Des Plaines, Illinois in Cook County was originally settled by the French who named the town, “of the plains.” Today, the town is officially nicknamed the "City of Destiny."
This suburb of Chicago, which sits right next to O'Hare International Airport and the Des Plaines River, runs through the east of the city's downtown. Des Plaines is traversed by two interstate highways, the I-90 Northwest Tollway and I-294 Tri-State Tollway, and named for the Des Plaines River, which flows through it.
Des Plaines sits atop the "Des Plaines Disturbance," an area that is said to have been created by an ancient meteor. When it impacted, the bedrock was highly fractured with large blocks of sediment upended in which the layers of sedimentary rock are highly abnormal. This ancient crater sits 75 to 200 feet beneath the town and was eventually filled by glacial activity. Today, no trace remains on the surface.
The Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Ojibwe (Chippewa) Native American tribes inhabited the Des Plaines River Valley prior to Europeans' arrival. The first white settlers came from the eastern United States in 1833, following the Treaty of Chicago signed the same year. After the first settlers arrived, many German immigrants moved to the area during the 1840s and 1850s. In the 1850s, land in the area was purchased by the Illinois and Wisconsin Land Company along a railroad line planned between Chicago and Janesville, Wisconsin. In 1852, the developers built a steam powered mill next to the river, to cut local trees into railroad ties.
Socrates Rand then bought the mill and converted it into a grist mill, which attracted local farmers. The Illinois and Wisconsin Railroad made its first stop in the area in the fall of 1854. In 1857, the Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du lac Railroad began running its route, stopping near the mill where a small business section developed. In 1859, the Chicago and North Western Railway purchased the rail line, stopping its train and subsequently named its station "Des Plaines." In 1869, the subdivision name was changed to Des Plaines and the Village of Des Plaines was incorporated.
Des Plaines was reincorporated in 1873 and a village board was elected the following year. Local brick manufacturer Franklin Whitcomb was the village's first president. In 1925, village residents voted to convert to a city form of government, and annexed the Village of Riverview to the south. A subsequent annexation included the Orchard Place area in 1956. The city experienced rapid growth after World War II, and even more expansion with the opening of nearby O'Hare International Airport.
Today, the city of Des Plaines operates under a council-manager form of government. The council acts as the city's legislative body, enacting laws and establishing policies that govern the city. The council consists of a part-time mayor and an alderman who represent each of the eight individual wards. A full-time city manager oversees the day-to-day operation of the city.
Fast food fame came to Des Plaines in April 1955 when Ray Kroc opened a replica of the McDonald's chain restaurant. Though this was the ninth McDonald's restaurant, Kroc purchased all of the equity in the fledgling chain and led its worldwide expansion. Today, the restaurant in Des Plaines is home to the McDonald's USA First Store Museum.
Des Plaines Today
During the past two decades industrial growth has been phenomenal; the city has become a raw materials and finished products distributing center, as well as the headquarters for several major corporations. The combination of superior air transportation, good railroads and a network of expressways have fostered the full development of Des Plaines.
As of July 2009, the population of Des Plaines was 56,810 with a population density of 3,917 people per square mile. Residents have a median household income of $59,041, with a per capita income of $28,088. The average condo value, as of 2009, is $283,726. Des Plaines is becoming more ethnically diverse with 70.7 percent of the population being white and a growing population of Hispanic, Asian and African-American residents. Still, most residents have European ancestries—the majority being of German descent.
In addition to being an ethnically-diverse community, Des Plaines is home to several Fortune 500 companies as well as many industrial, commercial, retail and service businesses, giving residents relatively low property taxes with a wide variety of services.
City officials tout that Des Plaines has much to offer. The park district maintains two golf courses, driving range, a water park as well as a full range of programs and activities. The Des Plaines Community Senior Center offers an array of services and events for local seniors.
Des Plaines is also committed to revitalize the downtown area. One such venture is the Metropolitan Square development. The project is anchored by a 40,000-square-foot Shop & Save Marketplace grocery store, that includes an additional 56,000 square feet of retail space, 22,000 square feet of office space and 135 condominium and loft units.
In July 2011, Des Plaines welcomed the opening of The Rivers Casino, the newest gaming destination in Illinois. The state-of-the-art, 44,000-square-foot casino is easily accessible from the all of Chicagoland area. Besides slots and a full array of table games the casino boasts an array of restaurants, lounges and bars.
Famous Des Plaines
Besides being known for the McDonald's Museum, Des Plaines has become part of the public consciousness thanks to the iconic 1980s film “The Breakfast Club.” The majority of this coming-of- age tale was filmed in the now-defunct Maine North High School. Additionally, Des Plaines can claim among its notable citizens, clothing designer Eileen Fisher, retired Major League Baseball all-star Shawn Green, National Hockey League player Rick Zombo and pop singer and songwriter Heather Schultz.
With its proximity to downtown Chicago and O'Hare International Airport; its strong economic base; a myriad of entertainment and dining options; low tax rate; and excellent schools and public services, Des Plaines is an ideal place, and often overlooked city, to make your home.