Though Countryside is a fairly young community, its rich history stretches back to the early 1800s. Originally inhabited by the Potawatomi Indian tribe, current-day Countryside did not welcome its first settlers until 1833. It was in this year that the second Treaty of Chicago ceded all of the tribal lands in the area to the U.S., thus opening the land to settlement. Joseph Vial, his wife and their four children were among the first to arrive, discovering the area’s sprawling prairie lands. The Vial family built a farmstead and was joined by just a few homesteads over the next few decades.
Following the Chicago Fire of 1871, the City of Chicago started on its journey of major growth and redevelopment, joining many other fledgling markets in the American Industrial Age. Searching for respite from the congestion and industry of the burgeoning city on the lake, residents began venturing to the quiet open areas surrounding Chicago—land which sold for merely $2 an acre. Among the families moving west toward today’s Countryside were the Conrads, Craigmills, Henrys, Murphys, Polks, Sielings and Winslows. Even with the shift from City living to suburban life, Countryside remained a modest farming community until the post-World War II era.
As surrounding communities, such as LaGrange, Western Springs and Brookfield, experienced a surge in growth and development, Countryside continued a quiet existence. The area’s first attempt at development occurred in 1929, as a substantial tract of land located east of LaGrange Road was subdivided and developed as the Sherman Gardens. With only a few lots sold, the venture ultimately failed and the land was reverted to the Sieling family.
A second undertaking came about just six years later. The Gethner Land Office acquired the remaining parcels of land in the community and development gradually ensued. While owners began constructing “shell” houses in 1935, concentrated residential development did not begin until 1947.
The area’s first residential subdivision, LaGrange Terrace, was established in 1947, followed by the Don L. Dise subdivision in 1954 and the two-phase Edgewood Park neighborhood. The large lots and lovely homes quickly attracted new residents, establishing Countryside as a “bedroom” community, where employees chose to commute into Chicago.
Between 1949 and 1960, local homeowner organizations served as the governing body of Countryside. Groups, including the LaGrange Terrace Civic Association and the Countryside Homeowners’ Association, dealt with various civic issues—ranging from building regulations and zoning to annexation of land and civic improvements. By 1959, the Countryside Sanitary District, today known as the South Lyons Township Sanitary District, was formed in order to meet the changing needs of the growing population.
Sometime in early 1960, word spread of possible annexation to neighboring LaGrange. On March 3rd, the proposal was defeated in a referendum totaling 413-252. Shortly after, a new referendum was presented, which proposed incorporation as a city. The referendum was carried by a landslide vote of 293-86 on April 28, 1960.
EDUCATION in Countryside: The Ideal School
While Countryside utilized the post office, houses of worship and shopping centers of nearby LaGrange in its early years before incorporation, residents did establish their own school. Education was, and is, a cornerstone in the Countryside community. A one-room frame schoolhouse was constructed in the mid- to late-1800s, just steps from today’s Target. The school remained nameless until students decided to nail a dead skunk to the fence surrounding the structure, resulting in the moniker of the School at Skunk Corner.
At the turn of the century, the one-room, wooden schoolhouse was replaced with a one-story brick structure, which burned to the ground in 1918. After the catastrophic event, school directors and residents came together to collect enough material to construct a new schoolhouse. The building opened in November of 1918 and was referred to as simply “the new school.” In 1919, the county school superintendent made a visit to the new school and commented, “This is an ideal school for a rural community.” The name stuck and the Ideal School’s roots were laid.
As time went on and more families and children relocated to the community, the need for a larger school was felt. An expanded Ideal School was constructed in 1952 at 58th Street, where it still stands today. Seventh Avenue School, Spring Avenue School and Gurrie Middle School soon joined Ideal School—which together formed School District 105. Today, Ideal Elementary School serves around 200 students enrolled in Kindergarten through 6th grade. In addition to School District 105, Countryside is served by School Districts 106 and 107, as well as Lyons Township High School District 204.
HEALTHCARE: Adventist Midwest Health
Adventist Midwest Health, a member of the Adventist Health System, has been a part of the community for more than 100 years. The establishment of the Hinsdale Sanitarium in 1904 marked the system’s beginnings. Founded by Drs. David and Mary Paulson, the Hinsdale Sanitarium eventually became known as Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, a 358-bed hospital that today serves as the only teaching hospital in DuPage County. Adventist opened the 223-bed LaGrange Memorial Hospital in 1955, which was followed by GlenOaks Hospital in 1980 and the newest addition of Bolingbrook Hospital in 2008.
The Marx Brothers in Countryside
Around the year 1917, the famous Marx Brothers comedy team purchased a 27-acre farm in then-unincorporated LaGrange (now Countryside), near Joliet and LaGrange roads. The brothers learned that farmers were exempt from serving in World War I, and thus, in an effort to dodge the draft, set off to become farmers. A lack of experience led to various problems on the farm—as did the discovery of an easy transport to Chicago and Wrigley Field. The brothers spent much time rooting on the Chicago Cubs and not enough time at the farm to make it a successful venture. The Marx Brothers soon sold the farm and relocated to a house near Wrigley Field.
Pleasantview Fire Protection District
The Pleasantview Fire Protection District has been serving Countryside and its surrounding communities since its formation in 1946. Residents of the area joined to discuss the possibility of organizing a local fire department on February 11 of that year. At that time, neighboring fire departments were providing protection to Countryside, many times leaving their communities unguarded. On March 4, 1946, the Pleasantview Fire Protection District was officially established to serve Countryside, Burr Ridge, Hodgkins, Indian Head Park, Willowbrook and other unincorporated areas. It received its name from the area’s two largest school districts: Pleasantdale and Plainview. The first call into the district was received on April 12, 1948, and the rest is history.
Today, the Pleasantview Fire Protection District is comprised of three stations (headquartered in LaGrange Highlands), which employ more than 50 full-time firefighters and paramedics, along with a base of part-time firefighters, full-time dispatchers and clerical personnel. The district responds to thousands of calls each year and invests in public safety education programs for school children, families and senior citizens.
Helping Hand Rehabilitation Center
The Helping Hand Rehabilitation Center was established in Countryside in 1955 and has since placed itself among the finest non-profit, community-based agencies in the state. Helping Hand was founded in order to meet the needs of children, teens and adults who are living with a developmental disability. In short, the center assists people with disabilities to become more independent and integral parts of the community in which they live. Some 400 people are served through Helping Hand today.