History & Culture

Chicago Heights got its name in 1892 when the town was first incorporated as a village.  At the time, a group of Chicago developers, led by Charles Wacker, set out to establish Chicago Heights as an outer-ring industrial suburb.  They successfully recruited large-scale industrial companies such as Inland Steel, and built the impressive Hotel Victoria (designed by Louis Sullivan).  Community growth and development progressed rapidly, and the village had twenty factories by 1897.

In 1900, Chicago Heights incorporated as a city when its population reached over 5,000 people.  Its population nearly tripled in the next ten years as businesses continued to expand.  The city became a haven for German, Italian, Polish, and Irish immigrants and later, many African Americans and Hispanics called Chicago Heights home. The economic and ethnic diversity began over 100 years ago and Chicago Heights still celebrates the same melting pot of cultures today.

In 1916, city fathers persuaded the Lincoln Highway Association to route the first transcontinental highway through the city, making it “the Crossroads of the Nation.”  By 1920, Chicago Heights boasted a population of 19,653, as workers poured into the East Side and Hill neighborhoods to be close to industry.  Expansion continued though the 1940s with increased production of steel, chemical and war materials of every sort.  World War II set the stage for a golden era that saw residential growth in the north and west, and in the mid-1950s, the coming of a new Ford stamping plant that provided employment for thousands.  Ford Motor Company still calls Chicago Heights home today.

Today, the City of Chicago Heights has matured into a well-established industrial city over its century-old history, and fortunately, its rich diverse culture, hard-working attitude, and progressive economic approach has remained a constant over the years.