Produced and edited by Candace Kuzmarski
The Village of Skokie has a total area of 10.0 square miles. The village is bordered by Evanston, Chicago, Lincolnwood, Niles, Morton Grove, Glenview, and Wilmette.
The village’s street circulation is a standard street-grid pattern, with major east-west thoroughfare every half-mile: Old Orchard Road, Golf Road, Church Street, Dempster Street, Main Street, Oakton Street, Howard Street, and Touhy Avenue. The major north-south thoroughfares are Skokie Boulevard, Crawford Avenue, and McCormick Boulevard; the major diagonal streets are Lincoln Avenue, Niles Center Road, East Prairie Road and Gross Point Road.
Skokie’s north-south streets continue the street names and (house number) grid values of Chicago’s north-south streets — with the notable exceptions of Cicero Avenue, which is renamed Skokie Boulevard in Skokie, and Chicago’s Pulaski Road retains its original Chicago City name, Crawford Avenue. The east-west streets continue Evanston’s street names, but with Chicago grid values, such that, Evanston’s Dempster Street is 8800 north, in Skokie addresses.
In 1888, the community that would one day be known as “Skokie” was incorporated with the name Niles Centre. Around 1910, the spelling of the village’s name was Americanized to “Niles Center”. The village’s name caused confusion with the neighboring village of Niles, Illinois, both of which were located within Niles Township. In the 1930s, a village-renaming campaign emerged. On 15 November 1940, Niles Center became the “Village of Skokie”.
During the real estate boom of the 1920s, large parcels were subdivided; many two- and three-flat apartment buildings were built, with the Chicago-style bungalow a dominant architectural specimen. Large scale development ended as a result of the Great Crash of 1929, and consequent Great Depression. It was not until the 1940s and the 1950s, when parents of the baby boom generation moved their families out of Chicago, that Skokie’s housing development began again. Consequently, the village developed commercially, an example being the Old Orchard Shopping Center, currently named Westfield Old Orchard.
During the night of November 27–28, 1934, after a gunfight in nearby Barrington that left two FBI agents dead, two accomplices of the notorious 25-year-old bank-robber Baby Face Nelson (Lester Gillis) dumped his bullet-riddled body in a ditch along Niles Center Road adjoining the St. Peter Catholic Cemetery, a block north of Oakton Avenue in the town.
Virgil Vogel’s Indian Place Names in Illinois (Illinois State Historical Society, 1963), records the name Skokie deriving “directly from skoutay or scoti and variant Algonquian words for fire. The reference is to the fact that the marshy grasslands, such as occurred in the Skokie region, were burned over, by the Indians, in order to flush out the game” and “Several persons declare that Skokie is the Indian word for marsh ”.
The Skokie Park District maintains public spaces and historical sites within its more than 240 acres (0.97 km2) of parkland and in its ten facilities. The district is a recent winner of the national “Gold Medal for Excellence” in parks and recreation management. Every May since 1991, the park district hosts the Skokie Festival of Cultures to celebrate the village’s diverse ethnic composition.
Skokie also has a sculpture garden that is situated between Dempster Street and Touhy Avenue on the East side of McCormick Blvd. It was started in 1988 and now has over 70 sculptures. Three areas that are toured in May through October of each year, on the last Sunday of the month with a presentation by a docent.
The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center opened in Skokie on April 19, 2009.
On October 7, 2008, Skokie Public Library received the 2008 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from First Lady Laura Bush in a ceremony at the White House. The National Medal is awarded annually by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums, to 5 libraries and 5 museums. The library’s cultural programming and multilingual services were cited in the award presentation. Skokie Public Library is the first public library in Illinois to be awarded the medal.
Besides strong manufacturing and retail commerce bases, Skokie’s economy will add health sciences jobs; in 2003, Forest City Enterprises announced their re-development of the vacant Pfizer research laboratories, in downtown Skokie, as the Illinois Science + Technology Park, a 23-acre (93,000 m2) campus of research installations (2-million ft.² [180,000 m²] of chemistry, genomics, toxicology laboratories, clean rooms, NMR suites, conference rooms, etc.). In 2006, the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare company announced installing their consolidated data center operations at the park, adding 500 jobs to the economy. Also, map maker Rand McNally, private label cooperative Topco and online grocer Peapod are headquartered in Skokie.
Per the census of 2000, the Village of Skokie was composed of 63,348 people who formed in 23,223 households containing 17,045 families.
Since the 1950s, the Village of Skokie has been home to a large Jewish community. Today the population is very racially diverse and integrated, with over one hundred languages spoken within the village.
Although the Yellow Line is the principal, and fastest transport to and from the city, the Village also is served with CTA and PACE bus routes, as well as a Greyhound Bus Terminal at the Dempster Street train station. For automobile transport, Interstate 94, the Edens Expressway, traverses western Skokie, with interchanges at Touhy Avenue, Dempster Street, and Old Orchard Road.