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History

The Village of Orland Park held its first Board of Trustees meeting in 1892, but its history reaches further back in time. Names filter out of the past like yellowed notes tucked into the pages of an old book—names like Henry Taylor, Ichabod and William Myrick, Jacob and Bernard Hostert, Thomas Cooper and John Humphrey.

Henry Taylor arrived in 1834 and became the area’s first settler. Ichabod and William Myrick settled on 139th Street, west of Wolf Road, in 1844 and became Orland Township’s first officials. In the 1850s, Jacob and Bernard Hostert built log cabins for their families. Both structures survived the years and were reconstructed near Humphrey Woods in the 1980s by the Orland Historical Society. The Aileen S. Andrew Foundation, established by the owners of the Andrew Corporation in memory of its founding family, was a key contributor to preserving this historical part of Orland Park’s past.

When the railroad came to the settlement in 1879, the new “Sedgewick Station” forever changed the character of the community. The agrarian hamlet swiftly grew into a thriving commercial and shipping center serving surrounding farms. The name of the Village’s first train station, “Sedgewick,” is remembered today with the Village’s Lake Sedgewick in Centennial Park.

John Humphrey’s parents brought him to the area as a child in 1846. Later, a young Humphrey joined the thousands of hopefuls who sought riches in California’s Gold Rush. In 1861 he returned disappointed but no less enthusiastic. Following the Civil War, he went to college in Michigan and then studied law with a firm in Chicago. He was elected to the Illinois State House of Representatives in 1870 and was subsequently re-elected a number of times. He became the state senator for the area in the mid-1800s and served in the Illinois State Senate until 1911. Humphrey is credited with having the Village of Orland Park incorporated as a municipality in 1892 and served as the Village’s first mayor until his death in 1914.

Humphrey’s Orland Park home, constructed in 1881, is a museum that was bequeathed to the Orland Historical Society when his son, John Stuart Humphrey, died in 1987. The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, joining the Twin Tower Sanctuary that was added to the register in 1989 after being saved from the wrecking ball in 1987 by then-Mayor Frederick Owens, an avid historian. The Old Orland Heritage Foundation was created to restore and preserve the Twin Tower Sanctuary, which was coincidentally re-dedicated on May 3, 2002, the 10th anniversary of Owens’s death.

The town took its name from Orland Township, which was created in 1850. Many theories on the origin of the name “Orland” have been shared over the years, with Orlands having been reported in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, England, California, Indiana and Maine. No one knows from where the township took its name.

Orland Park’s initial growth all but stopped around the turn of the century and remained still through much of the first half of the 1900s. Conscientious planning and foresight of Village leaders throughout the past few decades contradict notes of the late 1930s. Material written for the Federal Writers Project, obtained by the Orland Historical Society from the Illinois State Historical Library, included an interesting review of Orland Park.

With a 1938 population of 638, the Village was described as having “…no points of interest, no tours or model homes, no seasonal events, no folk customs, no tours recommended, no industries.” The final summation of the review concluded, “Town does not seem to be going forward.”

Fifty years later, the Village was described as exhibiting, “one of the fastest growing economies in the south suburbs,” according to economic and demographic data compiled in Profiles: An Economic and Demographic Fact Book of Chicago’s Southern Suburbs, published in 1986 by the then-State Publications and the Institute for Public Policy Administration at Governors State University.

Rapid residential, commercial and industrial development began in the 1950s with village boundaries extended and more residential and commercial developments. No longer a small rural center, Orland Park is a sophisticated community of approximately 60,000 well-educated residents and is a retail and business hub of the Chicago Southland. It is replete with fine homes, excellent schools and superb recreational facilities. And, despite its impressive modernization and growth, Orland Park’s history is well-preserved, as was noted in the town’s 1992 centennial slogan, “Preserving the Past ~ Shaping the Future.”

Orland Park’s original downtown area, the Old Orland Historic District, was designated such in 1986. Many of the town’s original white clapboard and brick buildings still stand in the area now housing small shops and antique stores. Called “Antique Row,” this area of Old Orland is a destination of choice for antique lovers and those with a curiosity for the artifacts of yesteryear.

Building on the Old Orland Historic District designation of 1986, Village leaders most recently approved a new set of regulations and design guidelines for Old Orland, helping to preserve and enhance its distinctive community and historic character. The Village also designated 16 buildings as contributing structures and established its Facade Improvement Program to help owners and tenants of these structures restore the exteriors of the buildings.

The Village’s 2009 Historic Marker Program identifies local landmark buildings in the Old Orland area and throughout the Village with interpretive signs explaining each building’s history. The first two phases of the program call for signs being installed at the Twin Tower Sanctuary; at the oldest home in Orland Park, the residence of the Village’s third mayor, Harry Cox; at the original Christ Lutheran Church at 143rd Street and West Avenue; at Loebe Brothers General Store on Union Avenue; at the original Orland State Bank at 14316 Beacon Avenue; at the building that currently houses Anna B’s Antiques at 14330 Beacon Avenue; and at the Hostert Brothers Log Cabins on West Avenue.

Old Orland is also a part of the Village’s Main Street Triangle, which includes the rebuilding and rejuvenating of this original section of Orland Park. Antique shop owners are excited to be a part of this mixing of the old and new. The plan will add much to the historical flavor of the planned development.

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