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History

The first inhabitants of the area now known as Wood Dale were Winnebago Indians, a part of the Sioux tribe, using the lands as prime hunting grounds.

Hezekiah Dunklee was the first to stake a claim in 1833 along the banks of Salt Creek, in a spot later called Dunklee’s Grove. Settlers Edward Lester and his family arrived from New York in 1835, followed by a large influx of German immigrants who arrived prior to the Civil War, claiming most remaining land for farms, building homes, churches and stores.

According to historical records, the deep prairie loam, which made the area a farmer’s dream, was a road builder’s nightmare. Road maintenance efforts, such as smoothing rutted roads with a huge log and laying logs across the road, were tried but failed.

“What the area needed was a railroad,” said Judith Ryan of the Wood Dale Historical Society.

Following the Civil War, Frederick Lester, the youngest Lester family son, led a group lobbying the Chicago and Pacific Railroad to construct tracks through the area. In 1873 the rail line from Chicago to Elgin opened and the first industry in the area, a cheese factory, opened next to the rail station. The area soon became known as Lester Station, and in 1890 the train station relocated to its present site at Wood Dale and Irving Park Road. In 1899 the name changed to Wooddale as a subdivision was proposed south of the tracks. In 1928 the village incorporated, creating the Village of Wood Dale and by 1970 it became a city.

Wood Dale grew slowly until the 1960s when the population exploded from 3,000 to more than 11,000 by 1980. Today Wood Dale is home to 13,770 residents. By day, the population swells to 35,000 as workers flock to Wood Dale business and industrial employers.

The Wood Dale community is surrounded by an extensive expressway system making travel throughout the suburban and metropolitan area quick and easy. The community is centrally located with Illinois Route 53 to the west, Route 83 and connections to I-290 to the east, and north-south travel via I-294 with easy access to I-88, I-90 and I-355.

With the anticipated 2017 completion of the Elgin-O’Hare Western Access Project, Wood Dale is perfectly poised to offer even more convenient access to key Chicago and suburban commuter and visitor destinations – all hallmarks of life in this diverse community.

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