On July 21, the City of Northlake celebrated its 65th birthday. Originally incorporated as North Lake, the name was changed a few years later to Northlake. The name was a combination of two street names which intersected in town: North Avenue and Lake Street. Maybe it wasn’t the most creative choice, but it worked for the original developers in helping potential home buyers find the location. The name has also served us well over the years, even though I get an occasional inquiry asking how large our lake is.

The story of our community is really quite remarkable. The original development started shortly before WWII, but was halted due to the war. After the war, the pent up demand for housing for returning veterans launched the first great wave of suburban development which Northlake was a part of.

In many respects, the City of Northlake was a town that was built “backwards.” The homes were built as unfinished “shells” with the interiors left for the new homeowners to finish after they moved in. There were no curbs, sidewalks, storm sewers or sanitary sewers. The roads were gravel which fell apart after every winter. Every home was served by its own septic tank which accounts for why our lots are larger than those in neighboring communities.

It is remarkable how well our town turned out when you consider its humble beginnings, especially in that there was little or no planning involved in the process. Somehow, the determination and sacrifice of residents over the years prevailed. Those returning WWII veterans were determined to make our community a success despite the lack of guidance. The “can do” attitude of these residents carried the day. Homes were finished, sanitary sewers were installed, Lake Michigan water was provided, curbs, sidewalks and storm sewers were built, as were schools, the library and parks. Larger commercial and industrial areas were also built ensuring a strong economic base.

Recurring flooding problems were addressed as well. The progress of our community in 65 years is really something to behold. Most people take the amenities we enjoy in our town for granted, not imagining for a minute what the community would look like without the improvements.

We are still a work in progress as we continue to build upon the foundation laid by earlier residents. We must continue this momentum so that the following generations will have a solid structure to build upon. Our thanks go to the early pioneers of the postwar Chicago suburban movement for staying the course and pointing us in the right direction.

About City of Northlake