Schaumburg, Illinois A Growing Retail and Cultural Mecca

Schaumburg, Illinois

Home to Chicagoland's largest mall, Woodfield Mall, and one of only two IKEA stores in the entire state, it comes as little surprise that Schaumburg is the largest center of retail development in Illinois outside the City of Chicago.

With a growing diverse community and a population of 74,907 (2013), Schaumburg is a popular place to raise a family as it provides a seamless combination of quaint, residential areas and the business culture of Fortune 500 companies, including Motorola whose world headquarters is sprawled out on a well-manicured campus hugging Algonquin and Meacham roads.

Part of a community of Northwest suburbs within Schaumburg Township—one of 30 townships in Cook County—this village is surrounded by neighboring towns of similar characteristics like Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park and Hanover Park, all of which also share the Schaumburg Township District Library—the second largest library in the state. Schaumburg is bordered by Hoffman Estates and Palatine to the north, Rolling Meadows to the northeast, Elk Grove Village to the southeast, Roselle to the south, Hanover Park to the southwest, and Streamwood to the west.

Small Beginnings: From

Sarah's Grove to Schaumburg

The storied history of this Northwest suburb, which dates back to the early nineteenth century, lies not in Swedish meatballs (IKEA only opened 13 years ago), but begins rather with early German settlers who owned much of the land and gave this village the name as it is known today.

The heritage of the area, like many settlements throughout the state, can be traced to members of Native American tribes Sauk, Fox, Potawatomi and Kickapoo.

As legend has it, there were two major players who shaped Schaumburg Township: German-born Johann Sunderlage and Trumball Kent, a Yankee from Oswego, New York, who was one of the earliest settlers in the area. Sunderlage was part of a survey team that divided Cook County into townships around 1833. Upon completion of the project, Sunderlage was so pleased with the area that he went back to Germany and returned with family and friends in tow.

In 1840, 56 percent of the township households originated from the eastern U.S. while 28 percent were German-born. In the following decade, the mix of population flip-flopped and 48 percent households were of German descent. Prior to this shift, the area was called Sarah's Grove, named for three women whose families lived adjacent to the grove of woods that ran through the northwest portion of the township.

It wasn't until 1850, when most of the land was owned by German immigrants or their descendents, that the township had a name change—bestowed with an iron fist by Friedrich Heinrich Nerge, a prominent German landowner, who in the middle of a township meeting where citizens were contemplating between two different names: Lutherville and Lutherburg, yelled, "It will be called Schaumburg!" In Germany, Schaumburg was a territory in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, an area from which many of the settlers emigrated.

Although few roads existed and neither the Fox River Valley nor major rail lines served Schaumburg Township, the area prospered in its early days and a small market known as Schaumburg Centre (which would later become incorporated as the city of Schaumburg in March 1956) emerged at what is now the intersection of Schaumburg and Roselle roads.

Many people relied on farming potatoes, producing dairy products and raising cattle as a main source of income. To reach a larger market, farmers used ox- or horse-drawn wagons to go the 30-mile trek to Chicago, which at the time had a population of about 35,000. Surrounded by large meadows, the area was abundant in wildlife like geese, ducks, quail, prairie chickens, rabbits, pheasants and deer.

Establishing a City

Moving into the 20th century, Schaumburg's rural community began to see growth and development with the rise of the automobile and construction of the Northwest Tollway (Jane Addams Memorial Tollway) through the farmlands and O'Hare International Airport.

This expansion during the 1960s ultimately changed Schaumburg's outlook and the city was no longer a quiet, rural community. Continuing into the next decade, the village saw a tremendous growth thanks, in part, to the construction of a second highway—I-290—linking residents to and transplanting many from the Windy City. Beginning in 1959, developer Alfred Campanelli began construction of the first large residential subdivision (nearly 7,000 housing units) in the village, and more housing followed suit throughout the 1970s.

Schaumburg takes care to ensure a leisurely quality of life for families as well, according to the Village of Schaumburg website. The village is recognized with a Gold Medal Award from the National Recreation and Park Association, an achievement granted to U.S. communities that demonstrate excellence in long-range planning and resource management. Schaumburg boasts more than 80 miles of bike paths and is home to the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts, a 442-seat theater, gallery and outdoor stage, which hosts free outdoor concerts throughout the summer.

Additionally, the Schaumburg Township District Library, which serves the Schaumburg Township area and has branches in Hoffman Estates and Hanover Park, is the second largest public library in Illinois, attracting more than one million visitors each year. Featuring 166,000 square feet, the township's two-level Central Library on Roselle Road fills its shelves with a collection of more than 630,000 books and also houses artwork from internationally renowned artists like sculpturist Dale Chihuly.

On the Rise

Beginning only as a two-square-mile patch of land that was home to 130 residents when the city was first incorporated, Schaumburg's community—both business and residential—continues to see growth well into the 21st century. Across Woodfield Mall, an international attraction, the village built-up Streets of Woodfield, which features dining and entertainment venues like GameWorks, AMC Theater and LegoLand, caters to the area's growing families.

Signs that show Schaumburg remains a business epicenter are also apparent: Italian auto parts manufacturer MTA USA Corp. made Schaumburg its North American headquarters in May of 2007, and more companies soon followed. Whole Foods and Crate and Barrel opened in 2010 and the Schaumburg Boomers baseball team began playing in the village in 2011. The area is also home to the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center, a 500-room hotel and retail complex that opened in July 2006. The property features a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 48,000 square feet of meeting space and a 28,000-square-foot ballroom. Events like the USA Gymnastics championships were held there.

Furthermore, this Northwest suburb anticipates a growing number of visitors, as witnessed by talks of adding additional outbound Metra stops at IKEA and on Roselle Road for further accessibility for Chicagoans into this suburban town.    

Debra A. Estock is managing editor of The Chicagoland Cooperator.