a home-rule municipality operating under a mayor-city council form of government.

The first election for the City of Countryside was held in June of 1960. Among those elected were Mayor Albern Hollands, City Clerk Rudolph Perisich, Treasurer Willard Schuessler and Aldermen Albert Dostal, Melvin Eggert, Robert Schlachter, John Vicich, James More and John Carroll. Countryside’s first City Council served until 1963, when the biennial election schedule commenced. Melvin Eggert served as mayor from 1963-1967, followed by the election of Michael Caduto from 1967-1978.

The City operated out of a one-room storefront office at the beginning. By 1967, a new building was constructed at 5550 East Avenue in order to house both the City administration and Police Department. The City Hall still stands at this location today.

Water Service & Street Construction

The movement to introduce modern water and sewer service, along with a new street system, in Countryside was a major obstacle in the decade prior to incorporation. In the 1950s, the Conrads, Carl LeGant and Willard Schuessler were among the first residents to advocate bringing these enhancements to their unincorporated community—but adequate funding remained a stumbling block. It was this issue of bringing water service and street construction to Countryside that served as the impetus to organize a local government that would provide this kind of city infrastructure.

Bonds for sewer service were approved in 1959, and almost immediately following incorporation, the City instituted a Water Committee. After a couple of years of planning, negotiating and working through land acquisitions, Lake Michigan water service made its way into Countryside via an intricate water piping system in the fall of 1964. New city street construction was also developed in this time frame, helping to establish a modern infrastructure for the residents and businesses of Countryside.

Countryside Police Department

Prior to its designation as a city, Countryside came under the jurisdiction of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police. Just over one year after incorporation, on August 23, 1961, the Countryside Police Department was established under the leadership of Police Chief John Girard and three officers: Kenneth Wolf, Rich Kocek and George Suchomel. The department shared the McCook Police Department’s radio operator for a short time, until the need to have its own became clear. Thus, the secretary at City Hall was given the position. By 1967, the department expanded, adding more officers and modern equipment. Today the department employs a 36-member staff, which oversees the safety of all incorporated areas in the Countryside community.

A Growing Economy

Countryside’s base of businesses began to grow and diversify not long after incorporation. As neighboring LaGrange started to fill its downtown space to capacity, retail and industrial businesses turned to the large lots and advantages of no municipal property tax in the adjacent City of Countryside. During its first full year of incorporation as a city, Countryside issued 126 business licenses, 19 building permits and nine liquor licenses.

Ledo’s Pizza

For nearly 50 years, Ledo’s Pizza has provided the Countryside community with a delicious menu featuring quality pizza, pastas, sandwiches, ribs and more. The restaurant opened its doors on March 25, 1961 under the ownership of Robert Sr. and Louise Dorgan and Sparky and Rose Lenzie. The name “Ledo” is a combination of the two last names: “Le” in Lenzie and “Do” in Dorgan. Just a few weeks after the opening of the new business, the Dorgan’s bought out the Lenzies and became the sole owners.

The first location in Countryside opened up as a small carryout restaurant, where it stayed for more than 12 years. In 1973, the Dorgans moved the business across the street to 5525 S. LaGrange Road, where Ledo’s still stands to this day.

Over the years the entire family has been involved in the operations of Ledo’s Pizza. Robert Sr. left the business in 1983, leaving it to his wife Louise and their two sons, Robert Jr. and Jim. In 1990, Jim moved on to a new venture, and after Louise’s passing in 1995, the restaurant remained under the control of Robert Jr. His passing in early 2002 left Ledo’s Pizza to his wife, Sandra, and five children. Ledo’s continues to be a family-run restaurant under Sandra’s watch, carrying the same traditions upon which it was founded back in 1961.

The Stevenson Expressway

As the western suburbs continued to grow, a link into the City became a major demand for both commuters and businesses. On October 24, 1964, the Southwest Expressway opened, traveling through several areas, including Countryside. The highway was renamed on September 1, 1965 in honor of the late former Illinois Governor Adlai E. Stevenson. The Stevenson Expressway, or Interstate 55, was totally reconstructed in 1999-2000, in order to accommodate the increasing number of users. The coming of I-55 to Countryside proved to be a boon for local development and business growth.

Dansher Industrial Park

What is now the Dansher Industrial Park was once simply cornfields owned by the Dansher family. The City took interest in the area during their search for an ideal place to establish City Hall in the mid-1960s. The Danshers were willing to donate the 80-acre land for the new structure, but the City was deterred and chose to locate to its the current site.

Dansher began selling parcels of land to three individual businesses, and chose to build additional structures for rental—ultimately establishing the Dansher Industrial Park. Today, the City’s light industrial businesses are concentrated primarily within Dansher, which remains a well-occupied site for business. Nestled within the northeastern portion of the City, Dansher is currently home to Aire Liquide America, Chicago Chain, Crown Lift Trucks, Nalbach Engineering, Nyco Products, Sokol and Co., Vee Pak Inc. and others.

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